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This compelling book argues that American patriotism is a civil religion of blood sacrifice, which periodically kills its children to keep the group together. The flag is the sacred object of this religion; its sacrificial imperative is a secret which the group keeps from itself to survive. Expanding Durkheim's theory of the totem taboo as the organizing principle of enduring groups, Carolyn Marvin uncovers the system of sacrifice and regeneration which constitutes American nationalism, shows why historical instances of these rituals succeed or fail in unifying the group, and explains how mass media are essential to the process. American culture is depicted as ritually structured by a fertile center and sacrificial borders of death. Violence plays a key part in its identity. In essence, nationalism is neither quaint historical residue nor atavistic extremism, but a living tradition which defines American life.
The authors argue that American patriotism is a civil religion organized around a sacred flag, whose followers engage in periodic blood sacrifice of their own children to unify the group. Using an anthropological theory, this groundbreaking book presents and explains the ritual sacrifices and regeneration that constitute American nationalism, the factors making particular elections or wars successful or unsuccessful rituals, the role of the mass media in the process, and the sense of malaise that has pervaded American society during the post-World War II period.
What lies behind the human attraction to violence? Why do we glorify war, seeing it as an almost sacred undertaking? Barbara Ehrenreich is known for the originality and clarity of her thinking, and in Blood Rites she proposes a radical new theory about our attitudes to bloodshed. From the trenches of Verdun to today’s front lines, Ehrenreich traces the history of warfare back to our prehistoric ancestors’ terrifying experiences of being hunted by other carnivores. Written with wit, tenacity and intellectual flair, this is vintage Ehrenreich, and an account that will transform our understanding of human conflict.
The first martyr to the cause of American liberty was Major General Joseph Warren, a well-known political orator, physician, and president of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. Shot in the face at close range at Bunker Hill, Warren was at once transformed into a national hero, with his story appearing throughout the colonies in newspapers, songs, pamphlets, sermons, and even theater productions. His death, though shockingly violent, was not unlike tens of thousands of others, but his sacrifice came to mean something much more significant to the American public. Sealed with Blood reveals how public memories and commemorations of Revolutionary War heroes, such as those for Warren, helped Americans form a common bond and create a new national identity. Drawing from extensive research on civic celebrations and commemorative literature in the half-century that followed the War for Independence, Sarah Purcell shows how people invoked memories of their participation in and sacrifices during the war when they wanted to shore up their political interests, make money, argue for racial equality, solidify their class status, or protect their personal reputations. Images were also used, especially those of martyred officers, as examples of glory and sacrifice for the sake of American political principles. By the midnineteenth century, African Americans, women, and especially poor white veterans used memories of the Revolutionary War to articulate their own, more inclusive visions of the American nation and to try to enhance their social and political status. Black slaves made explicit the connection between military service and claims to freedom from bondage. Between 1775 and 1825, the very idea of the American nation itself was also democratized, as the role of "the people" in keeping the sacred memory of the Revolutionary War broadened.
Will Smith in I Am Legend. Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. Charlton Heston in just about everything. Viewers of Hollywood action films are no doubt familiar with the sacrificial victim-hero, the male protagonist who nobly gives up his life so that others may be saved. Washed in Blood argues that such sacrificial films are especially prominent in eras when the nation—and American manhood—is thought to be in crisis. The sacrificial victim-hero, continually imperiled and frequently exhibiting classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, thus bears the trauma of the nation. Claire Sisco King offers an in-depth study of three prominent cycles of Hollywood films that follow the sacrificial narrative: the early–to–mid 1970s, the mid–to–late 1990s, and the mid–to–late 2000s. From Vietnam-era disaster movies to post-9/11 apocalyptic thrillers, she examines how each film represents traumatized American masculinity and national identity. What she uncovers is a cinematic tendency to position straight white men as America’s most valuable citizens—and its noblest victims.
Whereas many books look at how women's bodies are represented in different religions and cultures around the world, this work explores the site of a woman's voice and identity, her head. The female head threatens to disrupt the classic gender distinctions that link men to speech, identity, and mind while relegating women to silence, anonymity, and flesh. The contributors to this collection argue that the objectification of women as sexual and reproductive bodies results in their symbolic beheading. Decapitation occurs symbolically in myths as well as in actual practices such as veiling, head covering, and cosmetic highlighting, which by sexualizing a woman's face turns it into an extension of her body. The essays explore how similar treatments of the female head find their unique articulation in diverse religious traditions and cultures: in Hindu myths of beheading, in Buddhist and Tantric practices and poetry about the hair of female nuns, in the resistance to veiling by early Christian women at Corinth, in contemporary veiling practices in a Turkish village, in the eroticization of the female mouth in ancient Judaism, and in Greek and Roman cosmetic practices. Together these essays show how the depiction of the female head is critical for an understanding of gender and its influence on other fundamental religious and cultural issues.

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