Vengeance in Reverse

The Tangled Loops of Violence, Myth, and Madness


Michigan State University Press


Available from: Powell's | IndieBound | B&NAmazon


Likening gift exchange to vengeance in reverse, Mark Anspach outlines a fresh approach to reciprocity and traces the emergence of transcendence in collective myths and individual delusions.


Note: This is not a translation of À charge de revanche, but an original work in English.


"Exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking... Extraordinary and highly recommended."

Midwest Book Review


"More consequential intellectual clout than many a book many times its size. The joy of reading Anspach’s book is the continuous encounter with thought-provoking points of brilliance that in turn make for page after page of ideas to ponder."

—Ivan Strenski, Holstein Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus, University of California at Riverside, in Reading Religion


With Vengeance in Reverse, Mark Anspach establishes himself as one of today’s most important figures in French social theory and cultural anthropology. Remarkably insightful, probing, and timely, this slim volume does an astonishing amount of work as it pursues fundamental questions about the social, political, and psychological mechanisms of violence, religion, and madness.”

—Mark S. Cladis, Brooke Russell Astor Professor of the Humanities, Brown University, editor of the Oxford edition of Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms of the Religious Life


“Mark Anspach’s Vengeance in Reverse is a brilliant integration of great themes in anthropology: reciprocity, revenge, war, sacrifice, the birth of the gods, and the anti-communal tragedy of madness. It will take its place among the works that have helped us understand both the bright and dark sides of human nature and culture.

—Melvin Konner, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Emory University, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit


"Every person on the planet should read Mark Anspach's Vengeance in Reverse where he notes that as long as two sides search for the origin of a conflict (who started it and whose response is justifiable and justified) they will never be able to arrive at a solution for it."

—Michael Hardin, Executive Director of Preaching Peace


"A stimulating book on the origins of violence, the uses of violence, and the way out of violence both on the international scene between nations and other groups, as well as in the individual psyche... Anspach is informative and persuasive in both areas; cultural anthropologists, social theorists, and mental health workers will find provocative and rewarding material in this book."

—Patrick Madigan, The Heythrop Journal


"Mark R. Anspach has often offered to the Girardian and mimetic community thorough works of analysis with which he can walk us through his fascination with the paradoxes of mimesis, madness and violence; thanks to his ability to produce rigorous and informative arguments he also always brings us back to the solid ground of reality. This brilliant collection is no surprise then."

—Emanuele Antonelli in Forum Philosophicum 24/1


"Anspach knows his ways through the thickets of the human mind and the stratagems of violence. He [highlights] not just the temporal dimension of violence but also its temporal outlook... What Anspach does with this is important. It allows him to illuminate something that René Girard did not... Sacrifice substitutes one temporal orientation for another. Not only is the past injury repaid, but also a gift is given looking forward to new nonviolent exchanges... In this book Anspach makes available in a compact and accessible form his contribution to mimetic theory: the tangled loops of the violent mind have a certain logic that can be understood, gradually untangled, and withstood."

—Jeremiah Alberg, former President of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, in COV&R Bulletin 54


From the text of Vengeance in Reverse:

“We are, all of us, mad or not, fated to struggle with the irreducible loopiness of human existence. Often, without even realizing it, we find ourselves caught in double binds or self-fulfilling prophecies of the kind discussed in this book. They are an ever-present trap; they are never a prison. Understanding the tangled loops of violence, myth, and madness is the first step to breaking free of them.”


Photo by Suzanne Ross from the book panel on Vengeance in Reverse 

Colloquium on Violence & Religion, Madrid, July 14, 2017