Race, Sacrifice, and the Making of Religion
The condemnation of “animal sacrifice” continues to undergird religious intolerance across the globe. Why have fervent meat-eaters been so concerned about a relatively small number of animals killed under ritualized conditions of purity that seek to minimize their suffering? The answer in this chapter is that attitudes toward “animal sacrifice” are more concerned with the moral and racial limits of religion than with animal welfare. These attitudes foreground how religion is a race-making project in Western modernity, which has taken shape through the projection of violence onto not-religion. The story of liberal secularism presents itself as the separation of moral religion from instrumental force, whether in separations of religion and magic or church and state. Yet this supposed deritualization of killing has authorized violent rites of intolerance and celebrations of state violence. In Trinidad, the daily violence of the security state against lower-class populations can even occasion moral praise. It is not the scale of violence or the species killed that determines which acts are legitimate, but distinctions of religion, class, and race. In this chapter I show how intergenerational disavowals of obeah and animal sacrifice by Hindus and Christians employ these distinctions to separate tolerable religion from intolerable not-religion.
Keywords: animal sacrifice, race and religion, legal regulation of religion, African diasporic religions, Hinduism, Trinidad and Caribbean, indenture and slavery, discourses of criminality, obeah, religion and violence
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