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Anthropology of CatholicismA Reader$
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Kristin Norget, Valentina Napolitano, and Maya Mayblin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520288423

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520288423.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

Excerpt from “The Place of Grace in Anthropology”

Excerpt from “The Place of Grace in Anthropology”

(p.52) 3 Excerpt from “The Place of Grace in Anthropology”
Anthropology of Catholicism

Julian A. Pitt-Rivers

University of California Press

Julian Pitt-Rivers’s masterful essay was originally published in 1992 as the culminating piece in Honor and Grace in Anthropology, a volume that this renowned ethnographer of the Spanish Mediterranean and student of E. E. Evans-Pritchard at Oxford edited with his colleague J. G. Peristiany, almost a decade before his death in 2001. The essay reveals the erudition and breadth of his ethnographic vision. Why, asks Pitt-Rivers, despite its implied presence in wide-ranging ethnographic contexts, have anthropologists ignored the concept of grace? “Grace is a whole,” he argues, a socially constituted concept that we cannot understand outside of social interaction and principles of exchange and reciprocity. Unlike Mauss’s classic explanation of the gift within an economy of return, however, grace is a kind of “nonreciprocity” or gratitude. Pitt-Rivers observes that grace is much older than Christianity, yet he roots all current forms of the idea of grace in the Christian concept and its etymological roots in Latin (gratia, or favor, or a gift freely given), tying it with individual salvation. Grace, therefore, is “a free gift of God” that implies no obligation on the part of the receiver. God bestows grace, “the friendship of God,” on humankind out of his free benevolence, for their eternal salvation. Pitt-Rivers’s insistence on understanding grace as exemplary of a “reciprocity of the heart” (versus the law of contract) and the “affective side of life” echoes recent scholarly awareness of modes of being and ethics—even religiosities—that cannot be explained through recourse to rational, economic models. It pertains to a consciousness of life as that which binds us together, modes of conviviality, commensality, and interrelatedness that underpin Catholicism as a living form. Inasmuch as grace as a concept constitutes an otherworldly force or originary substance that sets things in motion, it bears a family resemblance to ethnographic concepts like manaor hau.1 Although Pitt-Rivers’s discussion of grace was never an explicit attempt to generate conversation with other scholars of Christianity, his framing of grace as a proto-Christian version of mana began a process that would eventually make Christianity a “legitimate topic” for mainstream anthropological theorizing.

Keywords:   Pitt-Rivers-Julian, Catholicism-in-Southern-Europe, Grazelma-Spain, Grace, Mana, Gratitude, Gift-exchange, Debt, Reciprocity, Christian theology

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