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HINDUISM AND MIMETIC THEORY: A RESPONSE Julia W. Shinnick Austin, Texas i: Introduction "would like to thankProfessor Clooney for his thorough presentation .ofthe enormously complex and layeredtreatment ofviolence within Hindu religious traditions. In his paper I found many aspects of Hinduism that directly engage the mimetic theory, and I hope that I can articulate some of these in such a way as to initiate discussion during the next hour or so this afternoon. As one of the so-called "Girardians," my first impression in response to Professor Clooney's paper is that the complexity of Hindu attitudes toward violence and sacrifice seem to indicate an awareness of the ritualization and control of violence, as developed over a very long period of time. I. Language of Avoidance/Denial: The Horse I would like to start with a small detail, but one which seems to me key to many larger issues in light of the mimetic theory: the ritual directions and prayers [1.1] in which the words "to kill" and "to die" are carefully avoided through the substitutions of such words as "he takes hold of and "he makes consent." I might add here also, that the avoidance ofusing "real" words for what is "really" being doneDkilling the animalDreminds me to some extent of the use of language by contemporary torturers as analyzed in the book The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking ofthe World by Elaine Scarry. Scarry argues that the language used by torturers avoids any acknowledg- Julia W. Shinnick141 ment of the real actions they are committing, as well as any acknowledgment of the very real pain they are causing their victims; furthermore, it is a dehumanizing language, referring to the victims as, for example, submarines, in one particular type of torture. This discrepancy between language and actual action is intriguing in both cases. Granted, the sacrificers in the Rg Veda do not deny that they are sacrificing the horse, and the "apology" (the words to the horseD"Do not let the axe linger in yourbody...") is not part ofan act oftorture, but the words have in common with Scarry's report a certain denial or avoidance of the reality of both the actions ofkilling and/orharming and the result ofthese actions, pain and/or death. Furthermore, the avoidance of the words "to kill" and "to die" would fit in with the mimetic theory's idea ofprohibiting the ritual from bringing actual facts of the founding murder to consciousness. II.Sacrificial Instructions The words addressed to the horse in the Rg Veda [I.l]and the instructions for the treatment of animals to be sacrificedO'The axe penetrates the thirty-four ribs of the swift horse...so that the limbs may be unperforated, and recapitulating, joint by joint "Dseem to me to intersect with the mimetic theory in terms of ritual sacrifice as a reenactment of the founding conflict. As I understand it, in the mimetic theory, one reason for careful, detailed ritual instructions and the sense ofgreatdangerin sacrifice (the sense that if the ritual is not carried out exactly and correctly, something horrible might happen) has to do with a non-conscious fear of unleashing the mimetic crisis all over again. I see aspects of this in the minutely detailed instructions to the priest such as the importance of leading the horse but not holding on to it, and the desire to pacify the animal to be sacrificed. These kinds of details are of course also present in other sacrifice rituals. For example, in Perpetua's Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman, Joyce Salisbury speaks of the simultaneous sacrifice of hundreds of children in ancient Carthage during the Punic Wars. The children had to be (appear) "willing" to be sacrificed. Ifthey cried out, the sacrifice was considered invalid. The parents also had to be (appear) "willing;" ifthe mother shed a tear, the sacrifice was invalid. Thus, immediately before the fatal knife thrust, the sacrificing parents would caress their children and tickle them to make them laugh. III.Violence and Kings According to James Williams in his introduction to chapter 6 of The 142Hinduism and Mimetic Theory: A Response Girard Reader, one of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 140-145
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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