"Visceral Politics: Sacrificial Rituals and Political Theorizing in a Tamil Nadu Village"
Department of Sociology
National University of Singapore
Abstract: Political theory, by definition, is an abstraction; deliberately extracted from its historical and geographical contexts and severed from its specific socio-cultural sources. This paper on the other hand contends that political theories are fundamentally constituted by their socio-cultural circumstances. The sacrifice of goats by descent groups to their tutelary deities, in a village in Tamil Nadu, is the spectacular foundation of a cosmology that connects devotees to their deities and embeds them in a territory to form a religio-political jurisdiction. By embodying the construction of realms and the establishment of reign, the sacrificial goat makes the ideal of the body politic – material. Within its consecrated carcass, are made flesh specific idioms of power. Within the protocols governing the apportionment and consumption of its sacred meat are materialized specific modalities of politics. These tutelary sacrifices, this paper argues, are an integral part of the vernacular mediums through which the logics and ethics of a political jurisdiction are formulated and articulated in this region. Unpacking not only the theological implications but also the political logistics of sacrificial rituals, this paper maps the constitution of a political realm and charts its modes of governance. Such enactments of specific rituals and the routine practices of self-government reflect everyday theorizations of power and politics.