Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Philosophy of Life

Conference gallore at the moment. Here's another one. It looks fantastic. Steven Shakespeare is one of the co-organisers (I blogged here about his introduction to Radical Orthodoxy, but he's publishing Derrida and Theology soon - can't wait! - and has cool taste in music). Anyway, this conference (Towards a Philosophy of Life: Reflections on the Concept of Life in Continental Philosophy of Religion) has some great speakers lined up (including

  • Dr. Pamela Sue Anderson (The University of Oxford)
  • Professor John D. Caputo (Syracuse University)
  • Professor Don Cupitt (The University of Cambridge)
  • Professor Jean-Yves Lacoste (Institut Catholique, Paris) [couldn't find a uni page!]
  • Professor John Milbank (The University of Nottingham)

It's hosted by Liverpool Hope University, runs from Friday 26th - Sunday 28th June 2009, and the conference organisers expect to edit a book of a selection of papers from the proceedings. Here's the blurb and call for submission details:

"The question whether it is still possible to live is the form in which metaphysics impinges on us urgently today," Adorno, Metaphysics: Concepts and Problems, p.112.

"Traditionally, a common conception of philosophy has been as a melete thanatou or 'meditation upon death'. However, in recent years it is the significance of the concept of 'life' which has begun to receive increasing attention in contemporary European philosophy. Indeed, writing in the wake of the brutalization of life in the death camps of Auschwitz, Adorno poses a central question for current philosophical debate on life, namely, 'How might life live?'

"The aim of this conference is to address this question and in doing so assess recent philosophies of life. In particular, the conference seesk to explore metaphysical, phenomenological, ethical and religious underpinnings of philosophies of life, especially in light of the emergence of 'continental philosophy of religion.' By enquiring into conceptions of life in contemporary philosophical and religious thought, this conference also aims to reconsider the key project of ancient philosophy: the teaching of the good life."

The call for abstracts (400 words) suggests a broad range of themes, including

  • The concept of life in vitalism and philosophies of immanence (Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry, Alain Badiou, etc)
  • Life, power and politics (esp. Foucault and Giorgio Agamben)
  • Alterity, gift and life: deconstruction and phenomenology
  • Rethinking life in light of the body, natality and sexual difference: feminist philosophy of religion and feminist theology
  • Psychoanalysis (life, death and desire)
  • Theologies of life (creation, incarnation, sacrament and grace)

The deadline for submitting abstracts (400 words) is Friday 17 April 2009. To submit abstracts (or for further details) email Dr. Patrice Haynes -

My thinking on this so far is to try to solidify some of my thoughts regarding Jamie Smith's criqitue of Derridean deconstruction and Caputian deconstructive theology as assuming a logic of determinism (I've blogged about it a few times here and here). Smith characterizes Radical Orthodoxy, or what he is increasingly referring to as a 'catholic postmodernism,' as a logic of incarnation but then doesn't extend the same clear connection to the Christian tradition to deconstructive theolology (by naming it as a logic of determinism). I think I could argue that it can be seen as a logic of creation instead. Yes, deconstruction emphasises finitude, particularity, singularity, determinancy, etc, but it simultaneously emphasises alterity and responsibility. As Caputo has said, we have to "make good" on God's "good" in Genesis. So I think I'm going to write something around these themes, possibly titled something like, "'Making good' on the 'Good' of Life: The Pragmatic Translation of Truth into Justice."

Mark Mason (Chichester University) is one of the guys who has joined the conference group on Facebook. He's written some very interesting things, including a chapter in Evaluating Fresh Expressions. A conference paper he emailed me, entitled "Impossible Ecclesiology? John D. Caputo and the Emerging Church (Movement?)", was great.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have we ever been 'Post'?

The British Sociological Association's Theory Study Group are holding a conference in collaboration with the University of Warick's Department of Sociology, called "Have we ever been 'Post'? The Critiques of Sociological Knowledge." The call for submissions has closed now, and I felt that to have tried to write something for this would again distract me from the rest of the thesis, but I hope to be able to go. It's in September (17th-18th 2009) and here's some more details about it.

The keynote speakers will be Steven Seidman (State University of New York at Albany) and Liz Stanley (University of Edinburgh). Confirmed speakers include Les Back (Goldsmiths College, University of London), Gurminder Bhambra (University of Warwick), Steve Fuller (University of Warwick), John Holmwood (University of Birmingham), Stevi Jackson (University of York) and Gregor McLennan (University of Bristol).

And some blurb:

"2009 is an important year for sociology and social theory. It is 50 years after the publication of C. Wright Mills’ ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (1959), 40 years since Michel Foucault’s ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1969), and 30 years since Jean-Francois Lyotard’s ‘The Postmodern Condition’ (1979). Although coming from distinctive positions, and with different aims, these books share the quality of bringing about strong critiques of knowledge production in the social sciences and, fundamentally, challenging major principles of Western social theory and sociology.

"These books came to light in a period of increasing self-doubt concerning the sustainability of the project of Western modernity and capitalism. This was translated into substantive epistemological and conceptual reformulations across the social sciences and humanities, often taking the shape of a crisis and provoking the expectation of the coming of a new age. In this context, the pictures drawn by Mills, Foucault and Lyotard generated as much seduction as resistance, but never indifference, within social thought.

"These critiques of the canonical imagination, knowledge and practice in the social sciences disclosed problems that still occupy us today regarding the ways in which we “understand”, “explain” and “represent” the social world: the validity of the categories of knowledge, claims of universalism, meta-narratives and grand-theory, disciplinary boundaries, the link between theory and practice, the public and critical role of knowledge, power discourses, the production of otherness and difference, and the redefinition of the relationship of social theory with modernity, amongst many others.

"By now much of this debate has been framed under the rubric of a ‘post’ sociological imagination. Nevertheless, the times in which we raise these inquiries have become rapidly distant from the times of Mills, Foucault and Lyotard. Wider developments in society, such as a more radical process of technological and economic globalization, the post-ideological consensus, the war on terror, new geopolitical powers and global warming have left their traces in the academic world. The University has become a place of marketisation and assessment, which has challenged the ways in which sociologists and academics more generally practice their disciplines. The university is no longer simply a place of political discourse and contestation. It rather seems that an atmosphere of “post”-orientation has taken over, making the aim to act as a social scientist and as a person – as Mills phrased it – appear anachronistic.

"Against this background, the coinciding anniversary of Mills’, Foucault’s, and Lyotard’s books provides an opportune moment for revisiting and perhaps updating the legacy of these “critiques of knowledge”. Accordingly, the conference welcomes papers from across disciplines and countries, and from different theoretical and empirical backgrounds addressing some of the following issues:

  • The coming of a “post” sociological imagination: When? Where? How? Why?
  • Becoming canonical: the place, function and implications of Mills, Foucault and Lyotard in the (re)definition of sociology’s discourse, identity and practice.
  • Global north and global south, encounters and varieties of the “post” sociological imagination: the reception, contestation and influence of the critique of sociological knowledge.
  • Researching the social world after Mills, Foucault and Lyotard (and others): the challenges and status of the theoretical, empirical and epistemological in social inquiry.
  • Making things public: possibilities, forms, times and places of sociological knowledge in the age of post-critique."

I've blogged a bit (here) about why I'm interested in the intersections between sociology and postmodern thought. So, while I hope to be able to make it to the conference in September, I didn't want to revist these things right now - not while I'm trying to make headway in LOADS of other areas of my thesis!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scepticism Conference

On June 6th 2009, a one-day conference on Scepticism is being hosted by the University of Southampton's Philosophy Department. Their blurb reads: "This includes scepticism as it appears in epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, philosophy of language and other areas. Contributions concerning contemporary continental or analytic philosophy are equally welcome, as are those addressing topics from the history of philosophy. Papers are invited from graduate students and we are hoping to attract a wide external audience."

The keynotes will be:
Quassim Cassm (Univeristy of Warwick) "Knowing, Seeing and Stroud's Dilemma"
Duncan Pritchard (University of Edinburgh) "Radical Scepticism, Epistemic Luck and Epistemic Value."

The deadline for submission of papers is Monday 4th May 2009, should be not more than 3,000 words in length (suitable for 20 mins presentation, followed by discussion), and submitted to Dr Denis McManus - The call asks for papers to be accompanied by a covering letter/e-mail, but to not contain any self-identifying references in the text itself. Contact Adam Dunn ( or Dan Clifford ( for other inquires.

Registration for the Scepticism day is free so I'm going to go, but I'm going to try and submit a paper too. I need to launch myself into the relatively unfamiliar world of the study of scepticism, sort through my data in relation to the two philosophical chapters of my thesis, and come up with something - by May 4th. As I'm hoping to get something resembling a nearly finished first draft by the end of May, this isn't out of the realms of possibility, so I'll give it a go. It might have a title something like: "Forms of Scepticism in Contemporary Christianity: Accepting Finitude and Celebrating Undecidability." But I need to know A LOT more about scepticism before I can even begin to position my data in this kind of academic context!!!

"Researching Theo(b)logy" Published

My copy of Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age came in the post this morning! Look out for Ellen Moore's really interesting chapter on American evangelical churches' responses to The Da Vinci Code. My chapter is called, "Researching Theo(b)logy: A Participatory Research Methodology for the Blogosphere."

I write about the use the emerging church milieu make of two Internet-based technological innovations (blogs and wikis). After documenting the difficulties in using these texts (see my chapter in Reading Spiritualities in relation to the nature of online text) as sources of data, I suggest the benefits for researchers of having a research-specific blog (particularly for researchers looking at the Internet) and reflect on the practical and ethical issues involved in such a participatory methodology.

By chance, there's an interesting article in this quarter's Network (the newsletter of the British Sociological Association) on "Blogology," by Rebecca Leach (Keele University). She writes, 'The blog is hugely underused by sociologists as a means of communication... This is a real shame because blogs can give the public a real flavour of our research and writing much quicker than any other published output... A rich stream of new and interesting thinking can be found in the blogs of the many PhD students who creatively link together their academic ideas with their personal, political and cultural lives' (p.18). Rebecca's article includes links to A (Budding) Sociologist's Commonplace Book, Global Sociologist and a Very Public Sociologist - all with cooler names than my blog. Hey ho.

Maybe Fieldwork in Religion (see post here) would be a good place to further reflect on how my research blog is going? Obviously, the posts here at OpenSourceResearch form a cumulative reflection on this methodology but (as I originally wrote the chapter that appears in Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age in April 2007 - with some revisions over the year) it is now much more common for academics (particularly PhD students) to have research-related blogs. It would be interesting to explore if and how these blogs have encouraged participation from their research subjects.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Religious Mediation among LGBT Christians

After blogging twice (here, and here) about trying to write up my MA research into an article, and in response to the call for papers from late last year, I've finally submitted my entry to the journal Sexualities' special edition on religion and spirituality. It's entitled "Queerying The Spiritual Revolution: Religious Mediation among LGBT Christians." It has morphed significantly both from my MA dissertation (now also including data from my other MA studies, including a congregational study of the spirituality of an MCC in the North of England, and an exploration of LGB identity as portrayed in the LGCM archives) and from my previous attempts to get the 25,000 words down to under 6,000! It's become much less about LGBT Christians and much more about how sociologists of religion and spirituality approach their phenomena, particularly how the methodological categories used by Heelas and Woodhead in their (2005) The Spiritual Revolution are problematized in my small scale studies. This might mean that it isn't "sexual" enough for Sexualities, but we'll see. If it doesn't get accepted, at least I've (finally) got it to say what I want it to say and to do it in under 6,000 words.
Here's the final version of the abstract:
This article uses small-scale studies among LGBT Christians to “queery” the dualistic framework of Heelas and Woodhead’s The Spiritual Revolution. Theories of mediation are required to explain the practices and beliefs of those negotiating both subjective-life and life-as modes of living. Identity integration strategies among LGBT Christians suggest ways in which individuals and communities might navigate these categories of religious significance and authority. Data confirms that different forms of life-as religions-cum-spiritualities are making the subjective turn; that participants nevertheless alternate between rather than ‘fuse’ internal and (albeit reconstructed) external authorities; and that Heelas’ more recent God without/“god” within distinction is a clearer marker of whether practitioners are already affiliated to either transcendent theism or inner-life spirituality and of when a transition from one to the other has been or is being undertaken.
Key words:
  • Christianity;
  • Heelas and Woodhead;
  • LGBT;
  • inner-life spirituality;
  • spiritual revolution.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not Yet In The Now

Neal DeRoo and John Panteleimon Manoussakis have co-edited a book called Phenomenology and Eschatology: Not Yet In The Now (Ashgate). If I get a PDF copy or find £50 down the back of my sofa, I'll review it at some point in the (near) future. But, for now, here's some blurb from Ashgate's website and the contents:

This book brings together a world-renowned collection of philosophers and theologians to explore the ways in which the resurgence of eschatological thought in contemporary theology and the continued relevance of phenomenology in philosophy can illuminate each other. Through a series of phenomenological analyses of key eschatological concepts and detailed readings in some of the key figures of both disciplines, this text reveals that phenomenology and eschatology cannot be fully understood without each other: without eschatology, phenomenology would not have developed the ethical and futural aspects that characterize it today; without phenomenology, eschatology would remain relegated to the sidelines of serious theological discourse. Along the way, such diverse themes as time, death, parousia, and the call are re-examined and redefined. Containing new contributions from Jean-Yves Lacoste, Claude Romano, Richard Kearney, Kevin Hart and others, this book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the intersection of contemporary philosophy and theology.


Introduction - PDF download here;
Part I Phenomenology of Eschatology:
1. The phenomenality of anticipation, Jean-Yves Lacoste;
2. Awaiting, Claude Romano.
Part II Phenomenological Eschatology:
3. Sacramental imagination and eschatology, Richard Kearney;
4. The promise of the new and the tyranny of the same, John Panteleimon Manoussakis;
5. John Zizioulas on eschatology and persons, Douglas H. Knight.
Part III Eschatological Phenomenology:
6. The eschatology of the self and the birth of the being-with; or, on tragedy, Ilias Papagiannopoulos;
7. Being and the promise, Jeffrey Bloechl.
Part IV Phenomenology and Eschatology: Historical Confluences:
8. 'Hineingehalten in die Nacht': Heidegger's early appropriation of Christian eschatology, Judith E. Tonning;
9. Phenomenology and eschatology in Michel Henry, Jeffrey Hanson;
10. 'Without world': eschatology in Michel Henry, Kevin Hart;
Appendix: The present and the gift, Jean-Luc Marion.

A PDF of the Introduction is available for download from Ashgate here.