Appointed As

Postdoctoral Fellow in Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Emory University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Dissertation Abstract

"Atlas of Sacrifice: Three Studies of Ritual Sacrifice in Late-Capitalism"

This dissertation focuses on one understudied rhetorical dynamic of late-capitalist
governmentality – its deployment of ritual and sacrificial discourses. Ritual taking of things of
human value, including ritual human sacrifice, has been continuously practiced for as long as
human civilization itself has existed. It is important to note that ritual sacrifices were far more
than simply acts of religious devotion. Ample historical records suggest ritual sacrifices were
performed as crisis management devices. Large scale human sacrifices in Shang dynasty China
were organized as responses to severe food shortages. Ancient Greece devised the specialized
sacrificial forms of Holokaustos (total oblation) and Pharmakos (human scapegoat) as apotropaic
responses to ward off catastrophes. The Aztec Empire introduced a highly institutionalized form
of ritual warfare, known as the “Flower War” (Nahuatl: xōchiyāōyōtl), for the purpose of
calendrical population control during periods of famine. Sacrificial rituals of the past should not
be considered fundamentally divorced from the governmentality of the twenty-first century.
Even destructive rituals, such as warfare and capital punishment, are formally conducted under
the justification of preserving collective political ideals. The source distribution structure of
late-capitalism, too, reproduces itself via the ritual inculcation of its core values and normative
practices. Specifically, this project seeks to examine the subtle ways in which rhetoric(s) of
sacrifice are re-appropriated into the workings marketization politics and are deployed in
rendering dehumanizing measures of the prevailing political-economic system that make them
appear palpable and inescapable. This presents an in-depth study of the ritual inculcation of
materially exploitative public policies in a diverse set of political and legal contexts. To this end,
this dissertation aims to explore new ways of critically interrogating the broader implications of
the governing techniques of late-capitalism, by engaging its “mythical” and ritual practices. The
critical analysis in this work is tasked with giving proper consideration to the modern rituals of
sacrifice within neoliberal discourse: from those exploitative yet inescapable employment
contractual obligations, to those calendrical multi-billion dollar “offerings” to the insatiable
appetite of “too-big-to-fail” corporations.