New article published: “The Rhetorical Invention of Laws of Sacrifice” (Communication Law Review)

I am happy to report that my recent article, “The Rhetorical Invention of Laws of Sacrifice: Kelo v. New London,” has just been published and appears in Communication Law Review, Volume 18, Issue 2 (2018): 58-94. My thanks to Dr. Pat Arneson (Chief Editor) for her valuable editorial contribution towards this publication.

The article continues my broader work exploring the concept of sacrifice as a useful concept for thinking about how violent transactions are rhetorically justified. The abstract follows. An online version of the article may be accessed HERE


This paper studies the relationship between American legal rhetoric and public ritual of sacrifice through the analysis of Kelo v. The City of New London, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision affirming the regulatory seizure of private homes for commercial redevelopment. Particularly, this paper explores the rhetorical invention and expansion of the law of irresistible public sacrifice as articulated in the Kelo decision. The rhetorical analysis of the Kelo decision finds that the SCOTUS tacitly affirmed the legitimacy of neoliberal logos of governance as the guiding principle for applying the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, the judicial rhetoric in the Kelo decision, in effect, re-framed solely private commercial interest as a sufficient exigence for suspending legal protections of the right of quiet enjoyment of private property. The judicial rhetoric deployed in the Kelo case effectively provided constitutional legitimacy for the privatization of eminent domain power as generally applied in urban redevelopment contexts. More importantly, the Kelo decision also rhetorically transformed a previously exceptional transgressive government act of seizure into a repeatable ritual sacrifice, in full conformity with an updated constitutional memory