Receiving the Eucharist, Writing the Gift: Anglo-Catholic Epistemology and the Obligation of Transformative Knowledge


gift exchange
going native


In this article I address anthropology’s secular underpinnings by presenting the discipline’s epistemology as antithetical to that of Catholic Christianity. I consider this opposition through the lens of an Anglo-Catholic student chaplaincy in Oxford, England. Anglo-Catholics are members of the Church of England who desire to restore Catholic sacramentality to Protestantism, particularly through a theology of the Eucharist in which Christ inhabits and transforms material elements. Anglo-Catholic Eucharistic theology exemplifies an epistemology based on attachment and obligation between the human recipient and God as the giver of revelation. In offering an ethnographic account of Anglo-Catholic Eucharistic theology, I consider how a theory of knowledge based on gift exchange may remedy anthropology’s struggle to comprehend and convey a level of difference in religious lives beyond the social register.
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