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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taussig-Rubbo on the Nature of the Death Penalty

Taussig-Rubbo, Mateo - University of Buffalo Law SchoolMateo Taussig-Rubbo (University at Buffalo Law School, SUNY) has posted The Unsacrificeable Subject? (Who Deserves to Die?, p. 131, Austin Sarat & Karl Shoemaker, eds., University of Massachusetts Press) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Formalized, legalized and ritualized killing by political and religious authorities has been central to the maintenance, transformation and regeneration of a vast range of human societies. Whether the destruction was of human beings, other animals or vegetable life, these actions were very often forms of sacrifice to sovereign powers conceived of as partial outsiders to whom/which offerings could be made. Sacrifice mediated between sovereign and subject.

The rejection of sacrificial action is at the heart of many conceptions of political modernity (for instance those of Rene Girard and Giorgio Agamben). My essay reflects on whether these forms of action and meaning have resonance with the role of the death penalty in contemporary states, or whether the points of similarity are superficial and overwhelmed by the many obvious differences. Can thinking about sacrifice offer insight into the continued support for the death penalty in the United States, China and many other nations and its rejection in Western Europe?

Certain sacrificial rites, such as those of purification, atonement, expiation or scapegoating, seem deeply salient for thinking about the death penalty. These capture dimensions of the social reality of the death penalty not grasped by our usual vocabulary of deterrence, retribution and justice. A theoretically explicit and conceptually grounded examination of these forms of sacrifice, then, may prove illuminating. On the other hand, other ritual elements found in many examples of sacrifice involve a giving of the self and a transformation of profane into sacred that are perhaps less resonant. In exploring the nature of the executable subject, I ask whether the killing that takes place as a result of the imposition of the death penalty is neither sacrificial nor homicidal and whether the subjectivity at issue is that of the unsacrificeable.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2011/10/xxx-taussog-rubbo-on-the-nature-of-the-death-penalty.html

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