Sacred Property : Searching for Value in the Rubble of 9/11

Sacred Property : Searching for Value in the Rubble of 9/11



Published as Chapter 16 in After Secular Law, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Robert Yelle & Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, eds.

Officials and others designated property damaged in the attacks of September 11, 2001 as ‘sacred.’ Some of the objects in question were unremarkable, often nothing more than rubble; some were even considered trash and sent to a landfill; but for those who possessed them they seem to have transcended such banal categorizations. This Chapter seeks to document and analyze the form of value created through destruction and the implicit norms that emerged around the use and circulation of various ‘sacred’ objects. Working through a number of detailed case studies — including the investigation of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents for taking souvenirs from ‘ground zero,’ as well as the litigation initiated by family members seeking to recover the remains of their loved ones from the Fresh Kills garbage dump on Staten Island — this Chapter examines who lays claim to this sacred form of value, to what purposes it is directed, and whether it momentarily overwhelmed the usual legal understandings of property and ownership

Publication Date



Stanford University Press


Redwood City



First Page


Last Page



9/11, ground zero, sacralization, desacralization, FBI, memorials


Anthropology | Law


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Sacred Property : Searching for Value in the Rubble of 9/11