Complete Story


Fall 2011, 41:5, pages 397 - 415

The Call of the Sacred and the Language of Deterritorialization

The sacred exceeds our understanding and compels us to respond. I intend to broaden a definition of the sacred so that we can begin to see how it functions in less mystical and more mundane circumstances. The sacred call troubles, rather than easily calls forth, a rhetorical response, a reasonable discourse, or even an autonomous interlocutor or a stable ground from which to speak, and is distinguished from what Michael Hyde and others have described as the “call of conscience.” I then examine the call of the sacred in a Biblical text well known in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions (the Akedah), and in a contemporary text (Caryl Churchill’s very recent and very brief Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza) whose topic—the violence in Israel and Palestine—is decidedly political rather than religious but whose call, I’ll argue, is excessive, sacred, and unavoidable.