A terrible beauty is burned: gifts, sacrifice and community in Northern Ireland

Hilary Downey, John F Sherry, Jr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sacrifice, integral to gift giving, remains unexplored and undertheorized in marketing. This paper aims to address this shortfall by analyzing the dynamics of sacrifice and theorizing how it serves as an engine of the gift chimney.

The ethnographic investigation of public ceremonial gift giving in sectarian Northern Ireland describes and interprets the complex nature of the gift.

The authors show that sacrifice is a plausible mechanism of the gift chimney and that the co-occurrence of monadic, dyadic and systemic giving in the same ritual acts as an accelerant.

Social implications
The authors analyze how public ceremonial gift giving induces sectarian communities to risk convocation, enabling them to exorcize trauma sustained at one another’s hands and to build a platform for future cross-community cohesion in a context of ineffective institutional efforts.

Sacrifice propels circulation of the gift, creating a social bond between antagonists whose ethos of mutuality depends upon ritualized reciprocal recognition of entangled loss.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-154
Number of pages22
JournalQualitative Market Research: An International Journal
Issue number2
Early online date02 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 06 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors extend appreciation to their research assistant Kristen Odland for her help in the data management process of this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Community, Gift, Art, Sacrifice, Sectarianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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