Title

Liberalism, Settlement, Sacrifice: Towards a Genealogy of Sacrificial Politics

Date

11-8-2021 9:40 AM

Abstract

In recent years, political theorists have begun to explore the sacrificial dimensions of liberalism and neoliberalism in the global North. Little of this work, however, grapples with the ways settler colonialism informs contemporary political sacrifice or conceptions of the sacrificial. This paper traces a genealogy of contemporary political sacrifice through the archive of early British colonialism in North America. When theorists ignore this archive, they do more than render colonization mute: they also fail to apprehend what I term political sacrifice’s differential function—the mechanism by which sacrifice’s burdens fall on subordinated groups while its benefits accrue to the socially, politically, and economically powerful. Methodologically, the paper works across disciplines, establishing links between critical analyses of settler colonialism and studies in political theology. If a theological notion of sacrifice underpins modern notions of citizenship, and settler colonization furnishes an historical key to the differential function of modern political sacrifice, then a bridge is formed between two research programs which rarely interact. While the modern liberal state promises a politics founded on the dignity and rights of the abstract citizen, a close examination of the role of sacrifice in liberalism’s past and present underscores the limitations of liberal citizenship as a category of analysis. Foregrounding the violent structures of settlement, this genealogy exposes the constitutive character of asymmetrical sacrifice within American liberalism. In so doing, it unsettles some of liberalism’s core conceits: the displacement of violence by law, and the saliency of abstract citizenship.

Biographies

Marshall Scheider, Liberal Studies, Minors: Philosophy and French

Marshall Scheider is a senior at Portland State University, majoring in liberal studies with minors in philosophy and French. His broadly interdisciplinary research interests include imperialism, incarceration and abolitionist studies, neoliberalism, and modern continental philosophy, as well as critical theories of race and gender. Marshall is currently a McNair Scholar and a Ford Family Foundation ReStart Scholar. His published work has addressed topics such as sovereignty, the biopolitics of immigration control, and the history of neoliberalism. His conference activity has included presentations on diverse topics such as: biopower, sovereignty, postcolonial literatures, and neoliberalism, as well as philosophical and literary figures including Heidegger, Foucault, Hegel and Kafka. Outside of the academy, he volunteers with Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization aimed at the abolition of the prison industrial complex. Marshall is a French tutor in the PSU department of World Languages and Literatures and a teaching intern at the French American International School. His current research inquires into the role of sacrifice in early modern political theory, and the function of the latter in practices of British settler colonialism. Marshall is looking into Ph.D. programs which will encourage interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of history, politics, and critical theory.

Dr. Adam Culver, Faculty Mentor, Political Theorist

Adam Culver is a political theorist whose research explores the intertwined legacies of the emergence of modernity, the elaboration of racial hierarchy, and Black emancipatory politics. Foregrounding the racialized dimensions of modernity, his courses and research critically interrogate such foundational themes as the meaning of freedom, the relationship between history, theory, and politics, the limits of identity and identification as the basis for politics, and the quest for political community. His current book project, entitled Race and Romantic Visions: A Tragic Reading, explores a series of creative intersections between romanticism, modern black political thought, and philosophies of tragic possibility through readings of Johann Herder, Immanuel Kant, James Baldwin, W. E. B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sophocles.

Disciplines

Political Science

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/36182

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Aug 11th, 9:40 AM

Liberalism, Settlement, Sacrifice: Towards a Genealogy of Sacrificial Politics

In recent years, political theorists have begun to explore the sacrificial dimensions of liberalism and neoliberalism in the global North. Little of this work, however, grapples with the ways settler colonialism informs contemporary political sacrifice or conceptions of the sacrificial. This paper traces a genealogy of contemporary political sacrifice through the archive of early British colonialism in North America. When theorists ignore this archive, they do more than render colonization mute: they also fail to apprehend what I term political sacrifice’s differential function—the mechanism by which sacrifice’s burdens fall on subordinated groups while its benefits accrue to the socially, politically, and economically powerful. Methodologically, the paper works across disciplines, establishing links between critical analyses of settler colonialism and studies in political theology. If a theological notion of sacrifice underpins modern notions of citizenship, and settler colonization furnishes an historical key to the differential function of modern political sacrifice, then a bridge is formed between two research programs which rarely interact. While the modern liberal state promises a politics founded on the dignity and rights of the abstract citizen, a close examination of the role of sacrifice in liberalism’s past and present underscores the limitations of liberal citizenship as a category of analysis. Foregrounding the violent structures of settlement, this genealogy exposes the constitutive character of asymmetrical sacrifice within American liberalism. In so doing, it unsettles some of liberalism’s core conceits: the displacement of violence by law, and the saliency of abstract citizenship.