Abstract

This article examines the comparatively neglected history and historiography of blasphemy relating this to wider histories of sin, crime and criminality. It charts the history of the subject and identifies significant epochs of change altering the crime’s character in Europe and America over the last four hundred years. This history is then related to the chief paradigms associated with crime and violence, those proposed by Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias, noting the comparative strength and weaknesses of these two approaches. . The article suggests that blasphemy occurred as either a 'passive' or 'active' entity. The former was characteristic of late medieval and early modern states where the harm caused by blasphemy was visited upon the whole community and this entity was responsible for seeking restitution and redress. After the enlightenment and the rise of liberal regimes of rights this was replaced by ‘active’ blasphemy which henceforth required individuals to demonstrate the actual harm they had experienced. The article concludes that the dangerous fissures in multiculturalism and the vanishing confidence of liberal states is arguably rejuvenating the model of "passive" blasphemy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 5-29
Launched on MUSE
2007-10-09
Open Access
No
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