Presenter Information

Marshall ScheiderFollow

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Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Subjects

Liberalism -- Political aspects, Political theology, Settler colonialism, Biopolitics, Sacrifice -- Political aspects

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Dr. Adam Culver

Student Level

Undergraduate

Abstract

Liberalism is a political ethos purporting to furnish a social order premised on individual liberty. The historical emergence of a liberal politics endeavored to displace earlier forms of sovereign power whose arbitrariness was manifest, in the last instance, in the right of the sword. Yet, the modern nation-state paradoxically appears as one of the most violent political formations in history. Recent scholars have attempted to analyze this violence through the lens of sacrifice. Apprehending sacrifice as a structure constitutive of liberalism’s elaboration and functioning provides insight into the roots and character of the modern nation-state’s violence. However, I argue that few of the scholars who employ the analytical tools of political theology and sacrifice satisfactorily interrogate the real functioning of the liberal injunction to sacrifice. More specifically, scholars miss how this injunction functions differentially in liberal societies, inscribing itself in axes such as race, class, gender, ability, and so on. My research attempts to root the sacrificial violence of liberalism in the history of imperialism and settler colonialism. In so doing, it exposes the sacrificial character of colonial violence while furnishing an historical key to how the liberal injunction to sacrifice emerged—and continues to operate—differentially in liberal political culture.

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/35436

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Liberalism, Settlement, and the Politics of Sacrifice

Liberalism is a political ethos purporting to furnish a social order premised on individual liberty. The historical emergence of a liberal politics endeavored to displace earlier forms of sovereign power whose arbitrariness was manifest, in the last instance, in the right of the sword. Yet, the modern nation-state paradoxically appears as one of the most violent political formations in history. Recent scholars have attempted to analyze this violence through the lens of sacrifice. Apprehending sacrifice as a structure constitutive of liberalism’s elaboration and functioning provides insight into the roots and character of the modern nation-state’s violence. However, I argue that few of the scholars who employ the analytical tools of political theology and sacrifice satisfactorily interrogate the real functioning of the liberal injunction to sacrifice. More specifically, scholars miss how this injunction functions differentially in liberal societies, inscribing itself in axes such as race, class, gender, ability, and so on. My research attempts to root the sacrificial violence of liberalism in the history of imperialism and settler colonialism. In so doing, it exposes the sacrificial character of colonial violence while furnishing an historical key to how the liberal injunction to sacrifice emerged—and continues to operate—differentially in liberal political culture.