Post-war Blood

Sacrifice, Anti-sacrifice, and the Rearticulations of Conflict in Sri Lanka

in Religion and Society
Author: Neena Mahadev1
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  • 1 Yale-NUS College neena.mahadev@yale-nus.edu.sg
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Abstract

Since 2009, in the aftermath of Sri Lanka's ethnic war, certain contingents of Sinhala Buddhists have lodged attacks against religious minorities, whom they censure for committing violence against animals in accordance with the dictates of their gods. Considering these interventions against sacrifice in spaces of shared Hindu and Buddhist religiosity, this article examines the economies of derogation, violence, and scapegoating in post-war Sri Lanka. Within Sinhala Buddhism, sacrifice is considered bio-morally impure yet politically efficacious, whereas meritorious Buddhist discipleship is sacrificial only in aspirational, bloodless terms. Nevertheless, both practices fall within the spectrum of Sinhala Buddhist religious life. Majoritarian imperatives concerning post-war blood impinge upon marginal sites of shared religiosity—spaces where the blood of animals is spilled and, ironically, where political potency can be substantively shored up. The article examines the siting of sacrifice and the purifying majoritarian interventions against it, as Buddhists strive to assert sovereignty over religious others.

Contributor Notes

NEENA MAHADEV is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the Social Sciences at Yale-NUS College. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University and has held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and at the University of Göttingen. Her research focuses on rivalries over religious conversion between Buddhists and Christians in South and Southeast Asia, and how these tensions generate innovation in religious politics and practice. Her work appears in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Current Anthropology, and HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. She is completing a book manuscript entitled “Of Karma and Grace: Conversion, Conflict, and the Politics of Belonging in Millennial Sri Lanka.” E-mail neena.mahadev@yale-nus.edu.sg

Religion and Society

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