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Journal Article


Motha S. Law Cult. Humanit. 2009; 5(2): 228-246.


(Copyright © 2009, Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Publisher SAGE Publishing)






This essay explores how death becomes political for left liberals and Islamist suicide bombers. The general objective is to challenge the unexamined assumptions about politics and death that circulate in left liberal denunciations of violence apparently inspired by Islam. To this end the essay discusses a number of influential characterizations of the relationship between death and politics, Islam and legalism, and monotheism and authority. The horror and fascination with the figure of the suicide bomber reveals an unacknowledged affective bond that constitutes the muscular liberal left as a political formation. This relies on disavowing the sacrificial and theological underpinnings of political liberalism itself — ignoring the continuities between what is called the ''West'' and the theologico-political enterprises inspired by monotheism. Exploring the conditions of the muscular liberal turn in left politics, the article suggests that a political crisis has emerged in a globalized world made up of political communities and juridical orders that have been emptied of authority and certainty. This crisis of ''sense'' conditions the horror felt by the supposedly rational liberal in the face of Islamist terrorism. Will a deconstruction of monotheism help to recognize and address the crisis of value resulting from the decimation of modern emancipatory projects? The commentary concludes by discussing how the writings of Jean-Luc Nancy on monotheism offer liberal left thinkers insights for rethinking the crisis of value that results from the collapse of grand emancipatory enterprises and the fragmentation of political identities.


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