DRAFT ONLY“Homo sacer” (sacred man) is a concept from Roman law, which defines it asa man “who may be killed and yet not sacrificed.” Agamben suggests that it stillplays a crucial role in contemporary politics. As he writes,An obscure figure of archaic Roman law, in which human life is included inthe juridical order [
] solely in the form of its exclusion (that is, of its capacity to be killed), has thus offered the key by which not only thesacred tests of sovereignty but also the very codes of political power willunveil their mysteries. At the same time, however, this ancient meaning of the term
presents us with the enigma of a figure of the sacred that,
before or beyond the religious
, constitutes the first paradigm of the politicalrealm of the West.
Hence, while many scholars have spoken of the “turn to religion” in continentalphilosophy,
it may be time for a turn to “the sacred” but not to return to the hazypseudo‐mysticism of the College but to see what “the sacred” can still do forcontemporary understandings of the nexus of religion and violence. Therefore, myinterest in Agamben is not so much about biopolitics but about sacred violence,especially in the Abrahamic religions or what are alternatively called the religions of the Book, which, at least in their public personae, are
human suffering(which, one would assume includes violence). However, in light of recent historicalevents, it is impossible to ignore the violence that has been perpetrated on behalf of religion—whether the violence is in the name of the religion of American‐styledemocracy or fundamentalist monotheisms of all kinds. Consequently, there havebeen many recent efforts to critique religion‐itself based on a rather superficial
Ibid. 12. Emphasis mine.
Hent de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Baltimore, Md. ; London: JohnsHopkins University Press, 1999).