Human Sacrifice and Its Social Implications: The Balkans and Beyond

Friday, January 31, 2014
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB)

Please join the Harriman Institute and the East Central European Center for the Njegos Endowment for Serbian Language and Culture lecture series with Tatjana Aleksić.

Freud posits social origins after the act of parricide. However, there is a legend widespread in the Balkans that may hold the key to what happens after the brothers have consumed their father’s body: riven by guilt and rivalry they fail at every attempt at regulating their cohabitation. In order to seal their social pact they must sacrifice a live woman, preferably one of their own, but how do they choose the right one to offer, and will this choice provoke further conflict and social disturbance? Moreover, what kind of community can be founded on a dead body?Inasmuch as woman's death is considered as an act of the appeasement of social conflict, the Balkan sacrificial metaphor refers to the female body as the first and ultimate victim of social compulsion. However the communal spirit in crisis requires ever new sacrifices, finding appropriate victims among politically marginal bodies unable to stir social unrest: ethno-religious, sexual, class, or other minorities.
Employing visual and narrative illustrations the presentation places the sacrificial economy within the context of the Yugoslav dissolution process and broader Balkan and global communalist tendencies.
Tatjana Aleksić is associate professor of South Slavic languages and literatures and comparative literature at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Sacrificed Body: Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.