Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Satanic Abuse in History

Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Satanic Abuse in History

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by David Frankfurter
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691136297

ISBN-13: 9780691136295

Pub. Date: 07/01/2008

Publisher: Princeton University Press

In the 1980s, America was gripped by widespread panics about Satanic cults. Conspiracy theories abounded about groups who were allegedly abusing children in day-care centers, impregnating girls for infant sacrifice, brainwashing adults, and even controlling the highest levels of government. As historian of religions David Frankfurter listened to these sinister

Overview

In the 1980s, America was gripped by widespread panics about Satanic cults. Conspiracy theories abounded about groups who were allegedly abusing children in day-care centers, impregnating girls for infant sacrifice, brainwashing adults, and even controlling the highest levels of government. As historian of religions David Frankfurter listened to these sinister theories, it occurred to him how strikingly similar they were to those that swept parts of the early Christian world, early modern Europe, and postcolonial Africa. He began to investigate the social and psychological patterns that give rise to these myths. Thus was born Evil Incarnate, a riveting analysis of the mythology of evilconspiracy.

The first work to provide an in-depth analysis of the topic, the book uses anthropology, the history of religion, sociology, and psychoanalytic theory, to answer the questions "What causes people collectively to envision evil and seek to exterminate it?" and "Why does the representation of evil recur in such typical patterns?"

Frankfurter guides the reader through such diverse subjects as witch-hunting, the origins of demonology, cannibalism, and the rumors of Jewish ritual murder, demonstrating how societies have long expanded upon their fears of such atrocities to address a collective anxiety. Thus, he maintains, panics over modern-day infant sacrifice are really not so different from rumors about early Christians engaging in infant feasts during the second and third centuries in Rome.

In Evil Incarnate, Frankfurter deepens historical awareness that stories of Satanic atrocities are both inventions of the mind and perennial phenomena, not authentic criminal events. True evil, as he so artfully demonstrates, is not something organized and corrupting, but rather a social construction that inspires people to brutal acts in the name of moral order.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691136295
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xv

Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Sorting Out Resemblances 4
Circumstances for Imagining Evil 6
Evil in the Perspective of This Book 9

Chapter 2: An Architecture for Chaos: The Nature and Function of Demonology 13
Thinking with Demons 13
Demonology, Lists, and Temples 15
Beyond the Temple: Demonology among Scribes and Ritual Experts 19
Conclusions 26

Chapter 3: Experts in the Identification of Evil 31
Prophets, Exorcists, and the Popular Reception of Demonology 33
Witch-Finders: Charisma in the Discernment of Evil 37
The Possessed as Discerners of Evil 48
Contemporary Forms of Expertise in the Discernment of Evil: Secular and Religious 53
Conclusions: Expertise and the Depiction of Satanic Conspiracy 69

Chapter 4: Rites of Evil: Constructions of Maleficent Religion and Ritual 73
Ritual as a Point of Otherness 76
Ritual and the Monstrous Realm 85
Ritual as a Point of Danger 101
The Implications of Evil Rites 119

Chapter 5: Imputations of Perversion 129
The Imaginative Resources of the Monstrous 129
Constructing the Monstrous 136
Conclusions 158

Chapter 6: The Performance of Evil 168
Performance and Demonic Realms 169
Direct Mimetic Performance 179
Indirect Mimetic Performance 188
Direct Mimetic Parody 198
Conclusions 203

Chapter 7: Mobilizing against Evil 208
Contemplating Evil, Chasing Evil 208
Matters of Fact and Fantasy 212

Notes 225
Select Bibliography 259
Index 281

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