Martyrdom, Self-sacrifice, and Self-immolation: Religious Perspectives on Suicide

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Margo Kitts
Oxford University Press, 2018 - Martyrdom - 344 pages
Death is an element at the center of all religious imagination. Analysts from Freud to Agamben have pondered religion's fascination with death, and religious art is saturated with images of suffering unto death. As this volume shows, religious fascination with death extends to the notion ofelective death, its circumstances, the virtue of those who perform it, and how best to commemorate it.The essays in Martyrdom, Self-Sacrifice, and Self-Immolation address the legendary foundations for those elective deaths which can be categorized as religiously sanctioned suicides. Broadly condemned as cowardice across the world's moral codes, suicide under certain circumstances - such asmartyrdom, self-sacrifice, or self-immolation - carries a dynamic importance in religious legends, some tragic and others uplifting. Believers respond to such legends presumably because choosing death is seen as heroic and redemptive for the individuals who die, for their communities, or forhumanity. Envisioning suicide as virtuous clashes with popular conceptions of suicide as weak, immoral, and even criminal, but that is precisely the point. This volume offers analyses from renowned scholars with the literary tools and historical insights to investigate the delicate issue ofreligiously sanctioned elective death.
 

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Contents

On Death Religion and Rubrics for Suicide
1
The Evolution of Early Jewish Martyrdom
18
3 Performing Christian Martyrdoms
40
The Branch Davidians and Heavens Gate
54
5 Martyrdom and its Contestations in the Formative Period of Islam
85
Knowledge and Suicide in Early Twelver Shīʿīsm
106
Martyrdom in Contemporary Jihadist Discourse
126
8 Hindu Ascetic Death
140
Jainism and the Ritual Fast to Death
182
Martyrdom and the Sikh Tradition
205
The LTTE Suicide and the Limits of the Religion Question
226
SelfSacrifice and SelfImmolation in Indian Buddhism
241
14 Reflections on SelfImmolation in Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Traditions
264
Buddhist Ascetic Suicide in Premodern Japan
280
Works Cited
305
Index
337

9 Sati
162

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About the author (2018)


Margo Kitts is Professor and Coordinator of Religious Studies and East-West Classical Studies at Hawai'i Pacific University. She is the author or editor of six books and over 30 articles dealing with ancient literature and/or religion and violence. She edits the Journal of Religion and Violence, and co-edits the monograph series, Cambridge Elements of Religion and Violence.

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