The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize
Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence. African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine. Cambridge University Press, 2011 The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize jury was astounded by Brent D. Shaw’s magisterial analysis of sectarian hatred. Though Shaw draws on documents from late antiquity, his methodology, analysis, and conclusions have broad reaching consequences for the history of hatred. Through his masterful analysis of ancient sources, Shaw reconstructs the mechanisms used by groups to delineate themselves from others, to structure their enmities, to maintain hatreds through collective memory, to ritualize violence, to control and to repress. The book transcends traditional religious history. It is as much a work of social and cultural history as it is political history. As it reconstructs colourfully and bloodily the world of early African Christians, it also considers the meaning of hatred, violence, and identity and relates them to institutionalized political structures. Sacred Violence is not only smart history, it is a beautifully written and well-structured text. From his opening line, “This is not a nice book. It begins with betrayal and ends with suicide,” Shaw captures the reader’s attention and maintains it throughout his delicate exposition. Brent D. Shaw’s Sacred Violence is truly a magnum opus, one richly deserving of the Wallace K. Ferguson prize.