Following the story of a public memorial, I discuss the change in the scale of the remembrance of loss among post-Soviet Armenians in Yerevan. The shift from forgotten to visible Armenian loss started in the mid-1960s with protest from below during Khrushchev's political thaw and culminated at the beginning of the twenty-first century in an institutionalized state policy of commemoration. I discuss the ways in which a new memorial landscape of loss is represented and how a new cult of death is intensified by the redesigning and visualization of a traumatic past. I highlight a specific process of sacralization related to the new politics of unrecognized, 'bad' death, in the language of Christian suffering. Finally I turn to the ways Armenians voice the forgotten loss in terms of a global morality by involving outside forces—new “protective ancestors”—in the sacred repertoire of the nation. To illustrate this change, I concentrate on the area surrounding the memorial for the Armenian Genocide on the Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan.
Representing loss in postsocialist Armenia
Christianity and the Return of the Sacred
This article argues a case against the theory of the sacred put forward by the French anthropologist René Girard. In particular, Girard seems to have obliterated one of the tenets of Christian theology, namely, the doctrine of Christ's ascension, in accord with his critical reading of Paul's letter to the Hebrews, which contains a rare emphasis on Christ's departure from the world. This article adopts a 'neo-Hobbesian' perspective in understanding the return of the sacred and fosters a 'political theology of the empty tomb', where the doctrine of Christ's ascension is called upon to again play a major theological role as a workable antidote to the contemporary resurgence of the sacred.
The Relevance of Roger Caillois for Contemporary Neo-Durkheimian Cultural Theory
Alexander T. Riley
The question of the trajectory of Durkheimian thought after the death of Durkheim in 1917 is of great interest to many scholars. Increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the place of the Collége de Sociologie in that legacy (e.g., Hollier 1979; Kurasawa 1998; Richman 2002; Marroquin 2005). The focus of much of this scholarship, however, has been on one participant in the Collége, Georges Bataille. Both those who see the Collége as a legitimate inheritor of the Durkheimian mantle (e.g., Richman 2002) and those who do not (e.g., Marcel 2001) place central importance on the person and work of Bataille. There were however other members of the Collége, some of whom in fact had a much closer institutional connection to the Durkheimian group through Durkheim's nephew, Marcel Mauss, than Bataille did. Roger Caillois is perhaps the most important of these others. (1) The work of Caillois is still relatively little known outside the French-speaking world. Largely considered a figure of the literary avant-garde when he is known at all among English-speaking academics, (2) he was in fact a thinker of immensely broad interests, with intellectual connections spanning from surrealist circles to Durkheimian ethnography. Unlike Bataille, he actually studied under Marcel Mauss (and Georges Dumézil) and some of the most compelling work he authored took up themes he explicitly recognized as having to do with sociology and social theory.
Law and Religion in the Twenty-First Century
John L. Comaroff
Religion has always been intimately connected to law. Conversely, modern secular law, born of the separation of lex naturae from lex dei, has always been deeply theological. However, with transformations in the construction of the nation-state and changes in the sociopolitical scaffolding of the global order, the mutual infusion of law and religion appears to be extending both in scope and in substance—not-withstanding the ever more strident assertion of secularism by some nation-states. Counter-intuitively, the law itself appears to be ever more suffused with the sacral, while, across the planet, the sacral is reconstructing constitutional jurisprudence, administrative law, and much more besides. How do we account for this, for the rise of expansive cultures of theo-legality? Where is it leading? And with what implications?
This edition of Theoria speaks to the dynamics of globalization, to the nature and scope of democracy and democratic consolidation, and to the challenge of grounding authority, both sacral and ‘secular’. These themes have become especially resonant at a historical moment when religious fundamentalism has, in the context of increasing global interconnectedness, become more ‘present’, and when capitalist modernization has come increasingly to be broadly legitimated in the language of ‘democratic consolidation’.
The Construction of a Shrine in Postwar Kosovo
Anna Di Lellio and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers
The site of an infamous Serb massacre of a militant Albanian extended family in March 1998 has become the most prominent sacred shrine in postwar Kosovo attracting thousands of Albanian visitors. Inspired by Smith's (2003) 'territorialization of memory' as a sacred source of national identity and MacCannell's (1999 ) five-stage model of 'sight sacralization', this article traces the site's sacred memorial topography, its construction process, its social and material reproductions, and adds a sixth stage to the interpretation - the 'political reproduction'. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the commemorative literature emanating from this shrine and on numerous interviews with core protagonists (including former guerrilla) and visitors, the article explores the ways in which the religious themes of martyrdom and sacrifice, as well as traditionalist ideals of solidarity and militancy, are embodied at the site and give sense to a nation-wide celebration of ethno-national resistance, solidarity and independence.
The Arab Student Union and the Communitas of the Palestinian Israeli Educated
In spite of state efforts to limit public nationalist ritual of the Palestinian Israeli community, one ritual system, as this article details, is kept intact by the Arab Student Union (ASU). Based on an ethnographic study of the Hebrew University ASU, I show how this ritual system is instructive in a specific, educated Palestinian Israeli identity. Instruction revolves around the root paradigms of a specifically Israeli Palestinian-ness and of the national responsibility of the educated. The instructive ritual system arouses communitas of the educated Palestinian community through instruction carried out in the context of sacralized space and time and by means of the use of ritual art and events, the recruitment of ritual commentators, and the intermeshing of ethos and world-view. This ritual system can be understood as an indigenous Palestinian Israeli pedagogy for liberation.
Religious Plurality, Interreligious Pluralism, and Spatialities of Religious Difference
Jeremy F. Walton and Neena Mahadev
The introduction to this special section foregrounds the key distinction between ‘religious plurality’ and ‘interreligious pluralism’. Building from the example of a recent controversy over an exhibition on shared religious sites in Thessaloniki, Greece, we analyze the ways in which advocates and adversaries of pluralism alternately place minority religions at the center or attempt to relegate them to the margins of visual, spatial, and political fields. To establish the conceptual scaffolding that supports this special section, we engage the complex relations that govern the operations of state and civil society, sacrality and secularity, as well as spectacular acts of disavowal that simultaneously coincide with everyday multiplicities in the shared use of space. We conclude with brief summaries of the four articles that site religious plurality and interreligious pluralism in the diverse contexts of Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka, and the Balkans.
The Denial of Jewish Messianism in Freud and Durkheim
This essay presents a reading of the work of two central figures of modern social theory that locates their work within not simply mainstream Jewish thought, but a particular Hasidic tradition. Further, I argue that lying behind this, in a repressed form, is an even older tradition of Jewish alchemy. I make no claim to have evidence that either Freud or Durkheim were directly influenced by Hasidism or alchemy, but I examine the parallels between the structure of their thoughts and those of the two traditions. Both Freud and Durkheim display a social psychology that is analytically similar to the dualism of Hasidism's Tanya and the general transformational models of alchemy. This formal model is in opposition to the messianic tradition in Jewish thought and analyzes Freud and Durkheim as anti messianic social psychologists. Hasidism offers a template for modern theories of social psychology, social interaction and the relation between the social and the individual, that is, collective identity. This essay also considers more generally how modern social theory might make sense of contemporary social phenomena by opening itself to the messianic and mystical traditions in Jewish thought. I suggest that the social and structural transformation associated with the information or network society requires new analytic tools that allow us to explain social energy differently to the way Freud and Durkheim have guided social theory. Contemporary analyses of individualization, social movements and sacralization as forms of and reactions to alienation are inadequate. Instead, I ask whether we should not 'restore a messianic, truly utopian "lost unity", which the alchemical, secular gnosis of modern social science displaced, and so renew social theory?'
Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner and Simon Coleman
(‘religion’ and ‘tourism’), Stacy George’s article discusses how a socio-political movement in the US, the Tea Party, incorporates a ritual dimension within and beyond its Christian religious framing. She unveils a ‘productive’ dimension in sacrality