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61. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
David B. Gray The Rhetoric of Violence in the Buddhist Tantras
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This article explores the rhetoric of violence in the Buddhist tantras, arguing that it generally falls into two types: (1) violence deployed in a purely rhetorical fashion for the purpose of impressing or persuading the reader; and (2) textual depictions of violent ritual practices, which can, with some caveats, be interpreted as depictions of, and possibly prescriptions for, ritual violence. The former type often includes grandiose or exaggerated instances of hyperbolic rhetoric, often deployed for the purpose of aggrandizing the text or tradition. The article segues to discussions of descriptions of and prescriptions for ritual violence, and explores one of the justifications given for ritual violence, namely that it contributes to, or is excused by, the attainment of a spiritually advanced state of awareness called the “non-dual gnosis” (advayajñāna). Here particular attention is paid to violent rituals that involve the creation of effigies or symbolic substitutes for a sacrificial victim. These rituals, rather than involving actual violence, instead symbolically depict it. Yet these rituals are still violent insofar as they are symbolic enactments of acts of violence, and often they are performed with the goal of actually harming the victim who is symbolically represented in the ritual practice. The article concludes with an examination of a strategy for legitimizing such violence by invoking the concept of non-dual gnosis, and suggests that this ethical double standard has actually been used to excuse ethically dubious conduct by contemporary Buddhist leaders.
62. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Matthew Robertson The Autophagous Absolute: Revelations of Cosmic and Sovereign Violence in the Bhagavad Gītā and the Taittirīya Upaniṣad
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A key function of the autophagous imagery ascribed to Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gītā (BhG) is to reassert long-held Brahmanical convictions about the role of violence in politics, and thereby to respond to anxieties about the association of sovereignty with violent action. This essay examines the textual roots of these convictions, found in the depiction of the autophagous knower of brahman in Taittirīya Upaniṣad (TU), in order to assess the socio-historical significance of the BhG’s imagery of Kṛṣṇa as an autophagous absolute. By discerning the links between the TU’s and BhG’s depictions of autophagy, I argue that the BhG forwards a renewed cosmological justification for the performance of violent acts by kṣatriyas that relies especially upon the alliance between priestly and political/martial powers, and that therefore seeks to elevate Brahmanical paradigms of sovereignty over those that question the necessity of violence in the exercise of political power.
63. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Courtney Work “There Was So Much”: Violence, Sovereignty, and States of Extraction in Cambodia
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Anthropologists debate the usefulness of an “Ontological Turn” in theory and practice as a way to confront the social and ecological disjuncture at the heart of the Anthropocene. Is it possible, scholars wonder, to validate rather than rationalize the idea that mountains, rivers, and trees are social interlocutors as well as arbiters of justice, resource access, and societal well-being? In a twist of monumental irony, previously market-independent Cambodians are facing, in an odious confluence of fear, need, and desire, an ontological turn toward the rationalized notion that trees, mountains, rivers and all their inhabitants are important primarily as commodities that can be converted to money. This paper explores part of that nexus of fear, need, and desire through accounts of social relationships with the “owner of the water and the land,” whose permission is sought for territorial access and resource use. Successful navigation of relationships with the original owner of the territory require respect, solidarity, conservation, and offerings of gratitude. In return people enjoy resource abundance, ritual/technical knowledge, and good health. Improper comportment results in illness, loss of access to forest and water resources, and knowledge loss. In yet another ironic twist, the Development State (defined within) promises poverty alleviation, education, and health care for all those who master the extractive market economy. The paper explores how different ontologies give rise to particular social, political, and economic possibilities, and demonstrates that the punishments of the Original owner of the water and the land are visited upon those who either will not or cannot successfully navigate the extractive market system.
64. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Daniel Burton-Rose The Literati-Official Victimization Narrative: Memorializing Donglin Martyrs in Eighteenth-Century Suzhou
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This article describes the Confucian cycle of apotheosis in which deceased sages and worthies served as a model for the living who in turn aspired to become paragons for future generations, thereby achieving a form of immortality. It explores the way in which victimhood was strategically employed to perpetuate power relations beneficial to local landowners through a case study of support over a hundred and fifty year period by a major familial lineage in the Yangzi delta region for one of the most prominent victims of factional violence in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644): Donglin current member Zhou Shunchang (1584–1626). Influential patriarchs in the Peng familial lineage of Suzhou cultivated indignation in local society about the injustices suffered by righteous literati-officials such as Zhou Shunchang. The driving motivation of the Pengs’ memorialization of Zhou was to decry physical harm of literati-officials by state agents and to perpetuate the Donglin current program of governance centered on the counsel of literati-officials. In continuing Zhou’s memory through textual and ritual interventions, the Pengs put forward a vision of local autonomy while simultaneously aligning their own interests with those of the Manchu Qing (1644-1911) rulers.
65. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Huan Jin Violence and the Evolving Face of Yao in Taiping Propaganda
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This paper explores the interplay between rhetorical and political violence during the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). Specifically, I examine how yao 妖, a conception bearing many cultural and historical connotations, was profusely employed in Taiping propaganda and in individual testimonies reflecting traditional political and religious beliefs. In extant Taiping placards, the Taiping rebels used xiwen 檄文, the prose of “call to arms,” to persuade people to take up the Taiping cause and to solicit and justify violence. With the compilation and extensive distribution of these xiwen, visions of violence were disseminated among the masses. Drawing inspirations from ancient historical narratives, vernacular literature, and popular religion, the Taiping rebels ingeniously used yao to refer to demonic existences that should be extinguished with the Heavenly vision. In its versatility, the meaning of yao transmuted as the Taiping movement developed. At the beginning of the movement, yao was used broadly to refer to the Taiping’s religious opponents, however, since 1853, it became a core political and religious concept used to refer to the Manchus and their supporters. Nevertheless, the meaning of yao continued to transform as the Taiping rebels sought to convert local Han militias who were fighting for the Qing government. Ironically, the Han literati conversely used yao to describe the war and the Taiping rebels. When yao was associated broadly with the Manchus, Qing loyalists, and the Taiping rebels, its dehumanizing power became a force of destructive violence beyond comprehension.
66. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Matthew Rowley What Causes Religious Violence?: Three Hundred Claimed Contributing Causes
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Violence in the name of God is a complex phenomenon and oversimplification further jeopardizes peace because it obscures many of the causal factors. This paper categorizes three hundred scholarly claimed causes of religious violence and then offers thirteen guidelines for navigating the complicated relationship between religion and violence. Understanding this complexity is an important step towards diagnosing the problem and moving towards reconciliation.
67. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Laerke Recht Symbolic Order: Liminality and Simulation in Human Sacrifice in the Bronze-Age Aegean and Near East
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This paper examines engagement with live and dead human bodies through rituals involving human sacrifice in the ancient Aegean and Near East. After a review of the most significant archaeological contexts, properties of liminality and the manipulation of human remains for various types of staging are discussed.
68. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Kamalroop Singh Save Our Girls: The Prevention of Female Foeticide in the Asian Community
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An Oxford University study by Dubuc has found that an increasing number of Indian women in the UK are aborting their female foetuses, in order to have more boys. Research has found that over 1500 girls have ‘gone missing’ from birth statistics in England and Wales since the 1990s. The research concluded that the proportion of boys over girls has increased abnormally over time. This abnormal growth has been described as a result of ‘Sex Selective Abortion.’ This is only preliminary research and health experts consider the problem to be much larger. The reasons for aborting female foetuses are varied, but generally some families still follow the dowry system while others favour males to carry on the family name, and others see women as inferior. A number of Health authorities in the UK refuse to tell the sex of an unborn child, so some British Indian women travel to India to abort female foetuses. There is a lack of awareness about this unethical practice in the UK, and this could also be a large contributing factor. My paper will explore what the Sikh tradition has said about this practice, in particular from Sikh scripture and the rahitnāme from around the eighteenth century.
69. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Birgit Pfeifer, Ruard R. Ganzevoort The Implicit Religion of School Shootings: Existential Concerns of Perpetrators Prior to Their Crime
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The present paper explores which existential concerns emerge in autobiographical documents of school shooters. The perpetrators in this study discuss their hatred of humanity and existential loneliness in their video manifestos, suicide letters, or diary entries. These expressions—called leaking—contain traces of implicit religion which help us to understand strong layers of meaning in this seemingly irrational behavior. The study involves a narrative analysis of the expressions of school shooters to shed more light on the existential dimension of their motives. We discuss the relation between implicit religion and school shootings, with particular attention to religious terminology in shooters’ language.
70. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Davis Brown The Permissive Nature of the Islamic War Ethic
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The Islamic war ethic of today is a tension between the ethic of necessary (even required) self-defense and something more militaristic. The Islamic war ethic is fundamentally permissive in two ways. First, the causes for self-defense are construed more broadly than causes for defense in other religious war ethics or in secular jus ad bellum. Second, classical Islam recognizes a prerogative of offensive war to eradicate polytheism and secure Islamic dominion. Empirical evidence suggests that this permissive war ethic influences the preferences of Muslim states for war or peace. Compared to non-Muslim states, and especially to Christian states, Muslim states have a higher propensity to initiate armed conflicts with other states.
71. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Fathie Ali Abdat The Sheiks of Sedition: Father Prophet Mohammed Bey, Mother Jesus Rosie Bey, and Kansas City’s Moors (1933–1945)
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This paper examines the development of the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), a Black American Islamic religious organisation from 1933 to 1945, a period largely unexplored by academics. Through the lens of Father Prophet Mohammed Bey and Mother Jesus Rosie Bey—two controversial vernacular Moorish-American leaders in Kansas City—I hope to illustrate how Kansas City Moors coped with the organisation’s fissiparous tendencies and exegetically revised and reframed Moorish-American Prophet Noble Drew Ali’s 1920s Black Asiatic Orientalist doctrines vis-à-vis the 1930s and 1940s subversive socio-political culture. In the process, both Father Prophet Mohammed Bey and Mother Jesus Rosie Bey shaped and advocated an early form of Black theology and Black power, though they differed in their modus operandi. While Father Prophet Mohammed Bey militantly confronted Kansas City’s local racist institutions, Mother Jesus Rosie Bey internationalized and politicized the Kansas City Moors to collaborate/contend with the looming spectre of Japanese agent provocateurs, America’s Selective Service Act, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interrogations. While the size and scope of the Kansas City Moors remained limited, their unique orientation to militant Moorish Islam is vital for historians’ understanding of the re-flowering of Moorish-American Islamic activism in the 1930s as well as the eventual decay of the religious organisation by 1945, due in part to the theological softening of other Moorish communities.
72. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Nathan Colborne The Reasonable Citizen/The Unreasonable Scapegoat
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I argue here that the modern liberal state has not escaped the organized violence of the scapegoat mechanism as described by Rene Girard and that liberal theory, at least in its Rawlsian form, obscures this mechanism rather than repudiating it. The clearest example of this is Rawls’s attempt to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable comprehensive doctrines in order to exclude the latter from contributing to an overlapping consensus that, according to Rawls, is the basis of liberal political procedures. Girard’s account of the scapegoat mechanism can help us understand the underlying logic of this distinction and the political purpose it serves by giving a fuller explanation of what motivates liberal theory’s quest to constrain violence, by accounting better for the enduring attraction of Rawlsian political theory, and by more realistically outlining the dangers inherent in exposing the scapegoat mechanism.
73. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Alexander Pierre Bronisch On the Use and Definition of the Term “Holy War”: The Visigothic and Asturian-Leonese Examples
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After decades of discussion, historians have not yet managed to come to a generally accepted definition of the term “holy war.” There are several points of view, which can be classified into five groups: 1. the understanding of “holy war” as a war in which religion has the function of a specific cause; 2. critics of this position who fail to provide their own concise definition of “holy war”; 3. those who see holy wars from the perspective of just war theory; 4. others who define “holy war” as a war fought in the service of the Papacy; and, finally, 5. all those who seem to assume that a consensus about the meaning of this term already exists. In this article, the author’s definition, elaborated in a monograph on the significance of war in medieval Spain, is briefly presented. The Iberian Visigothic and Asturian-Leonese examples demonstrate that the author’s definition is suitable for explaining contemporaries’ ideas about the significance of war within the then-existing cosmovision. The author shows that the Iberian circumstances seem to be quite similar to the almost-simultaneous Byzantine understanding of war. Accordingly, some scholars on Byzantine warfare come to more or less to the same conclusion as proposed in this article and have had to face the same objections of their fellow scholars.
74. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Mattias Gardell What’s Love Got to Do with It?: Ultranationalism, Islamophobia, and Hate Crime in Sweden
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Sweden is known for its tolerance and liberal policies. Yet, sixty percent of Sweden’s mosques and Islamic centres had been subjected to threats, vandalism, or arson. Muslim women, in particular, seem to be targets of hate crimes, but rarely report incidents to the police. In 2014, the Sweden Democrats, a proto-fascist nationalist party, gained close to 13 percent of the national vote after a fervent anti-Muslim campaign supported by a network of social media outlets in which incitements to violence against Muslim-Swedes proliferated. Based on fieldwork, surveys, and open-ended interviews with 100 Muslim citizens and 40 anti-Muslim activist, as well as a review of anti-Muslim online calls to arms, this essay addresses the surge of anti-Muslim hate crime in Sweden, exploring the role of violence in the proto-fascist attempt to ‘recreate’ a homogenous nation that never existed. While the literature on ultranationalist-inspired hate crime typically sees the perpetrators as angry white men, the nationalists interviewed in this study claimed to act out of love, not hate. By examining how love and hate may reinforce each other, this essay argues that anti-Muslim hate crime is a form of political violence that patrols the borders and identities it produces, and shows the extent to which victims may adopt the perpetrator’s gaze and experience their own bodies as deviant, and out of place in their own home country. 
75. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Lorenzo Magnani, Tommaso Bertolotti Christ, Batman, and Girard: A Philosophical Perspective on Self-Sacrifice
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The aim of this article is to offer a non-trivial reflection about the violence embedded in self-sacrifice. Firstly, we will suggest a definition of violence which does not make self-sacrifice necessarily violent, but rather aims at being consistent with the common sense conception of sacrifice as actually violent (if self-sacrifice was not violent, then it would not be perceived as something rare and everyone would be committing non-trivial self-sacrifices wherever we laid our gaze). Framing this initial claim within the vectorial conception of sacrifice offered by Derrida (and exemplified by de Vries), we will individuate in the violence against intellect (sacrificium intellectus) the core of the violent dimension of self-sacrifice, insofar as the author of the sacrifice does not limitedly commit part of her understanding in the sacrificial practice, but all of it, since she is both the agent and the patient of sacrifice. At this point, we will have gathered enough material to spell out two fundamental violent aspects of self-sacrifice. The first concerns the exemplar of self-sacrifice in Western tradition, that is, Jesus Christ’s. The self-sacrifice committed by God’s own lógos is the epitome of sacrifice as sacrificium intellectus, therefore the highest gradient of intellectual violence. At the same time, this is crucial as it further corroborates the interpretation of Jesus’ sacrifice as the last sacrifice: no mimetic attempt to reenact His sacrifice can hold the comparison under the fundamental aspect of intellectual violence. The second “mirror” to reflect about the violence of self-sacrifice will concern the sacrifice enacted by superheroes, namely Batman, and the extent to which the sacrifice of intellect is at play when kenotic self-sacrifice and scapegoating processes become hard to tell one from the other (i.e. when the hero’s commitment seems to reverberate internally with external blame).
76. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
J. Marla Toyne The Body Sacrificed: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of Ritual Violence in Ancient Túcume, Peru
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Human lives and bodies become transformed into sacred offerings during sacrificial rites. We can recognize these transformative actions in the archaeological record based on the location of human burials – often in association with sacred spaces – and the evidence of peri-mortem manipulation of the bodies. This paper will describe and discuss the different ways in which human bodies have been manipulated in ancient Andean rites of human sacrifice as specific death rituals, outside of traditional or normative mortuary practices. I introduce the concept of the “body sacrificed” as a means through which to identify particular ritual significance in the treatment of these special sacred offerings. I use an example of human sacrifice from Túcume on the Northern Coast of Peru, as well as comparison with other documented sacrifice traditions across the Andean region. Using a bioarchaeological approach can help elucidate sacrifice rituals and practices with the focus on identifying and interpreting the physical manipulation of the body via evidence left on the skeleton. Furthermore, with comparative ethnographic data, we can identify the symbolic meaning in human burial arrangements and the manipulation of the bodies. I argue that the treatment of the body reflects specific symbolic gestures as part of the ritual process and that the death of the individual is only the part of a more complex process. Thus, we can elucidate possible meanings behind these transformative sacrificial rites in pre-Hispanic times.
77. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
John Kelsay Comparative Studies of Religion and Violence: Perspectives on the Current State of Scholarly Conversation
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This article provides a brief introduction to articles reflecting on the current state of conversation regarding religion and violence. I begin by noting the occasion for which the articles were developed, then note some of the points made by each of the authors.
78. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Michael Jerryson Buddhist Cultural Regulations of Violence
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Buddhist communities worldwide have been energized by the recent politicized violence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. These acts of Buddhist-influenced violence have mobilized transnational Buddhist groups in condemnation and in support of the violence. As evinced through recent examples, the ambivalence of the sacred exists in religious traditions, including Buddhism. This article reviews these examples and looks at the larger challenge of including Buddhism within comparative works on religion and violence. Instead of focusing solely on textual sources and doctrine, this essay argues that it is important for scholars to include cultural forms of religious authority in order to better understand and to address Buddhist-inspired acts of violence.
79. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Nahed Artoul Zehr Assessing the Current State of Conversation on Islam and the Cultural Regulation of Armed Force
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This piece provides a pithy analysis of past, current, and future works dealing with the moral regulation of armed force in Islam. It provides suggestions for two issues that those interested in the moral regulation of force ought to consider in moving forward.
80. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Torkel Brekke Bridging the Gap Between Ancient and Modern in the Study of Religion and Violence in India
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There has been little dialogue between academic communities studying ancient India and scholars working on violence in modern India. Part of the reason has been suspicion concerning the ideological foundations of Indology amongst social scientists and modern historians. To better understand religious violence in today’s India the historical perspectives need to be taken into account.