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21. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Nathan S. French An American TakfĪr?: Violence and Law at War
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Throughout the ongoing U.S.-declared war against terrorism, and the various jihadi-salafi responses to the same, relatively few researchers have considered both parties’ usage of the law as a technique of exclusion for authorizing violence against those who may not otherwise be killed. By comparing the underlying logic of takfīr applied by jihadi-salafi authors such as Abū Muḥammad al-Maqdisī (b. 1959) to the legal calculus used by the Obama administration to legitimate its targeted killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-ʿAwlaqī and Samīr Khān seemingly without trial, this article identifies and analyzes how the juridical logic of the administration and jihadi-salafis possesses similar reliance upon declarations of an imminent threat and violations of norms of humanity and belief, respectively. Such a realization, it concludes, allows for the possibility of exploring a co-implicative logic of violence to both and, second, the possibility for a critique of declared states of emergency upon which such exclusionary techniques depend.
22. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Margo Kitts On Pain, Politics, and the Monstrous Other
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Responding to the papers herein, this essay ponders religious perspectives on pain and the memorialization of trauma; the opaque dynamics of self-immolation and the aesthetics of trauma art; grand narratives in wars on terror; and the existential disfiguring of the character of Job, a disfiguring which might be analyzed through lenses associated with ritual or poetics. The last theme broaches the point of the entire volume, which is the plethora of theoretical lenses that can help us to make sense of the behavior and imaginative expressions of religion and violence.
23. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Brian R. Doak Monster Violence in the Book of Job
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In this paper, I explore the book of Job in terms of the symbolic and ideological warfare waged between God and the human protagonist, Job. Specifically, I argue that the invocation of various kinds of creatures under the “monster” rubric (such as Leviathan, Rahab, Yamm, the Twisting Serpent, and Behemoth) can be illuminated through a consideration of contemporary work—in the history of religions, literary theory, and film studies—that categorizes the monstrous in terms of ecological disorientation, metaphors of the torn human body, and the boundaries of the “home.” Moreover, I draw on the work of Marie Hélène Huet in her book Monstrous Imagination to argue that some of God’s showcase animals in Job 38–41 (most prominently Behemoth and Leviathan, but also others) should be discussed as monsters with reference to their ambiguous species representation and their “false resemblance” to other known creatures. When considered within the context of Job’s pervasive themes of geological and animal violence, Joban monsters take their place among the menagerie of creatures adduced by Job’s speaking characters as rhetorical gestures of disorientation, community redemption, and the meaning of small community experience within empire.
24. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Marie A. Pagliarini Spiritual Tattooing: Pain, Materialization, and Transformation
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This essay utilizes information gathered through in-depth interviews with people living in the San Francisco Bay Area to shed light on the phenomenon of spiritual tattooing—the practice of giving spiritual meaning to tattoos and to the process of tattooing. The essay analyzes the role of the body, voluntary pain, and marking the body in the context of religious experience and expression, and highlights the connections between spiritual tattooing and practices of self-violence. Spiritual tattoos work through an inside-out/outside-in mechanism. The process of tattooing draws abstract or overwhelming interior elements (thoughts, emotions, memories) out and materializes them through the infliction of pain. At the same time, things of desire outside the self (spiritual ideals, healing symbols, conceptions of a new self) are conveyed into the body through the process of painful inscription. Through the pain of tattooing and the marks left in the skin, abstractions are made concrete and real, shaping identity, memory, and spirituality.
25. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Scott B. Noegel Corpses, Cannibals, and Commensality: A Literary and Artistic Shaming Convention in the Ancient Near East
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In this contribution, I examine several ancient Near Eastern literary texts and artistic variations on the “banquet motif” in which one finds people dining while others die. I argue that these depictions constitute a hitherto unrecognized artistic device rooted in social protocol that represents an inversion of the custom of abstinence during mourning. It thus functions to underscore the contempt of those dining for the dying by depicting their deaths as unworthy of lament. In addition, the motif characterizes the dying party as symbolically and/or physically abased, because of his or her hubris, and thus deserving of a shameful death. Inversely, it portrays the dining party as symbolically and often physically elevated, and reveling in a divine reversal of circumstance.
26. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Paul Middleton “Suffer Little Children": Child Sacrifice, Martyrdom, and Identity Formation in Judaism and Christianity
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This essay examines the contrasting ways in which the sacrifice of children is portrayed in Jewish and Christian martyrologies. In these narratives of extreme persecution and suffering, death was often seen to be the way in which religious integrity and identity was preserved. It is argued that Jewish martyr narratives—for example, the First Crusade, Masada, and the Maccabees—reflect a developed notion of collective martyrdom, such that the deaths of children, even at the hands of their parents, are a necessary component in Jewish identity formation. By contrast, early Christianity martyr texts reflect an ambivalence towards children, to the extent that they are viewed as a potential hindrance to the successful martyrdom of their Christian mothers. Children have to be abandoned for women to retain their Christian identity.
27. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Joel M. LeMon Violence against Children and Girls in the Reception History of Psalm 137
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The reception history of Psalm 137 is marked by numerous attempts to mollify or expunge its descriptions of violence, specifically, its last line: “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock” (verse 9, NRSV). This essay explores the various ways that interpreters have perceived the psalm’s violent imagery to be problematic and what they have done to change the psalm. Many interpreters have “spiritualized” the psalm, altering its rhetorical effect by suggesting that the “little ones” are little sins rather than little children. Still other interpretations have modified the structure of the psalm through a process of selective omission. Frequently, these versions do not include the last verse of the psalm. Yet, these versions often highlight and implicitly authorize violence against girls specifically, since a girl, “Daughter Babylon” or “a/the daughter of Babylon,” is the subject of the preceding verse. Throughout the analysis, special attention is paid to the reception of the psalm in Christian hymnody and other music, including art songs, anthems, and symphonic treatments.
28. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Ra‘anan Boustan, Kimberly Stratton Children and Violence in Jewish and Christian Traditions
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This introduction to the special section of the 4.3 issue on violence in the biblical imagination presents a brief overview of scholarship on the theme of children and violence in Jewish and Christian traditions before summarizing the four articles which follow. These four papers were originally presented at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, November 2015. Scholarly literature on children and violence falls into two main clusters: child sacrifice and corporal punishment. Using Sarah Iles Johnston’s response to the panel as a starting point, this introduction proposes that children “are good to think with.” Stories about children and violence carry weighty symbolic cargo: they demarcate the limits of civilization and define certain groups of people as Other; they signal social disruption and extraordinary crisis. Examples include: child sacrifice, parental cannibalism, child martyrdom, and corporal punishment. We conclude that scriptural accounts of divinely sanctioned violence always retain for their interpretative communities the potential to inspire and to legitimate newly emergent forms of violent speech and action.
29. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Diane Shane Fruchtman Instructive Violence: Educated Children as Victims and Aggressors in Late Ancient Latin Martyr Poetry
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This paper explores two parallel instances of child-centered violence in the martyrological poetry of Prudentius (fl. 405), one in which a child is the victim of violence and one in which children are the aggressors. In both cases, Prudentius presumes and manufactures his readers’ sympathy, building on their horror at seeing children involved in violence. But he uses that sympathy to opposite ends: in one case to align the reader with the youthful victim and his cause, and in the other to inspire revulsion and destabilize the Christian reader’s sense of his own character. Taken together, these two episodes—one a cautionary tale and one a model of Christian self-cultivation—offer the reader not only an argument for what type of education Christians should seek, but also the motivation to seek it. In other words, Prudentius was using depictions of violence inflicted on children and by children to educate his audiences about education.
30. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Susan B. Ridgely When Pain Becomes Symbolic of Commitment: The Pratice of Spanking Among Adults and Children and “Focus on the Family” Childrearing Literature
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In this article, I use the narrations of Focus on the Family users to argue that in this community spanking has moved from a disciplinary technique to a symbolic religious practice that embodies their commitments to parental authority, traditional families, and intergenerational connections. What matters, then, is not that the physical practice of spanking occurs, but that these families embrace a corporal punishment based philosophy of discipline. Making this choice positions them in opposition to what they perceived to be an undisciplined liberal mainstream society in which the lack of submission to authority has led to the destruction of the family. Although support of spanking is universal, how that support is expressed and enacted is far from monolithic. The urgency to support spanking seems to ebb and flow over time as families, such the families who use Focus on the Family materials, respond to their changing contexts.
31. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 2
Juli L. Gittinger The Rhetoric of Violence, Religion, and Purity in India’s Cow Protection Movement
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In India there has been a recent increase in violence and intolerance towards people who eat beef. While India has a fairly wide Cow Protection Act that bars the slaughter of female cows and calves, many areas have permitted slaughter of bulls and bullocks for centuries. Hindu religion has no doctrinal proscriptions against the consumption of beef in particular, although it has borrowed heavily from Jainism in the last century, arguing that the concept of ahimsa (nonviolence) forbids such slaughter and consumption of beef. Violence is exacted upon those who would dare eat beef—notably Muslims and lower castes—further politicizing the issue. This paper explores the various claims and legitimations of violence regarding the tradition of abstaining from beef. These include arguments of religious purity, racial biases, caste, and cultural arguments which have been put forth in defense of or in condemnation of beef-eaters. I argue that, in the case of such regulations of “authentic” Hindu traditions (like the sanctity of the cow), purity concerns are directly tied to Hindu nationalist ideologies.
32. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 2
Paul R. Powers Territory Is Not Map: Deterritorialisation, Mere Religion, and Islamic State
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While the Islamic State (IS) has much in common with many other contemporary jihadist groups, this article argues that it expresses a distinctive attitude toward the taking, holding, and expanding of territory. Olivier Roy’s notion of the “deterritorialisation” of late-modern Muslim religiosity suggests that many Muslims, whether in minority or majority situations, perceive themselves as detached from “home” lands and cultures and, partly as a result, find Islam reduced from a holistic phenomenon to a truncated and compartmentalized “mere religion.” IS efforts to take territory can be seen in part as a rejection of such deterritorialisation. The IS version of a reinvigorated Islam is made possible solely by the possession of territory, and hinges on apocalyptic expectations about certain concrete locations and on the possibility of enacting a robust, hyper-aggressive form of Islamic law.
33. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 5 > Issue: 2
Yonatan Y. Brafman Towards a Neo-Ḥaredi Political Theory: Schlesinger, Breuer, and Leibowitz between Religion and Zionism
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This article explores the resources available in modern Jewish thought for overcoming the conflict between secular liberalism and religious nationalism. In addition to a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, the modern state’s claim to sovereignty demands the reconstruction of existing social formations, normative orderings, and personal identities. The primary Jewish responses to this demand have been either the privatizing of Judaism as religion or the nationalizing of Jewishness as Zionism. However, this demand was resisted by diverse thinkers, including Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, Isaac Breuer, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who can be described as advancing a Neo-Ḥaredi political theory. This theory has five related characteristics: (1) an affirmation of the publicity of halakhah, or Jewish law; (2) a rejection of the construction of Judaism as a “religion”; (3) a lack of aspiration to establish halakhah as state law; (4) a refusal of the identification of the state as the unitary locus of sovereignty; and (5) an ambivalent relation to Zionism, ranging from indifference, to disappointment, and opposition. Common to these reactions is a decentering of the state and its claim to sovereignty in favor of a plurality of social formations, normative orderings, and identities. It is suggested that such an approach may provide a way of avoiding the zero-sum game for control of the state that seems to plague the current politics of both the United States and Israel/Palestine.
34. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Stephen L. Gardner Modernity as Revelation
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The notion of apocalypse is the unifying architecture of Rene Girard’s theory of history. The terrible paradox that motivates Girard is the inner affinity between Apocalypse and Enlightenment, progress and the disintegration of stable order, revelation and violence. In this essay, I look at three dimensions of Girard’s vision of the “end of history”: The first is the rise of “victimology” and its idioms in Western culture (and now their globalization) since the end of World War II, signaling the collapse of Western ethics through their own truth. The second is Girard’s image of the end of history in terms of the “return of the archaic,” a relapse into the chaos of the evolutionary beginnings of the human at the summit of cultural achievement. As moral distinctions crumble, the polarities of political life become more brittle and violent. And the last is to indicate (however sketchily) Girard’s relation to a modern tradition of apocalyptic thought that includes Pascal andRousseau, Marx and Sartre, and Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. As with his recent appropriation of Carl von Clausewitz, he aims both to finish and to finish off this tradition by bringing it back to its Christian underpinnings.
35. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Wolfgang Palaver Terrorism versus Non-Violent Resistance
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The following article starts with the horror and terror that have been caused be recent terrorist attacks like the mass murder of 9/11 or the Norway massacre from 2011. From a Western perspective suicide terrorism is especially terrifying. In a first part of his article Palaver tries to show that suicide terrorism, despite our first reaction to it, is a rational phenomenon that has to be understood precisely in order to respond to this challenge properly. Drawing on the work of LouiseRichardson and other experts on terrorism he shows that traditional forms of military sacrifices that have forced people to die for their country is much closer to suicide terrorism than we think at first sight. By using René Girard’s mimetic theory, Palaver’s second part focuses on the complex relationship between religion and violence. He especially emphasizes the danger that follows the Abrahamic overcoming of the scapegoat mechanism – the Abrahamic revolution parting from the world of human sacrifice – if the solidarity with the victims is disconnected from forgiveness. In the third part Palaver turns to an alternative model of how we can respond to injustice and oppression by emphasizing a still often overlooked legacy of the Abrahamic tradition that avoids the dangers that characterizecontemporary terrorism. From this perspective, non-violence, forgiveness, and the love of enemies become important criteria for martyrdom and resistance.
36. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Jodok Troy The Power of the Zealots: Religion, Violence, and International Relations
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This article evaluates the issue of religion and conflict in international relations. René Girard’s mimetic theory offers explanations for basic problems of the ‘new world order’: why violence is a persistent pattern in human and political conduct as well as the understanding of religion and conflict. Therefore the article, after an assessment of framing religion and conflict in the context of theoretical approaches to political science, evaluates the possibilities of mimetic theory to provide a new understanding of the nexus of religion and conflict in international relations. It will do so in arguing for the hypothesis that the mimetic theory provides insights to the interplay of the evolving of power as it is described by the Realist tradition of international relations. The power of the ‘zealots,’ is the power of mimetic desire, which always threatens to bring people apart.
37. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Mathias Moosbrugger René Girard and Raymund Schwager on Religion, Violence, and Sacrifice: New Insights from Their Correspondence
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This article shows, that despite their different academic backgrounds and even before having met, cultural anthropologist René Girard and theologian Raymund Schwager had surprisingly similar convictions concerning the decisive dynamics in interpersonal relations and the problematic field of collective violence and its connection to the logic of sacrifice. Nevertheless, they differed in their applications of these convictions when it came to appraising the specific character of theJudeo-Christian revelation and the Christ event. Therefore, for several years, they had an intense discussion about this issue. This discussion, which Girardians regard as the source of Girard’s most important re-evaluation of his thinking, is reconstructed using material from their letter exchange. It is argued that this discussion was quite different from what it is usually believed to have been like.
38. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Wilhelm Guggenberger Taming Violence
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To René Girard, religion is not a source of violence but rather one of the most widespread means to reduce violence. It even preserved archaic societies from self-destruction and worked in the same mode for most of history. The article tries to depict this mechanism and to explain its paradoxical nature, which is the taming of violence by violent means. Further on, functional equivalents are shown, which become necessary because of the enlightenment triggered by the biblical revelation and other axial-age-dynamisms.
39. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Nikolaus Wandinger Religion and Violence: A Girardian Overview
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René Girard’s mimetic theory sees mimesis as the most central determinant of human behavior. According to him it also generated so much violence that it threatened the very existence of humanity. Yet, the same force also found a means to minimize and contain violence—through religion. Girard distinguishes between archaic and Biblical religion and finds criteria for this distinction and the anthropology and theology of a religion. This article tries to give an overview of Girard’s theory with special consideration to the role of religion.
40. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Faisal Devji Speaking of Violence