Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beyond a Common Ground: Levinas, Fanon, and Touching the Other

"To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it.  It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly:  to have the idea of infinity."  E. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, p. 51

This past weekend I went to a conference at Duke Div on "Friendship at the Margins."  During lunch on Saturday, various "practitioners" were invited from the community to lead sessions on how friendship influences their ministry.  I led one about forming friendships with refugees.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post-nationalistic Theology and Fictive Christian Ethnicity

There was recently a discussion at the Inhabitatio Dei blog about whether "postliberalism" was a defined and coherent school of thought.  Instead of searching for the commonality within one stream ("postliberalism"), I am interested in looking at a trajectory which holds together even a larger number of theologians (e.g., postliberalism and radical orthodoxy).  The trajectory linking many contemporary theologians can be called:  the production of Christian identity beyond nationalism, or to make it a little shorter, post-nationalistic Christianity.

E. Balibar, in "The Nation Form" (printed in __Race, Nation, Class__), clarifies the relationship between the rise of the modern nation state and religious identity.  Nationalism did not ultimately arise as an analogous form of religiosity, for despite whatever commonalities one can find between the two, the difference remains even greater.  The transfer of religious ideals--"the sense of the sacred and the affects of love, respect, sacrifice, and fear which have cemented religious communities" (95)--to the nation presupposes this difference.  Otherwise, "it would be impossible to understand why national identity, more or less completely integrating the forms of religious identity, ends up tending to replace it, and forcing it itself to become 'nationalized' (ibid).  To describe nationalism as simply a modern religion is to render oneself unable to account for the way nationalism absorbs, replaces, and modifies the very category of religion. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Milbank's Imperialist Refusal of Difference

From the AUFS blog I saw that John Milbank has recently attributed the problems of "political Islam" to "the lamentably premature collapse of the Western colonial empires (as a consequence of the European wars);"  This should surprise no one, as Milbank expressed those thoughts in the essay "The End of Dialogue," published the same year as his famous Theology and Social Theory (to cite one place).  Given Milbank's comfortability with Orientalist categories of thought (East, the West, Islam, the Third World, etc) and his overt endorsement of (or at least sympathy for) the imperialist and colonialist framework within which those categories function, the difficulty for those of us disturbed by Milbank's theological imperialism is to find a way to respond.  The framework of thought is invincible as any objection to it will simply be dismissed as evincing a "culpable" or "criminal" naivety, or worse, the taint of Eastern-Protestant-Islamic-Modernist-Antiquated-Secular influence.