In Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists provocative theorist Anne Norton presents an alternative narrative of the history of the world. She starts by reminding us of the real interplay between words (laws, scriptures, myths, and history) and the world of flesh (of blood ties and bloodshed, skin colour and sexuality). The seemingly precious and all too literary constructs of the poststructuralists really do act on the body politic. The book is written on three historical sites: the revolutions in England and France, the struggle against colonialism, and the modern liberal order. In this telling, we see liberal constitutions born in Terror and regicide, we see a word, a text, a document, write "slave" on the darkness of the body, we see the guillotine release the power in the blood, and we hear the words that declare a people free. Norton re reads and re-writes foundational myths from Abraham and Isaac on the mountain top in the Bible to legends of the American Revolution. This lyrical and mesmerizing book serves, in its way, as a catalogue of oppressions, and a history of the justifications oppressors have made for injustices.
It also makes clear that that these oppressions and justifications continue on today, as certainly as they did in any point in history. Defying easy categorization, Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists is the ultimate challenge to all those who claim that history has come to end, or that life is classifiable or un-complex, or that we understand all we need to understand about the story of Western History.
Anne Norton is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founding co-editor of the journal, Theory and Event.