Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Thinking with René Girard
Sacrificing “Homo Sacer”
Rene Girard reads Giorgio Agamben
Taking as its point of departure the existing critical literature on the intersections between René Girard’s and Giorgio Agamben’s anthropogenetic theories, this essay aims to add further considerations to the debate by discussing some of Agamben’s intuitions within a Girardian paradigmatic explanatory framework. I show how by regressing the archeological analysis to a pre-institutional and pre-legal moment, and by re-examining the antinomic structure of the sacred in its genetic organizing form (so briskly dismissed by Agamben in Homo Sacer), one can account more cogently for certain key issues relevant to Agamben’s theoretical project, such as the “paradox of sovereignty,” the nature of the “state of exception,” and the dissociation between culpa and individual responsibility in archaic law, as recently discussed in Karman. I also put forward arguments concerning the limitations of Agamben’s immanent ontology to account for the zoe/bios distinction as a key structural element of his particular take on biopolitics, viewing this specifically in the light of Girard’s anti-sacrificial interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.