By Fatima Naqvi (auth.)
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Extra info for The Literary and Cultural Rhetoric of Victimhood: Western Europe, 1970–2005
282–83]) POLITICS OF INDIFFERENCE 37 Girard here postulates a negative trajectory for sacrificial rites, as he does for modernity more generally (the collapse of the modern with sacrifice occurs again here). 24 By extension, the affirmation of community or even just commonality on the basis of indifference becomes more tenuous with every effort to press sacrifice into service. Furthermore, the social bonds formed in violent convulsions, when all differences are put aside, are as erratic and capricious as the differences the tremors supposedly re-establish.
Let me draw on the arguments from the beginning of Dialectic of Enlightenment to briefly adumbrate the concern with fungible humanity. In order to espouse Odysseus rather than Freud’s Oedipus as an avatar of Enlightenment thought, Adorno and Horkheimer devote a large section of their first excursus to the role of ritualistic sacrifice (40–45; Wiggershaus 50–52). They return to the various sacrifices demanded of and performed by the epic hero to argue against then current vitalist and irrationalist interpretations of sacrifice as regenerative for the social body; they also wish to counter psychoanalytic readings that ascribe a democratic impulse to the primal horde (260 n.
Indeed, the recent attention to the work of Giorgio Agamben is part and parcel of an interest in the aspects of self-sacrificial victimage of an ongoing modernity. Throughout the various parts of the work comprising Homo sacer, Agamben does not tire of linking homo sacer to the very modernity that will be under attack in the other works I discuss (most directly in René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred and Peter Sloterdijk’s The Contempt of the INTRODUCTION 25 Masses). Agamben, too quickly severing the link between sacrifice and sacredness (see chapter 6), writes: In modernity, the principle of the sacredness of life is thus completely emancipated from sacrificial ideology, and in our culture the meaning of the term “sacred” continues the semantic history of homo sacer and not that of sacrifice (and this is why the demystifications of sacrificial ideology so common today remain insufficient, even though they are correct).