MARTYRDOM, SELF-SACRIFICE, AND SELF-DENIAL / Vol. 75, No. 2 (Summer 2008)
Arien Mack, Editor
A Memoriam to Chuck Tilly, and esteemed colleague and longtime member of the editorial board of Social Research dies on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Chuck became a member of the editorial board in 1990 where he remained one of the most creative, active, and reliable members until his death.
The papers in this issue concern the related subjects of martyrdom, self-sacrifice, and self-denial. They have long and complex theological histories histories but would not have been chosen as our theme if they did not have an equally rich, and problematic, place in today’s world.
This article discusses the relationship between self-sacrifice and morality. The moral responsibilities of ordinary people are framed in terms of the exemplary challenges posed by martyrs such as Socrates and Jesus. The framing of death in the Socratic dialogues of the "Phaedo," the "Crito" and the "Apology" is analysed. The relationship between moral behavior, political involvement and self-reflection, or the examined life, in the dialogues of Socrates is analysed. The paradoxical relationship between the moral outlook of Socrates and his attitude toward death is considered. The moral formulations of the Sermon on the Mount are framed as a similar call to martyrdom. To a considerable extent, the doctrine of human rights itself stems from the spirit and influence of Scrates and Jesus, but from Hobbes and Locke onwards, the need is felt to make morality unheroic in order to make it more pervasive. The doctrine of rights sets morally acceptable limits to moral self-sacrifice. Moral conduct, however, remains demanding. As for self-denial, no formula captures its fate.
This article takes a cultural perspective on suicide terrorism in Palestine. The distinction between Western discourses on the subject, which address suicide, and Palestinian discourses, which describe martyrdom, are discussed. The contrast between martyrdom, which is seen as a religious act, and self-sacrifice, which is seen as a political act, in Palestinian discussions of terror is noted. The media representations of suicide bombings in the U.S. is contrasted with their treatment in the Palestinian territories. The contextualization of Palestinian violence within the conflict between Israel and Palestine is described. Territorial conflicts are also addressed.
This article discusses the relationship between war and religious sacrifice. The author compares the perspectives of Palestinian suicide bombers, terrorists in the Japanese militant religious sect Aum Shinrikyo, Protestant and Catholic militants in Northern Ireland, and others to develop a universal perspective on the relationship between dehumanization and sacrifice in war. The resistance to moderation among their coreligionists expressed by these militants is explored. The tendency of militants to see their terrorism and dehumanizing rhetoric as part of a cosmic war rather than a series of discreet political engagements to be treated tactically is presented.
This article discusses the relationship between martyrdom and secularization in political conflicts that include self-sacrifice on par with suicide bombings. Martyrdom is framed as a reward granted by a community rather than an individual choice. The relationship between martyrdom and the conflict between church and state for political power in history of Europe is considered in terms of the self-sacrifice of early Christian martyrs and the Archbishop Thomas Becket. The importance of the depoliticization of martyrdom in the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700s is considered, as well as the modern phenomenon of the suicide bomber.
This article discusses the political action of Emily Wilding Davison, a British suffrage activist, or suffragette, who died in the course of a civil disobedience action in 1913. Public opinion of her sacrifice and the militancy of the suffrage movement in Great Britain is considered. The direct action protest tactics of the Women's Suffrage and Political Union (WSPU), of which Davison was a member, are described. The conflicts between suffrage activists and men in the police force, political parties, and prisons who sought to control their protests are explored. The relationship between self-sacrifice and the incitement of political violence by the WSPU is considered.
This essay discusses the relationship between the endurance of pain and privation and the acquisition of political power. The association between privation and reward is framed in terms of the sacrifices that contribute to the development of academic literature, which the author describes as a peculiar creation of Western society.
This article discusses the social treatment of the assassination of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador by an army officer. The differing interpretations of this death by supporters, many of whom also supported the insurgent group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the military are addressed. The place of martyrdom narratives in the national reconciliation process is considered. The religious and political interpretations of government sanctioned murder of religious figures is described in terms of the political culture of El Salvador. The continuing relevance of Romero's martyrdom is framed in terms of the changing role of death in the neoliberal state.
This article discusses the self-sacrifice of South Korean activists who committed suicide to protest conditions between 1970 and 2004. The use of suicide to protest labor conditions, political repression and the subversion of democracy is described. The violent suppression of worker organizing efforts and protest movements is characterized. The suicide of Chun Tae-Il is described as an example of the organization of suicide to protest working conditions. This paper discusses the posthumous presentation of suicide notes and wills to indicate its use as a tool of political mobilization.
This article discusses a suicide car bombing campaign organized by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1990 to frame the concept of martyrdom and self-sacrifice in suicide bombing. The relationship between terrorism and public opinion is considered, and the conscious framing of martyrdom as a cultural phenomenon is noted. The difference between suicide bombers, who seek martyrdom of their own volition, and proxy bombers, who are coerced into action by the threat of violence against their families, is described. The coercion of bombers is presented as an event that is more common that many observers realize.
This article discusses the changing character of Islamic martyrdom during early 21st century conflicts such as the Iraq War. The characterization of jihad, or self-defense, in the Arabic language and the Koran is described. The conceptions of the Kalipha, or caliphate, taken from the Koran and the Ottoman empire by Muslims including Osama Bin Laden is described. The distinction between nationalist and Muslim activism in the political formulations of the radicals Abd al-Salam Faraj, Abdullah Assam and Sayyid Qutb is explored. The relationship between suicide, martyrdom, and self-sacrifice in the political formulations of Islamists is described.