A Critique of Christianity

Gil Anidjar

Columbia University Press


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Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231167215

464 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231167208

464 Pages

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Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231537254

464 Pages

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A Critique of Christianity

Gil Anidjar

Columbia University Press

Blood, according to Gil Anidjar, maps the singular history of Christianity. As a category for historical analysis, blood can be seen through its literal and metaphorical uses as determining, sometimes even defining Western culture, politics, and social practices and their wide-ranging incarnations in nationalism, capitalism, and law.

Engaging with a variety of sources, Anidjar explores the presence and the absence, the making and unmaking of blood in philosophy and medicine, law and literature, and economic and political thought from ancient Greece to medieval Spain, from the Bible to Shakespeare and Melville. The prevalence of blood in the social, juridical, and political organization of the modern West signals that we do not live in a secular age into which religion could return. Flowing across multiple boundaries, infusing them with violent precepts that we must address, blood undoes the presumed oppositions between religion and politics, economy and theology, and kinship and race. It demonstrates that what we think of as modern is in fact imbued with Christianity. Christianity, Blood fiercely argues, must be reconsidered beyond the boundaries of religion alone.

This book is bound to become a standard against which future scholarship on the cultural history of Christianity and several related fields will be evaluated. It achieves the feat of offering an exhaustive genealogy of the significance of "blood" in Western civilization, thereby pulling blood into an urgently needed visibility.

Elisabeth Weber, University of California, Santa Barbara

This is an original reading of the place of blood in Christian theology and religion and its far-reaching impact on the history and cultural practices of the West. It is distinguished by the singular voice of its author, who is at once fiercely critical, ironic, contemptuous, erudite, and enlightening as he engages thinkers both living and dead on the relationship between blood and its many metaphoric and literal representations. This is not a conventional book in any way, it is a manifesto, a call, if not to arms, then to recognition of the fact that Western thought, its social and political organization, is infused with Christianity, even if those influenced by it are not practicing Christians in any religious sense.

Joan W. Scott, Harold F. Linder Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

As in all his writings, Anidjar always surprises us by seeing connections where others have missed them. In this challenging book, he brilliantly excavates the meanings of blood in Christianity as well as how those meanings persist in our world in barely secularized form.

David Biale, author of Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol Between Jews and Christians

Blood is first of all language, style, thought in writing. Blood is relentlessly compelling, a joyful destruction of trivialities, a delight of erudition. Blood is moved by epistemic urgency and internal critique, it answers the need for historical perspective, guided by the desire to understand what we are politically made of. Blood looks at the way blood speaks and is spoken, how it governs and rules over us, how it shapes the Christian nation, the state and the economy. Our obsession with blood is not a thing of the past, it is our absolute present time. Blood is not a metaphor, it is an organizing principle. Blood is not what Harvey discovered, something that would always have been known to us. It is what the Eucharist partakes of and brings up: the community of blood, blood piety--soon the purity of blood. And from these are derived our theory and politics, kinship and race, science and religion, literature and dreams, technology and bodies. Blood is an exceptionally powerful and fascinating object to be read, kept on a shelf--and meditated.

Dominique Pestre, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

In this highly original book Anidjar deconstructs 'Christianity' into its element: blood. In doing so he demonstrates, with impressive skill, the ubiquity of blood–and its metamorphoses–in Christian history. In this exploration of the circulation of blood as the life of nation, state, and capital, the reader is presented with an extraordinary account of modernity no less. Scholars of modernity will learn to see 'Christianity' as something at once more and less than 'religion'–even though it is, as Anidjar argues, the (misleading) prototype of all religions.' This is a work to be read carefully and its implications pondered over.

Talal Asad, CUNY Graduate Center

Every once in awhile one encounters a book that makes one ask: 'why has this not been written before?' How could we have overlooked the importance of blood? What is it? A fact, metaphor, substance, medium, or element in which we live and move? A bloodbath? Or are we merely the tub, the tubes, and plumbing in which the essence of life and symbol of violent death gurgles and flows. Anidjar has identified, not a bright red line, but an entire circulatory system that links religion, race, economics, the state, the family, and biology. This is a book that will not so much be read as injected into all these discourses, infecting them with a necessary and viral critique. A brilliant achievement by one of the most original intellects of our time.

W. J. T. Mitchell, University of Chicago, editor of Critical Inquiry

Ambitious and daring... Blood is bound to provoke heated discussion...

Immanent Frame

Academic books can dazzle for a variety of reasons. Some projects are so painstakingly, meticulously researched that, even though the subject matter is sometimes dry and often only ever capable of appealing to a highly specific audience, they command respect. Other works are written with such finesse and linguistic dexterity that they dazzle with their glimmering sheen of intellectual bravura. Yet others become cornerstones of the academic canon because of their wide-reaching implications in many diverse disciplines. Blood: A Critique of Christianity is that rare combination that manages all three. A project of soaring ambition and incredible scope, Gil Anidjar attempts to weave a narrative constructed from—and soaked in—the cultural, social, political history of blood within Christianity and, by extension, the entire Western world.

Oxonian Review

Gil Anidjar's Blood: A Critique of Christianity is a consuming book - a fierce intelligence combined with compelling readings of everything and anything related to the mechanics of circulation, the rhythmic splattered arcs, the media and metaphysics, the diseases born within and carried by the blood.

Syndicate - John Modern

Gil Anidjar academia's Quentin Tarantino. Both men have rewritten the history of the modern West as a history of blood... One can only wish Anidjar's work Tarantinoesque popularity.

Syndicate - Bettina Bildhauer

Blood: A Critique of Christianity offers a dazzling and occasionally maddening meditation on the theme of blood in Christianity and Western culture… As a commentary on literature and western thought, Blood is delightful and convincing.

Syndicate - Brittany Pheiffer Noble

This book designs to provoke, not persuade. It uses history not to make arguments, but to pose questions... There is much to admire in the book... The sheer number of surprising hypotheses will generate some brilliant ones.

Syndicate - Eugene Rogers

Blood is a book every Christian should read.

Journal of the Conference on Faith and History
Preface: Why I Am Such a Good Christian
Introduction: Red Mythology
Part One. The Vampire State
1. Nation (Jesus' Kin)
2. State (The Vampire State)
3. Capital (Christians and Money)
Part Two. Hematologies
4. Odysseus' Blood
5. Bleeding and Melancholia
6. Leviathan and the Blood Pump
Conclusion: On the Christian Question (Jesus and Monotheism )

Read the preface, "Why I Am Such a Good Christian":

Web Features:
  • Read a review of Blood on The Immanent Frame
  • About the Author

    Gil Anidjar is professor of religion, comparative literature, and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies at Columbia University. His books include The Jew, The Arab: A History of the Enemy and Semites: Race, Religion, Literature.