Accepted paper:

You can't have your buffalo and eat it too: sacrifice and value among the Katu


Holly High (Sydney University)

Paper short abstract:

Buffalo sacrifice marks both regular events and moments of crisis for the Katu of Laos. In this paper, I consider the value of buffalo - in terms of their symbolic position in a network of value and also in terms of their wondrous potency in sacrifice - in order to approach Katu “enemism”.

Paper long abstract:

One of the primary explanations for illness and other misfortunes offered by the Katu (Laos) is the displeasure of the ancestors. To relieve such situations, the most prestigious animal to sacrifice is a black, male buffalo. Buffalo are also sacrificed routinely for events such as building a new house, the annual village festival, weddings, and to ensure general well-being. Alive, buffalo are heavily symbolised as a form of wealth associated with long-distance trade, external relationships and masculinity (as opposed to cloth, which is associated with domestic production, internal power, and femininity). Dead, their blood offers supplicants a wondrous brush with the unseen and often unknown supernatural dimension. Their sacrifice states in symbolic terms a truth that many are too fearful to say directly in the "enemistic" world in which Katu find themselves: that is, that your deadliest relationships are often also your closest.

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The social formation of wonder