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Cambridge University Press
Expected online publication date:
June 2024
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Book description

Martyrdom is a phenomenon common to many of the world's religious traditions. But why? In this study, John Soboslai offers insights into the practices of self-sacrifice within specific sociopolitical contexts. Providing a new understanding of martyrdom through the lens of political theology, he analyzes discourses and performances in four religious traditions during social and political crises, beginning with second-century Christianity in Asia Minor, where the term 'martyr' first took its meaning. He also analyzes Shi'a Islam in the 1980s, when 'suicide bombing' first appeared as a strategy in West Asia; global Sikhism during World War I, where martyrs stood for and against the British Raj; and twenty-first-century Tibetan Buddhism, where self-immolators used their bodies in opposition to the programs of the People's Republic of China. Presenting a new theory of martyrdom linked to constructions of sovereign authority, Soboslai reveals common features of self-sacrifice and demonstrates how bodily performances buttress conceptions of authority.

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