Accepted Paper:

The gift aporia: money fron the gods  


Fabian Graham (Max Planck Institute)

Paper short abstract:

Can 'money gods' change one's luck and fate through bestowing 'fortune money' to devotees, and if so, what do they have to gain? A recursive analysis of deific intervention in the human world world through ritual giving in Taiwan.

Paper long abstract:

A distinctive feature of Taiwan's religious landscape is the increasing number of new money god temples where, after negotiating with a deity by throwing divination blocks, the temple gives visitors between twenty and six hundred Taiwan dollars of 'fortune money'. Although there is no contractual agreement with the temple, recipients usually return the money with between one hundred and one thousand per cent interest at a later date. The two case study temples claim to receive millions of visits a year, and the total amount given annually totals over one billion Taiwan dollars. Utilising Derrida's concept of a 'true gift' as a starting point for a multi-layered ontological analysis, this paper untangles the complex web of giving, reciprocity and exchange involved, and examines the impossibility of Derrida's 'true gift' both from the perspective of the money god temples, and from the suppositional perspective of devotee - deity interactions.

Panel MB-SSR07
The ontological turn: new ethnographic approaches, theories and analysis of spirit mediumship, shamanism, religious ritual and discarnate phenomena