Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paul and Political Theology

I need to buy this: Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision: Critical Engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Zizek and Others, edited by Dougals Harink (in Wipf and Stock's Theopolitical Visions series).

Here's the back cover blurb:

"The apostle Paul was a man of many journeys. We are usually familiar with the geographical ones he made in his own time. This volume traces others—Paul's journeys in our time, as he is co-opted or invited to travel (sometimes as abused slave, sometimes as trusted guide) with modern and recent Continental philosophers and political theorists. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Benjamin; Taubes, Badiou, Zizek, and Agamben—Paul journeys here among the philosophers. In these essays you are invited to travel with them into the regions of philosophy, hermeneutics, political theory, and theology. You will certainly hear the philosophers speak. But Paul will not remain silent. Above the sounds of the journey his voice comes through, loud and clear."

And here's the contents:

"Introduction: From Apocalypse to Philosophy" - and Back, Douglas Harink

Part One: From Apocalypse to Philosophy

1 "The Gospel invades Philosophy," J. Louis Martyn

Part Two: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Benjamin

2 "Living 'As If Not:' Messianic Becoming or the Practice of Nihilism?" Travis Kroeker

3 "Heidegger's Paul and Radical Orthodoxy on the Structure of Christian Hope," Justin D. Klassen

4 "The Messiah's Quiet Approach: Walter Benjamin's Messianic Politics," Grant Poettcker

Part Three: Badiou and Zizek

5 "A Very Particular Universalism: Badiou and Paul," Stephen Fowl

6 "Ideological Closure in the Christ-Even: A Marxist Response to Alain Badiou's Paul," Neil Elliott

7 "Subjects between Death and Resurrection: Badiou, Zizek, and St. Paul," Geoffrey Holsclaw

Part Four: Agamben

8 "The Cross as the Fulcrum of Politics: Expropriating Agamben on Paul," Paul J. Griffiths

9 "Messianic or Apocalyptic? Engaging Agamben on Paul and Politics," Ryan L. Hanses

Part Five: Hermeneutics, Ecclesia, Time

10 "Hermeneutics of Unbelief: Philosophical Readings of Paul," Jens Zimmermann

11 "On the Exigency of a Messianic Ecclesia: An Engagement with Philosophical Readers of Paul," Gordon Zerbe

12 "Time and Politics in Four Commentaries on Romans," Douglas Harink

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Zizek Interview in The Guardian

Today's Observer online has an interview with Slavoj Zizek, here. It also features a Zizek portion of Astra Taylor's film, Examined Life: Excursion with Contemporary Thinkers.

Christianity and Contemporary Politics

I'm hoping to take my own research in the direction of political theology, drawing out the socio-political implications of my thesis on "truth" in emerging Christianity and post-secular theologies (Radical Orthodoxy and deconstructive theology). This will, I hope, speak to the debates around "new traditionalist" critiques of liberalism and democracy (Stanley Hauerwas, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Milbank, John Rawls, Jeffrey Stout), so I'll be putting Luke Bretherton's book - which explores the positive contributions of the over-polarised field of political theology; a field that, as Jamie Smith writes in his micro review, is often divided between "Stoutian liberals vs. ecclesiocentric ROers" - on my to do list. In particular, I'm looking forward to the conclusion: "Towards a Politics of Hospitality and a Theology of Politics."

Related is a a King's College Faith and Public Policy Forum seminar on Monday 18th October 2010 that Jason Clark drew my attention to: "Stanley Hauerwas in Conversation with John Milbank and Luke Bretherton," also marking the publication of Hauerwas' Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir. The event will run from 5.30-7.00pm at the Great Hall on Strand Campus.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thesis to Book

Currently engaged in transforming my doctoral thesis into a book, I have now finished drafts of Chapters One and Two, which basically set the scene for the book's central argument by introducing Radical Orthodoxy (particularly James K.A. Smith's "postmodern catholicism"), deconstructive theology (especially Jack Caputo's "weak theology"), and the emerging church (as a milieu organised around several diversely understood discrusive and practical commitments).

There are, of course, several publications on the market aimed at helping academics at this stage in their career, including William Germano's From Dissertation to Book and Getting It Published; Eleanor Harman's The Thesis and The Book; and Revising Your Dissertation: Advice from Leading Editors, edited by Beth Luey. I haven't read any of them, but I have been tracking down advice for PhD students from publishers such as Ashgate (here) and researching formats for book proposals.

There are several questions that I'm asking myself at the moment, particularly:

  • "is my thesis best suited to publication as a book, or as a journal article or series of journal articles?"


  • "to what audience would my book be addressed?"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Postmodernism, Difference and the Logic of Late Capitalism

Today's "what I'm reading" comes from Blake Higgins' blog, "(Ir)religiosity." In a post on the now "classic" critique of postmodernism as the logic of late capitalism (see especially the work of Frederic Jameson and David Harvey), Blake quotes from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire, pp.137-138 and 142-143.

In my doctoral thesis, I explored how emerging church discourse often positions the narratives and liturgies of consumerist capitalism as cultural forces that form subjectivities and socialities that are antithetical to the subjectivities and socialities formed by the narratives and liturgies of the Christian tradition. See, for example, the work of James K.A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, and the doctoral research of Jason Clark, for example this blog on the relationship between dieting and discpleship (desire). While many would argue that Hardt and Negri's critique is narrativally positioned not by the Christian tradition but by the Marxist tradition, this part of emerging church discourse nonetheless has much in common with the post-Marxist critique of postmodern culture.

"We suspect that postmodernist and postcolonialist theories may end up in a dead end because they fail to recognize adequately the contemporary object of critique, that is, they mistake today’s real enemy. What if the modern form of power these critics (and we ourselves) have taken such pains to describe and contest no longer holds sway in our society? What if these theorists are so intent on combating the remnants of a past form of domination that they fail to recognize the new form that is looming over them in the present? [...] In this case, modern forms of sovereignty would no longer be at issue, and the postmodernist and postcolonialist strategies that appear to be liberatory would not challenge but in fact coincide with and even unwittingly reinforce the new strategies of rule! When we begin to consider the ideologies of corporate capital and the world market, it certainly appears that the postmodernist and postcolonialist theorists who advocate a politics of difference, fluidity, and hybridity in order to challenge the binaries and essentialism of modern sovereignty have been outflanked by the strategies of power. Power has evacuated the bastion they are attacking and has circled around to their rear to join them in the assault in the name of difference. These theorists thus find themselves pushing against an open door." (137-38)

"The affirmation of hybridities and the free play of differences across boundaries, however, is liberatory only in a context where power poses hierarchy exclusively though essential identities, binary divisions, and stable oppositions. The structures and logics of power in the contemporary world are entirely immune to the 'liberatory' weapons of the postmodernist politics of difference. In fact, Empire too is bent on doing away with those modern forms of sovereignty and on setting differences to play across boundaries. Despite the best intentions, then, the postmodernist politics of difference not only is ineffective against but can even coincide with and support the functions and practices of imperial rule. The danger is that postmodernist theories focus their attention so resolutely on the old forms of power they are running from, with their heads turned backwards, that they tumble unwittingly into the welcoming arms of the new power. From this perspective the celebratory affirmations of postmodernists can easily appear naive, when not purely mystificatory." (142-43)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

John D Caputo official Facebook fan page

I'm going to try administering the Official John D Caputo Facebook page (here) and to try to make it a place where fans (we haven't come up with a good name yet - Caputians? Caputo-ettes?) can discuss his work and swap resources. It'll also be a great opportunity for me to network with a wide variety of people who find Jack's work personally and/or professionally inspiring, as I know that my own research career is going to be marked by it. I'll keep it updated with Jack's speaking engagements and send out announcements of new publications as they come out, etc. It's also useful to remind folks of the lecture downloads that Jack has on his Syracuse website.

In the bar to the left, you can see the "like box" (it's down to the left under the title: John D Caputo Discussion and Resource Page on Facebook).

PCR4 - The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion

In April next year, Syracuse University will be hosting the fourth Postmodernism, Culture and Religion conference, convened by Jack Caputo. The conference will explore the theme of "The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion," a topic which I'm sure will, by examining the possibilities of new intellectual directions in continental philosophy of religion, impact both directly and indirectly upon current debates about the social value of philosophy and other humanities disciplines (as well as the social sciences and arts) in the face of growing pressure to demonstrate the immediate economic value of higher education (basically restricted to the sciences and business studies). See in particular the high-profile short-sighted closure of the philosophy department at Middlesex University (including the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy) here, here and (partially saved by Kingston University) here and here.

Anyway, here's some information and blurb from for PCR4, which will run from April 7 - 9 2011.

Plenary speakers will include Jack Caputo, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities (Syracuse University), Philip Goodchild, Professor of Theology and Religous Studies (University of Nottingham), and Catherine Malabou, Professor of Philosophy (Universite Paris Quest Nanterre La Defense).

The call for papers blurb is as follows:

"Paper submissions are invited on the topic "The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion," its past and present, its history and its prospects, in the widest possible terms, addressing the whole range of its implications—politics, feminism, constructive theology, philosophy, history, literature, interfaith dialogue, and the hermeneutics of sacred texts.

"In the past, these conferences, which have provided a forum for the most influential philosophers, theologians, and cultural theorists to interact, have consisted solely of several keynote speakers. This conference will be different. It will feature three plenary speakers and offer multiple concurrent sessions devoted to papers submitted on a diversity of issues relating to the primary theme. This call for papers is deliberately open, befitting the conference's animating concern with the future."

The call for papers then lists some very interesting questions which papers could address:

  • What now, or what comes next—specifically, after the death, if not of God, at least of the generation consisting of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Levinas, etc.? This question concerns not only the future after those significant theorists, but also the future after-life of these eminent minds who have left such a deep impact on continental philosophy of religion.
  • What is the future of Kant and German Idealism, of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in continental philosophy of religion?
  • What remains for the future of phenomenology?
  • Of the "theological turn" in the phenomenology of Jean-Luc Marion and others?
  • Of Gadamer, Ricoeur and philosophical hermeneutics?
  • Of apophatic or mystical theology?
  • What is the future of feminism and continental philosophy of religion?
  • What are the status and future of the new trinity of Agamben, Badiou and Zizek?
  • What relevance do the political interpretations of Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, and the more recent continental philosophers such as François Laruelle and Catherine Malabou have to philosophy of religion and political theology?
  • What about the future of sovereignty, of money and capitalism, as in the work of Philip Goodchild?
  • What is the future of the movements of Radical Orthodoxy and of radical death of God theology, whether in their original or contemporary manifestations?
  • What about the new sciences of information and complexity in thinkers like Mark C. Taylor and Michel Serres?
  • What about Continental philosophy of religion and our “companion species” in Donna Haraway?
  • What about “Post-Humanism”?
  • What is the future of continental Philosophy of religion and Judaism?
  • And Islam?
  • Or world religions generally?
  • What is the relationship between postmodernism, religion and postcolonialism?
  • What role can continental philosophy play in the future of religion?
  • In the professional study of religion?
  • How does continental philosophical theology relate to the ethnological and empirical-scientific study of religion?
  • How does continental philosophy of religion differ from traditional philosophy of religion?
  • Or from analytic philosophy of religion?
  • What is continental philosophy of religion anyway?
Hmmm.... cogs turning... ideas developing...

...wonder if I'll have a job by April 2011 in order to afford to go???

The call for papers asks for electronic copies of completed papers (previously unpublished and up to 3,000 words) to be subject to a double blind review by a selection committee, so include your name, paper title and contact information on a separate page. and put the paper title (but not name) on header or footer of each numbered page of the paper itself. These submissions are due by December 15, 2010 and should be sent to Acceptances will be made by February 15, 2011.

This information is also available on a (very hard on the eyes) website here.

What I'm Reading

One of the key figures in my doctoral thesis is James K.A. Smith, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. As well as blog Fors Clavigera (see here for an explanation of its title), he writes a What I'm Reading blog, which is actually the older of the two. Jamie describes What I'm Reading as "something between an annotated bibliography and a collection of book reviews." This is something that I'm going to try out with this blog.

Having completed my PhD, I now spend my days hunting for academic jobs, writing conference papers, and turning my thesis into a book and a couple of articles, and I'll still post about these things. However, I'm also still reading new things. So I thought I might try out posting snippits of what I'm reading which will give insight into where I am hoping to go next with my work.

Since my postdoctoral aspirations converge on exploring the possibility of Derridean radical sociality, I thought starting with this from Slavoj Zizek's The Puppet and The Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, pp.43-44 -

"When today's Left bombards the capitalist system with demands that it obviously cannot fulfill (Full employment! Retain the welfare state! Full rights for immigrants!), it is basically playing a game of hysterical provocation, of addressing the Master with a demand that will be impossible for him to meet, and will thus expose his impotence.

"The problem with this strategy, however, is not only that the system cannot meet these demands, but that those who voice them do not really want them to be satisfied.

"When, for example, 'radical' academics demand full rights for immigrants and the opening of borders to them, are they aware that the direct implementation of this demand would, for obvious reasons, inundate the developed Western countries with millions of newcomers, thus provoking a violent racist working-class backlash that would then endanger the privileged position of these very academics?

"Of course they are, but they count on the fact that their demand will not be met - in this way, they can hypocritically retain their clear radical conscience while continuing to enjoy their privileged position."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Attending to the Other bursary

I just heard from the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture that they are going to give me a bursary to help towards the cost (£385) of going to their "Attending to the Other: Critical Theory and Spiritual Practice" conference at St Catherine's College, Oxford, in September. All I can say is, "thank you" and "phew!"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"I Hate Your Church..." Published

My Expository Times article on the emerging church ("'I Hate Your Church; What I Want is My Kingdom': Emerging Spiritualities in the UK Emerging Church Milieu") is now available online. You can access the abstract for free here, but you'll have to subscribe to The Expository Times, purchase short-term access, or log-in using an Athens account or university homepage.

I'm not allowed to distribute the article either.

The article briefly assesses current ways of defining "the emerging church" and suggests the value of the notion of a "milieu." Borrowing from Gordon Lynch's work on progressive spirituality, the concept of a global "emerging church milieu" (with regional milieus within it, e.g. "US emerging church milieu" or "UK emerging church milieu" etc) allows the emerging church to be portrayed as a coherent religious phenomenon without ignoring local differences and divergences.

I then enumerate what I see as the six commitments of emerging church discourse. These are commitments to:

  1. "glocal" contextualisation,
  2. "ancient-future" traditions,
  3. organisational experimentation,
  4. exploring postmodern thought,
  5. (re)thinking theology, and
  6. socially, politically and environmentally just living.

Not having much space in which to present these commitments in this article, I go into much more detail in my doctoral thesis, but these commitments (which obviously overlap with other Christian and non-Christian milieus beyond the emerging church milieu) are variously understood and put into practice multifariously.

Then I identify two spiritualities which emerge from this milieu: Deep Church spirituality and A/Theistic spirituality. These two spiritualities were primarily presented as hermeneutics in my thesis, but they can also be thought of as spiritualities. In my postdoctoral research, I hope to explore them as social imaginaries. Again, I didn't have the room to go into much detail in this article, but I hope to publish a few academic journal articles and a monograph that will bring my library basement destined thesis to the masses!

My Expository Times article then concludes by reflecting upon the missional orientation of these two emerging church spiritualities. Following a question that John Hull asked of fresh expressions of church in Mission-Shaped Church and Mission-Shaped Questions, I wonder whether Deep Church and A/Theistic spiritualities are kingdom-shaped or church-shaped in their missiologies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Attending to the Other - conference programme

The provisional conference programme for "Attending to the Other: Critical Theory and Spiritual Practice" is now available from here. My paper, "How to Eat Well in Church: Saying 'Yes' to the Other and Becoming Nothing in Derrida, Paul and Emerging Christian Discourse," is on one of the Theology Panels and will be (provisionally) at 3.30pm on Saturday 25th September 2010.

The conference, which runs from Thursday 23rd until Sunday 26th with Amy Hollywood speaking on the 23rd, Graham Ward and Toril Moi on the 24th, Paul Fiddes on the 25th, and Victor Seidler on the 26th, has several Zizek papers (thanks to the Continental Philosophy of Religion Panel conveners) that I'm looking forward to. And they don't clash with my panel, yay!

  • Jeff Keuss "Slavoj Zizek and Dynamic Incarnationalism: Towards a Lived Material Theology of Personhood"
  • Thomas Lynch "Zizek and Liberation Theology: A Lacano-Marxist Revival"
  • Ian Pattenden "Beyond the Death of God: The Open Eschaton in Bloch and Zizek"

Anyone interested should take a look at Adam Kotsko's Zizek and Theology.

Now, I just need to find nearly £400 to afford to go. Hmmm.... maybe I should sell some books?