Publication in Process
Nationalism, War & Sacrifice: Dying for One's Country
In the Spring of 2012, we did a Call for Papers for our edited volume, Nationalism, War and Sacrifice: Dying for One’s Country. The Call for Papers appears directly below. We received over one-hundred proposals in response to our call. The eight papers below are those that have been accepted for publication. To read a summary of any paper—and to learn more about the author—please click the title.
Gregory Lobo – Spectacular Nationism in Colombia: Making War Make Sense
Ivan Strenski – Sacrifice: Bad Math, Bad Grammar
Michael Vlahos – Rites of Spring: War and Human Sacrifice
Call for Papers
This book will consist of twelve papers, each of approximately 3,000 words in length.
Abstracts should be 300-400 words, and should identify the theoretical grounding for the essay or piece. Please also include a brief biography (100 words).
Deadline for abstracts:
May 28, 2012
Send abstracts to:email@example.com
Notification of acceptance:
June 25, 2012
Accepted papers will be due:
October 27, 2012
Nazism as Destruction and Self-Destruction
Two million German soldiers died in the First World War. Yet Hitler declared that “the most precious blood had sacrificed itself joyfully.” In the mid-1930s, Hitler said that he would not hesitate to go to war because of “ten million young men I shall be sending to their death.” Declaring war on September 1, 1939, Hitler asked every German to “lay down his life for his people and country.” If anyone thought he could “evade this national duty,” he would “perish.” Hitler’s declaration of war contained the essence of Nazism: either die for Germany, or we will kill you.
Historian Michael Geyer notes that the German military’s “machinery of destruction and annihilation” went into high gear at the very moment Hitler and the Nazi leadership knew the war was lost. Casualties peaked at 450,000 in January 1945, when Germany became—in the words of Richard Bessel—the site of “the greatest killing frenzy the world has ever seen.”
Despite defeat at Stalingrad, Goebbels in 1943 persuaded the German people to embrace “total war.” Insofar as millions of German soldiers were dying on the battlefield, individuals at home likewise were obligated to “bring the hardest sacrifices of blood.” As the carnage reached its climax, Goebbels observed with satisfaction that the German people had “surpassed themselves as a result of the bombing raids,” heroically overcoming fear—finally coming together to form a genuine national community.
In his classic, “What is a Nation?” (1882), Ernest Renan explained that love of country is proportional to the “sacrifices to which one has consented and the ills one has suffered.” Nazism represented the apotheosis of national sacrifice, generating suffering and destruction on a monumental scale. In the end, Geyer says, the Third Reich was about “collective death.” The distillation of Nazism, according to Bessel, lay in the “senseless destruction of human life” as Hitler and his cohorts turned Europe into a “sea of blood.”
Building on the case study of Nazi Germany, this volume will explore nationalism in its relationship to warfare and sacrificial death.
Blood Sacrifice Gives Rise to the Nation
General Douglas MacArthur told West Point graduates in 1962 that as soldiers, they were required to practice “the greatest act of religious training—sacrifice.” General John Hackett stated that the essence of a soldier is not to slay, but to “offer oneself to be slain.” In Blood Sacrifice and the Nation, Carolyn Marvin says that the irrefutable sign of patriotism is “making one’s body an offering, a sacrifice.”
Soldiers’ sacrificial acts possess profound meaning for society. Babak Rahimi says that their blood bestows “new life on the community.” Marvin theorizes that society “depends upon the death of its own members at the hands of the group;” while Richard Koenigsberg declares that in war the “blood and body of the sacrificed soldier gives rise to the reality of the nation, anchoring belief in material reality.”
The Individual Must Die so the Nation Might Live
Fighting to the last breath on the Eastern Front, most German soldiers continued to believe in the nobility of their struggle because while “individuals die, the Volk lives on.” Nazi Germany represents an extreme case, but the idea that individuals must die so nations may live lies at the heart of Western warfare. The Roman poet Horace declared, “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” What is the nature and meaning of this dynamic that conceives death in battle as a noble act that enhances and valorizes one’s nation? This volume will interrogate and explore the meaning of this idea or fantasy: that in order for a nation to live and flourish, human beings must die.
Questions to consider include, but are not limited to:
- The self versus the enemy as sacrificial victim
- Warfare as potlatch, or conspicuous destruction
- Sacrifice, honor and masculinity
- Cowardice (refusal to sacrifice)
- Human bodies and the body politic
- Death for one’s comrades: “Greater love hath no man…”
- Sacrificial death and memorialization
- Nations and the fantasy of immortality
Implications for Critical Security Studies
Hitler stated that the liberal deification of the individual must lead to the destruction of the people; whereas Nazism sought to safeguard the people “if necessary at the expense of the individual.” When Hitler speaks about “the people,” he is not referring to actual human beings, but to an abstract concept—for which he caused the death of millions of Germans and the destruction of German society. How are we to understand an impulse that seeks security for “nations” at the expense of actual human lives? When trying to protect one’s “country,” what is it one seeks to protect?
The Transhuman Soldier: A Comparative Look at WWI and the Iran-Iraq War (Paper) Babak Rahimi
THE SACRED SOLDIER: “The sacrificed blood of a soldier bestows or offers a new life for the community, as it identifies the reality of the nation displayed with the destruction of each body on the battlefield. Like the Anzacs in Gallipoli or the Germans at Verdun, Iraqi or Iranian soldiers fought for the greater “spirit” of their nation. From the soldier’s perspective, the idea of death for the nation enables him to participate in the immortality of a transcendent entity. The act of self-sacrifice in war consecrates death as a source of regeneration of community. The soldier’s belief that he is dying for something greater than himself—for something that will outlast his individual, perishable life in place of a greater, eternal vitality—is crucial for the ideological justification of war.”
Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag (Book Excerpts) Carolyn Marvin
SOCIETY DEVOURS ITS WORSHIPPERS: “Bodily sacrifice is the totem core of American nationalism, as it may be of all religion. At the behest of the group, the lifeblood of community members must be shed. Group solidarity, or sentiment, flows from the value of this sacrifice. The totem god of society, which turns out to be society itself, cannot do without its worshippers any more than its worshippers can do without the god of society. It must possess and consume, it must eat its worshippers to live. This is the totem secret and its greatest taboo.”
MEMORIALIZATION OF SACRIFICE: “Visitors of any American World War I or World War II overseas cemetery and memorial discover an overwhelming sea of white marble. It becomes hard to deny the swelling sense of sacrifice that permeates from the numerous, harmonized rows of white crosses. Every soldier’s death becomes a sacrifice for the collective good of the citizens of Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world—not just the American state. Additionally, each buried soldier attains salvation, as his or her actions of war—presumably violent and against Christianity’s philosophy of peace—are justified, forgiven, and wiped away.”
Reading Death and Sacrifice in the Berlin Völkischer Beobachter, February 1942 – March 1943 (Paper) Robert Terrell
SACRIFICIAL DEATH AND NATIONAL IMMORTALITY: “By 1942 many Nazi leaders intentionally pushed the military toward mass death as a means of preserving Nazi ideology. In their romanticized view, to die on the rubble of one’s dreams immortalized the dream itself. Men die but ideas live on. With each dead soldier the strength of the community grows. The poet Wilhelm Ehmer encouraged Germans to imagine their individuality as part of something larger than themselves and to embrace death. Because of the war dead, humanity will forever feature the story of the German Volk, and their story written in blood will forever be a memorial to the greatness of their struggle and their cause. Ehmer suggests that courage, sacrifice, and death are now the duty of civilians.”
History and Sacrificial Death (Paper) Richard Koenigsberg
GLORY BUILDS ON AN EDIFICE OF SKULLS: “‘History’ happens when a society produces death and destruction in the name of its ideology. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are remembered—not because of their contributions to civilization—but by virtue of the vast number of people they killed. The glory of an ideology, Abdullah Azzam says, builds upon an ‘edifice of skulls.’ The honor accorded an ideal—its preeminence in history—grows out of a foundation of ‘cripples and corpses.’ Significance is conferred upon a leader and his ideology based on the number of people killed in the ideology’s name. Historians document the ‘number of people that died’ in a war, battle, genocidal episode, or act of terror. History is the record of sacrificial dying that occurred in relationship to ideologies that seek to transform the world.”