The duty of sacrifice: patriotism and the politics of self-destruction in the sacrifice zone

Authors: Alec Brownlow*, DePaul University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Sacrifice, sacrifice zone, patriotism, duty
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Environmental destruction on regional scales increasingly fall under the label ‘sacrifice zone’. This paper takes the approach that the adoption and application of sacrificial rhetoric by the state and by corporate interests to identify regions of the earth’s surface as suitable for large scale annihilation is hardly benign and requires investigation and critique. I suggest that by labeling a particular region as ‘sacrificial’, the expression ‘sacrifice zone’ attaches itself metaphorically and politically to larger narratives and discourses of security, patriotism, and duty. In doing so, acquiescing to marginalization, displacement, dispossession, poisoning, loss of land, loss of health, etc. is recast as a ‘necessary sacrifice’ in the name of some security risk (national security, energy security, climate security, etc.), while those experiencing loss are recast as ‘dutiful citizen patriots’. Towards these ends, I propose that the utility of the sacrificial narrative to the state and extractive interests is threefold: 1) the creation of (self-) sacrificial subjects; 2) building consent for local sacrifice among the wider population; and 3) disarming as ‘unpatriotic’ any resistance by locals to their own cultural, economic, and/or environmental marginalization or destruction. I refer to several examples both in the US and in Europe to explore these ideas.

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