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101. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Nathan S. French An American TakfĪr?: Violence and Law at War
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Throughout the ongoing U.S.-declared war against terrorism, and the various jihadi-salafi responses to the same, relatively few researchers have considered both parties’ usage of the law as a technique of exclusion for authorizing violence against those who may not otherwise be killed. By comparing the underlying logic of takfīr applied by jihadi-salafi authors such as Abū Muḥammad al-Maqdisī (b. 1959) to the legal calculus used by the Obama administration to legitimate its targeted killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-ʿAwlaqī and Samīr Khān seemingly without trial, this article identifies and analyzes how the juridical logic of the administration and jihadi-salafis possesses similar reliance upon declarations of an imminent threat and violations of norms of humanity and belief, respectively. Such a realization, it concludes, allows for the possibility of exploring a co-implicative logic of violence to both and, second, the possibility for a critique of declared states of emergency upon which such exclusionary techniques depend.
102. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Margo Kitts On Pain, Politics, and the Monstrous Other
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Responding to the papers herein, this essay ponders religious perspectives on pain and the memorialization of trauma; the opaque dynamics of self-immolation and the aesthetics of trauma art; grand narratives in wars on terror; and the existential disfiguring of the character of Job, a disfiguring which might be analyzed through lenses associated with ritual or poetics. The last theme broaches the point of the entire volume, which is the plethora of theoretical lenses that can help us to make sense of the behavior and imaginative expressions of religion and violence.
103. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Brian R. Doak Monster Violence in the Book of Job
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In this paper, I explore the book of Job in terms of the symbolic and ideological warfare waged between God and the human protagonist, Job. Specifically, I argue that the invocation of various kinds of creatures under the “monster” rubric (such as Leviathan, Rahab, Yamm, the Twisting Serpent, and Behemoth) can be illuminated through a consideration of contemporary work—in the history of religions, literary theory, and film studies—that categorizes the monstrous in terms of ecological disorientation, metaphors of the torn human body, and the boundaries of the “home.” Moreover, I draw on the work of Marie Hélène Huet in her book Monstrous Imagination to argue that some of God’s showcase animals in Job 38–41 (most prominently Behemoth and Leviathan, but also others) should be discussed as monsters with reference to their ambiguous species representation and their “false resemblance” to other known creatures. When considered within the context of Job’s pervasive themes of geological and animal violence, Joban monsters take their place among the menagerie of creatures adduced by Job’s speaking characters as rhetorical gestures of disorientation, community redemption, and the meaning of small community experience within empire.
104. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Marie A. Pagliarini Spiritual Tattooing: Pain, Materialization, and Transformation
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This essay utilizes information gathered through in-depth interviews with people living in the San Francisco Bay Area to shed light on the phenomenon of spiritual tattooing—the practice of giving spiritual meaning to tattoos and to the process of tattooing. The essay analyzes the role of the body, voluntary pain, and marking the body in the context of religious experience and expression, and highlights the connections between spiritual tattooing and practices of self-violence. Spiritual tattoos work through an inside-out/outside-in mechanism. The process of tattooing draws abstract or overwhelming interior elements (thoughts, emotions, memories) out and materializes them through the infliction of pain. At the same time, things of desire outside the self (spiritual ideals, healing symbols, conceptions of a new self) are conveyed into the body through the process of painful inscription. Through the pain of tattooing and the marks left in the skin, abstractions are made concrete and real, shaping identity, memory, and spirituality.
105. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Jamel Velji Striving in the Path of God: Jihād and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought. By Asma Afsaruddin
106. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Ian Linden, Thomas Thorp Religious Conflicts and Peace Building in Nigeria
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Historical analysis confirms the home-grown character of Nigeria’s conflicts and the complexity of their peaceful resolution. Religious leaders have traditionally contested political space with other actors and continue to do so. But the religiosity of popular culture is such that Nigerian religious leaders can make a substantive contribution to peace building and countering religious extremism if given the time, space and tools to do so. Elections have been critical moments in the evolution of religious tensions and conflicts owing to the country’s geographical demographic and history, and the popular hope of correcting injustice that they evoke. There is a need to distinguish between genuine religious conflicts and conflicts that are essentially socio-economic or about competition for political power which become “religionised.” The evolution of the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, can be traced back to intra-Muslim conflicts and anti-Sufi movements. But it reflects no less the underdevelopment and poverty of the Northeast and the impact of corruption on the perception of state and national government. The crude and violent narrative of Abubakar Shekau, its leader, shows a deterioration beyond that of its founder Malam Yusuf, who was able to offer financial and economic inducements over and above a rejection of most aspects of modernity and Western education. Increasingly, efforts are being made by religious leaders at both national, and local levels through formal, and grassroots networks to build better understanding and awareness between faiths to change and challenge narratives. With the appropriate support, these networks have great potential for improving communal relations and overcoming Boko Haram’s narratives of hate.
107. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Mary Nyangweso Negotiating Cultural Rights to Affirm Human Rights: Challenges Women Face in the Twenty-First Century
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Leyla Hussein, a 32-year-old Londoner and leading activist against female genital cutting, conducted an experimental study to test the influence of “political correctness” on attitudes toward female genital cutting. With a signed petition supporting female genital cutting, she approached shoppers and told them that she wanted “to protect her ‘culture, traditions and rights.’” She received nineteen signatures to her petition in thirty minutes. Some of those who signed the petition stated that they believed that female genital cutting was wrong, but they agreed to sign the petition out of respect of Ms. Hussein’s culture. In a world that affirms both cultural and human rights, negotiation of both human and group rights tend to lead to “political correctness.” When these values are justified by religion, they are even harder to negotiate. How can one reconcile human and corporate rights without compromising the rights of women? This essay explores implications of political correctness on efforts to affirm women’s rights. Drawing examples from female genital cutting, the paper examines implications of moral theories like moral universalism and cultural relativism to argue for cross-cultural universals approach as possible reconciliatory approach towards affirming human rights.
108. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Palwasha L. Kakar, Melissa Nozell Engaging the Religious Sector for Peace and Justice in Libya: Analysis of Current Discourses
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The paper will problematize the boundaries between “religious” discourse and “political” discourse as they are drawn in the midst of violent conflict and contestation in Libya, by exploring the historical context, current religious trends and influential religious leaders as identified in the interviews. This paper sheds significant light on the little understood relationship between violence, political contestation, and the religious sector in Libya, mapping community perceptions of religious actors’ relationship to violent conflict, interactions between political and religious phenomena, and the actual responses of major religious actors to external violence such as that perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State. As the voices of those interviewed throughout Libya as part of this study reveal, both the perception and reality of the relationship between what is political and religious are not easily parsed, and episodes of violence often highlight the complicated interconnectedness between these realms.
109. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Elias Kifon Bongmba Homosexuality, Ubuntu, and Otherness in the African Church
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In this essay I argue that the notion of ubuntu offers a way of rethinking the negative discourses on homosexuality in Africa and in the African church. Ubuntu promotes accepting communication within the ecclesial community in Africa. The essay selectively reviews some of the negative discourses from political and religious leaders, and then discusses the possibilities which ubuntu philosophy offers for addressing the divisions over homosexuality.
110. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Matthew Recla Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. By Karen Armstrong
111. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
John Soboslai Sacred Suicide. Edited by Carole M. Cusack, James Lewis, and George Chryssides
112. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Margo Kitts Whose “Religion” and Whose “Violence”? Definition and Diversity in African Studies
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This introduction explores some complications in identifying religion and violence in the indigenous imaginations of Africa. The meaning of both terms can be contested when applied to sub-Saharan Africa, where “reenchanted traditions” (J.-A. Mbembé, “African Modes of Self-Writing”) have emerged as features of African regional wars. Examples show the necessity for expanded perspectives on religion and violence, beyond European categories of thought. Then the introduction summarizes the essays within issue 4.1.
113. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Ipsita Chatterjea The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence. Edited by Andrew Murphy
114. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Reuven Firestone Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women’s Equality. Motti Inbari
115. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Margo Kitts Introduction: Violence and Biblical Imagination
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For at least a century biblical scholars have explored prescriptions and descriptions of holy wars, punishing plagues, infanticides, treaty violations and lethal loyalty tests, not to mention the emotional torments reflected in prophetic rants and in some of the tradition’s most exquisite and excruciating biographies. Arguably, it is the Bible’s varied treatments of violence, in all of its forms, which make the text a classical repository of sobering human experiences, at least as recognized in the West. The articles herein ponder some violent themes related to biblical literature. They ponder the shared legacy of ancient Near Eastern literary motifs showing jubilant dining at the death of a foe; the reception history of Psalm 137’s last verses, which urge violence against children; contrasting family dynamics in narratives of martyrdom between Jews and Christians; depictions of children as victims and as cruel aggressors in the Christian didactic poems of Prudentius; and the biblical legacy of forceful parental authority and corporeal punishment embraced by some evangelical Christians. The four articles on childhood and violence derive from the 2015 AAR and SBL conference session on biblical violence and childhood, and are introduced and contextualized by Ra’anan Boustan and Kimberly Stratton, who moderated the session.
116. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Scott B. Noegel Corpses, Cannibals, and Commensality: A Literary and Artistic Shaming Convention in the Ancient Near East
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In this contribution, I examine several ancient Near Eastern literary texts and artistic variations on the “banquet motif” in which one finds people dining while others die. I argue that these depictions constitute a hitherto unrecognized artistic device rooted in social protocol that represents an inversion of the custom of abstinence during mourning. It thus functions to underscore the contempt of those dining for the dying by depicting their deaths as unworthy of lament. In addition, the motif characterizes the dying party as symbolically and/or physically abased, because of his or her hubris, and thus deserving of a shameful death. Inversely, it portrays the dining party as symbolically and often physically elevated, and reveling in a divine reversal of circumstance.
117. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Paul Middleton “Suffer Little Children": Child Sacrifice, Martyrdom, and Identity Formation in Judaism and Christianity
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This essay examines the contrasting ways in which the sacrifice of children is portrayed in Jewish and Christian martyrologies. In these narratives of extreme persecution and suffering, death was often seen to be the way in which religious integrity and identity was preserved. It is argued that Jewish martyr narratives—for example, the First Crusade, Masada, and the Maccabees—reflect a developed notion of collective martyrdom, such that the deaths of children, even at the hands of their parents, are a necessary component in Jewish identity formation. By contrast, early Christianity martyr texts reflect an ambivalence towards children, to the extent that they are viewed as a potential hindrance to the successful martyrdom of their Christian mothers. Children have to be abandoned for women to retain their Christian identity.
118. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Joel M. LeMon Violence against Children and Girls in the Reception History of Psalm 137
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The reception history of Psalm 137 is marked by numerous attempts to mollify or expunge its descriptions of violence, specifically, its last line: “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock” (verse 9, NRSV). This essay explores the various ways that interpreters have perceived the psalm’s violent imagery to be problematic and what they have done to change the psalm. Many interpreters have “spiritualized” the psalm, altering its rhetorical effect by suggesting that the “little ones” are little sins rather than little children. Still other interpretations have modified the structure of the psalm through a process of selective omission. Frequently, these versions do not include the last verse of the psalm. Yet, these versions often highlight and implicitly authorize violence against girls specifically, since a girl, “Daughter Babylon” or “a/the daughter of Babylon,” is the subject of the preceding verse. Throughout the analysis, special attention is paid to the reception of the psalm in Christian hymnody and other music, including art songs, anthems, and symphonic treatments.
119. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Ra‘anan Boustan, Kimberly Stratton Children and Violence in Jewish and Christian Traditions
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This introduction to the special section of the 4.3 issue on violence in the biblical imagination presents a brief overview of scholarship on the theme of children and violence in Jewish and Christian traditions before summarizing the four articles which follow. These four papers were originally presented at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, November 2015. Scholarly literature on children and violence falls into two main clusters: child sacrifice and corporal punishment. Using Sarah Iles Johnston’s response to the panel as a starting point, this introduction proposes that children “are good to think with.” Stories about children and violence carry weighty symbolic cargo: they demarcate the limits of civilization and define certain groups of people as Other; they signal social disruption and extraordinary crisis. Examples include: child sacrifice, parental cannibalism, child martyrdom, and corporal punishment. We conclude that scriptural accounts of divinely sanctioned violence always retain for their interpretative communities the potential to inspire and to legitimate newly emergent forms of violent speech and action.
120. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Diane Shane Fruchtman Instructive Violence: Educated Children as Victims and Aggressors in Late Ancient Latin Martyr Poetry
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This paper explores two parallel instances of child-centered violence in the martyrological poetry of Prudentius (fl. 405), one in which a child is the victim of violence and one in which children are the aggressors. In both cases, Prudentius presumes and manufactures his readers’ sympathy, building on their horror at seeing children involved in violence. But he uses that sympathy to opposite ends: in one case to align the reader with the youthful victim and his cause, and in the other to inspire revulsion and destabilize the Christian reader’s sense of his own character. Taken together, these two episodes—one a cautionary tale and one a model of Christian self-cultivation—offer the reader not only an argument for what type of education Christians should seek, but also the motivation to seek it. In other words, Prudentius was using depictions of violence inflicted on children and by children to educate his audiences about education.