Human Sacrifice and Value
Why human sacrifice? The primary objective of the project is to generate a greater working knowledge of the nature of human sacrificial rituals. The project will forge a deeper understanding of the social mechanisms underpinning the slippery relationship between sacred acts of sacrifice and profane forms of violence.
The primary objective of the project is to generate a greater working knowledge of the nature of human sacrificial violence, not only amongst scholars, but also for policy-makers at the international level, and for the public at large, all of whom are regularly confronted with the very real consequences of human sacrificial violence.
Using both qualitative humanities and quantitative scientific methodologies, an analysis of the historical record will be synthesized to provide valuable insights into contemporary social and political challenges.
The project will forge a deeper understanding of the social mechanisms underpinning the slippery relationship between sacred acts of sacrifice and profane forms of violence such as murder. It will uncover what values are at play in various human sacrificial traditions: how they emerge, are subverted and substituted over time in different contexts. Finally, it will advance development of innovative cross-cultural comparative methodologies with applications for other research projects.
About the project
This project seeks to untangle the ambiguities between sacred and profane violence by placing the question of value at the very center of analysis of human sacrifice. What is the relative value of ritually taking an actual human life? To address this, the project approaches the question of value in two ways.
The first concerns what values are at play in human sacrifices, whether these be economic, ideological or emotional – and explores how they have been created, substituted or subverted and overturned in varied historical contexts. The aim is to understand what kinds of values serve as ends in these types of sacrifices, and how they transform over time. The second addresses value in relation to questions of the commensurability, or lack thereof, between different sacrificial practices.
The project develops an innovative and rigorous methodology for cross-cultural comparisons, combining both humanistic and natural sciences approaches to analyzing the values attributed to human sacrifices, their possible comparability across both time and place, and any possible common patterns of value transition.
The project will be able to develop a profound understanding of the value systems involved in sacrificial violence, how these value systems are transformed, and how and why sacred human sacrifice often slips into profane forms of violence in the contemporary world (e.g., suicide bombings and willing self-sacrificial combat soldiering).
Furthermore, it will allow us to operationalize knowledge for a better understanding of the nature of sacrificial violence as such, not only amongst scholars, but also for policy-makers and the public at large, who are regularly confronted with the largely enigmatic yet real consequences of human sacrificial violence.
This will be achieved not only through the publication of peer- reviewed journal research papers, monographs and white papers reporting on and synthesizing findings, but also through a public outreach campaign in international media.