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Animal sacrifice: a model of paternal exploitation

Brian Luke (Department of Music, Ohio State University)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 September 2004



The late Nancy Jay described a striking feature of animal sacrifice: in many different cultures it functions to establish paternity. This article develops a theoretical framework for understanding just what it is about animal sacrifice that makes it so cross‐culturally well‐suited for establishing paternity. The main premise of this framework is that sacrifice communicates menace – not so much towards the domesticated animals ritually killed, but primarily towards those subordinated humans (children in particular) who are similarly disempowered vis‐à‐vis the class of male sacrificers. By demonstrating their willingness and ability to kill, sacrificing men gain a material basis for claiming credit for human reproduction, namely, that children live only by virtue of the sacrificers’ decision to kill animals in their stead. This framework is explicated through reference to Old and New Testament discourses of sacrifice.



Luke, B. (2004), "Animal sacrifice: a model of paternal exploitation", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 9, pp. 18-44.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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