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From Sacrifice to the Slaughterhouse

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Ancient and Modern Approaches to Meat, Animals, and Civilization

image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

AbstractThis essay uses a focus on meat and animals to illumine ancient and modern discourses about sacrifice and “civilization.” It suggests that attention to recent research on meat-production and the “sociology of the slaughterhouse” might open new perspectives on the range of ways in which the sanctified ritual slaughter of animals has been understood by its proponents, critics, and theorists—both ancient and modern. It begins by historicizing the rise of modern scholarly interest in animal sacrifice, with reference to dramatic shifts in the production and consumption of meat in modern European societies. Then, it looks to the Vedas and the Torah/Pentateuch to reflect upon the place of meat and animals in two of the best documented of ancient sacrificial systems. Lastly, it considers some trajectories in their Nachleben with an eye to the value and limits of dominant narratives about the cessation, interiorization, or spiritualization of sacrifice.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania249 S. 36th Street, Cohen Hall 226, Philadelphia, PA


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