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Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty
In Sacred Violence, the distinguished political and legal theorist Paul W. Kahn investigates the reasons for the resort to violence characteristic of premodern states. In a startling argument, he contends that law will never offer an adequate account of political violence. Instead, we must turn to political theology, which reveals that torture and terror are, essentially, forms of sacrifice. Kahn forces us to acknowledge what we don't want to see: that we remain deeply committed to a violent politics beyond law. Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities at Yale Law School and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. Cover Illustration: "Abu Ghraib 67, 2005" by Fernando Botero. Courtesy of the artist and the American University Museum.
A New Genealogy of Human Rights
What are the origins of the idea of human rights and universal human dignity? How can we most fully understand -- and realize -- these rights going into the future? In The Sacredness of the Person, internationally renowned sociologist and social theorist Hans Joas tells a story that differs from conventional narratives by tracing the concept of human rights back to the Judeo-Christian tradition or, alternately, to the secular French Enlightenment. While drawing on sociologists such as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Ernst Troeltsch, Joas sets out a new path, proposing an affirmative genealogy in which human rights are the result of a process of "sacralization" of every human being.
According to Joas, every single human being has increasingly been viewed as sacred. He discusses the abolition of torture and slavery, once common practice in the pre-18th century west, as two milestones in modern human history. The author concludes by portraying the emergence of the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as a successful process of value generalization. Joas demonstrates that the history of human rights cannot adequately be described as a history of ideas or as legal history, but as a complex transformation in which diverse cultural traditions had to be articulated, legally codified, and assimilated into practices of everyday life. The sacralization of the person and universal human rights will only be secure in the future, warns Joas, through continued support by institutions and society, vigorous discourse in their defense, and their incarnation in everyday life and practice.
In Sacrifice, René Girard interrogates the Brahmanas of Vedic India, exploring coincidences with mimetic theory that are too numerous and striking to be accidental. Even that which appears to be dissimilar fails to contradict mimetic theory, but instead corresponds to the minimum of illusion without which sacrifice becomes impossible.
The Bible reveals collective violence, similar to that which generates sacrifice everywhere, but instead of making victims guilty, the Bible and the Gospels reveal the persecutors of a single victim. Instead of elaborating myths, they tell the truth absolutely contrary to the archaic sense. Once exposed, the single victim mechanism can no longer function as the model for would-be sacrificers.
Recognizing that the Vedic tradition also converges on a revelation that discredits sacrifice, mimetic theory locates within sacrifice itself a paradoxical power of quiet reflection that leads, in the long run, to the eclipse of this institution which is violent but nevertheless fundamental to the development of human culture. Far from unduly privileging the Western tradition and awarding it a monopoly on the knowledge and repudiation of blood sacrifice, mimetic analysis recognizes comparable, but never truly identical, traits in the Vedic tradition.
On the Particularity and Generality of Nazi Myth
This is an extremely exciting manuscript—path-breaking, bold, and comprehensive—that could be received in the intellectual world as a major theoretical statement, while also representing an insightful treatment of a specific cultural historical moment (Nazi Germany) but also key intellectual lineages that surround it. There's a lot at stake here, in the big picture (the question of sacrifice and the interpretation of Germany) as well as in the many rich building blocks of the argument (the treatments of Kant, Nietzsche, Adorno, Bataille, Girard, etc.).
When Athenians suffered the shame of having lost a war from their own greed and foolishness, around 404 BCE the public’s blame was directed at Socrates, a man whose unique appearance and behavior, as well as his disapproval of the democracy, made him a ready target. Socrates was subsequently put on trial and sentenced to death. However, as René Girard has pointed out, no individual can be held responsible for a communal crisis. Plato’s Apology depicts Socrates as both the bane and the cure of Greek society, while his Crito shows a sacrificial Socrates, what some might consider a pharmakos figure, the human drug through whom Plato can dispense his philosophical remedies. With tremendous insight and satisfying complexity, this book analyzes classical texts through the lens of Girard’s mimetic mechanism.
Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom
Examines the themes of sacrifice and violence for the sake of community, nation, and ideology by taking up the Balkan legend of the immurement of a live female body into an architectural edifice that cannot stand without a human sacrifice. The sacrificed body becomes a metaphor for acts of violence in the course of the region’s many ethno-religious conflicts in the 20th century, as Aleksic demonstrates how this sacrificial economy functions in a range of cultural and literary texts. The theoretical framework encompasses sociological analyses, feminist theory, human rights reports, and other sources documenting the destruction of individual subjectivities by the purported necessity of nationalist projects.
Politics, Religion, and the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
From a Western perspective, the Persian Gulf War of 1990–1991 largely fulfilled the first President Bush’s objective: “In, out, do it, do it right, get gone. That’s the message.” But in the Arab world, the causes and consequences of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and his subsequent defeat by a U.S.-led coalition were never so clear-cut. The potent blend of Islam and Arab nationalism that Saddam forged to justify the unjustifiable—his invasion of a Muslim state—gained remarkable support among both Muslims and Arabs and continued to resonate in the Middle East long after the fighting ended. Indeed, as this study argues in passing, it became a significant strand in the tangled web of ideologies and actions that led to the attacks of 9/11. This landmark book offers the first in-depth investigation of how Saddam Hussein used Islam and Arab nationalism to legitimate his invasion of Kuwait in the eyes of fellow Muslims and Arabs, while delegitimating the actions of the U.S.-led coalition and its Arab members. Jerry M. Long addresses three fundamental issues: how extensively and in what specific ways Iraq appealed to Islam during the Kuwait crisis; how elites, Islamists, and the elusive Arab “street,” both in and out of the coalition, responded to that appeal and why they responded as they did; and the longer-term effects that resulted from Saddam’s strategy.
All homes are not shelters. But then again, some are. Welcome to the home of Marie-Helene Bertino.
Charlie Metro was born Charles Moreskonich in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania, in 1919. He played in the major leagues from 1943 to 1945 with the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics. He managed for parts of two seasons, with the 1962 Cubs and the 1970 Kansas City Royals. He also coached the 1965 Chicago White Sox and the 1982 Oakland Athletics. Although he had far longer service in the minor leagues, he will probably be best remembered as one of the great scouts and teachers in baseball history.
The Eisenhower Administration, Britain, and Singapore
How America left its indelible footprint on the culture and politics of Singapore
In the first decade after World War II, Singapore underwent radical political and socioeconomic changes with the progressive retreat of Great Britain from its Southeast Asian colonial empire. The United States, under the Eisenhower administration, sought to fill the vacuum left by the British retreat and launched into a campaign to shape the emerging Singapore nation-state in accordance with its Cold War policies. Based on a wide array of Chinese- and English-language archival sources from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States, Safe for Decolonization examines in depth the initiatives—both covert and public—undertaken by the United States in late-colonial Singapore.
Apart from simply analyzing the effect of American activities on the politics of the island, author S. R. Joey Long also examines their impact on the relationship between Great Britain and the United States, and how the Anglo-American nuclear policy toward China and the establishment of a regional security institution (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) affected the security and decolonization of a strategic British base.
Long sketches a highly detailed and nuanced account of the relations between the United States, Great Britain, and Singapore. He not only describes the often clumsy attempts by covert American operatives to sway top political leaders, infiltrate governments, influence labor unions, and shape elections, but he also shows how Eisenhower’s public initiatives proved to have far-reaching positive results and demonstrates that the Eisenhower administration’s policies toward Singapore, while not always well advised, nonetheless helped to lay the foundation for friendly Singapore–U.S. relations after 1960.
As the first multi-archival work on the U.S. intervention in Singapore, Safe for Decolonization makes an important contribution to the literature on Southeast Asia–U.S. relations. It will be of interest to specialists in decolonization, diplomatic history, modern Southeast Asian history, and the history of the early Cold War.