Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version

January 1999

Publication Source

Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag

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The flag symbolizes the sacrificed body of the citizen. This label has meaning only in reference to the group that defines it, the nation. Blood sacrifice links the citizen to the nation. It is a ritual in the most profound sense, for it creates the nation from the flesh of its citizens. The flag is the sign and agent of the nation formed in blood sacrifice. Still, raising a piece of cloth and calling it a flag will not declare territory and form groups, at least not territory that will be respected, or groups that will endure and fight to produce borders. The power of a flag must be sacrificially established. The point was made by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose challenge to Boris Yeltsin in Russia's first parliamentary elections caught the attention of the West. Opposing the division of Russia into republics, Zhirinovsky complained that the countries created by these new flags were abstract symbols only. "They don't understand that you have to pay with blood for this process."

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© Cambridge University Press. Reprinted with permission.



Date Posted: 29 October 2008