Homo sacer is a term taken from Roman law. A literal translation would be a “sacred person” or a “holy person.” But the term is not quite that straightforward. In practice it meant anyone who was “set apart,” which could mean either sacred or cursed. Legally the term designated a person who was outside the law. It could be either a person, like a King or an Emperor, who was above the law, or a person who, because of a crime he committed, was outside the protection of the law, (hence, an “outlaw”). If a person was declared to be homo sacer in the criminal sense, anybody could do whatever they chose to him, from from insulting or assaulting him, to killing him, without being held accountable by the law.

In the attached article, Dale Spencer makes the case that the sex offender has become homo sacer in modern society.

Interestingly, the so-called “War on Terror” has created other groups that have been banished to the legal wilderness that is beyond the protection of the law. This is clearly the meaning of the pseudo-legal definition of a group of people as a “enemy combatants.” Since the passing of the Patriot Act virtually everybody is subject to legal disenfranchisement. All foreigners are clearly seen in this light, as evidence by the daily violation of the Nuremberg principles by the United Sates as it claims the right to kill anyone in the world any time it is deemed in its interest to do so. This is an important point as it suggests that once any group can successfully be relegated to the status of homo sacer, the process is normalized in the minds of the public, so that the door is open for the procedure to be extended, without significant opposition, to other groups, and finally to the entire population.

The article by Dale Spencer can be uploaded in pdf format here.

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