42 Responses to “Carter Book Event: The Drama of Race: Toward a Theological Account of Modernity (Chapter 1)”

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I found the bit on Foucault and Israel to be confusing — I felt like it presupposed an account of Israel’s covenantal relationship to God, etc., that he hadn’t developed yet and that didn’t seem like it could easily fit into Foucault’s argument anyway. That said, perhaps I don’t remember the Foucault text as well as I could.

  2. dbarber Says:

    To echo Adam’s point, i remain interested to see more w/r/t what it is, specifically, about a covenantal or theological approach that exceeds Foucault. And especially so, insofar as when theology does come up, it always _Christian_ theology. Which, one might say, is the very origin of supersessionism.

    One can make modernity the enemy, and regarding colonialism no doubt true. But why place the point of the “fall” there? Why not place the fall — if indeed the fall is supersessionism — in the Pauline notion of spirit over flesh?

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I also wonder about his continual slippage between biblical Israel and “Jewish existence” — the two are obviously related, but just as obviously very different.

  4. Brandy Daniels Says:

    Sure, it seems to presuppose an account of Israel’s covenant relationship to God… Isn’t that the point Carter is actually trying to make–suggesting that precisely such a theological account can avoid the way Foucault’s account of Israel potentially reinscribes an anti-Jewish, supercessionist sentiment?

    I agree, though–I too am curious to see “what it is, specifically, about a covenantal or theological approach that exceeds Foucault.” While I found Carter’s critique, that Foucault reinscribes the problem he is trying to speak against, as challenging and fruitful, it begs the question as to whether his own suggestion that a theological account of Israel’s history adequately responds to Foucault’s account of biopower, the binarization of society as a way of segmenting the population to defend society against the threat from within, that marks the shift from race wars to racism. It just seems like its still too early in the text to see what unfolds on that front…
    text to see what unfolds on that front…
    defend society against the threat from within, that marks the shift from race wars to racism. It just seems like its still too early in the text to see what unfolds on that front…
    own suggestion that a theological account of Israel’s history adequately responds to Foucault’s account of biopower, the binarization of society as a way of segmenting the population to defend society against the threat from within, that marks the shift from race wars to racism. It just seems like its still too early in the text to see what unfolds on that front…

  5. Brandy Daniels Says:

    Also, I have more thoughts re: Christian theology being a solution/the answer vs. the origins of Christian supersessionism, but I’ll have to say more on that later, as my time is up at the internet cafe in Istanbul and I’m all out of lira….

  6. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    I too found the Foucault reading a bit difficult to parse. It seems to me a strange notion that the Jewish people eternally and through all time get to somehow count as counterhistory. Foucault’s reading of the ancient Kingdom of Israel isn’t all that different from Spinoza’s in his Theologico-Political Treatise and what Spinoza’s reading and wider political philosophy makes clear is there are no eternal essences to bodies, including bodies politic. So one can see a kind of “stratification” at work in the identity of a Jewish people, one that can even come to be a kind of racist logic (see the modern nation-state of Israel), that acts as a kind of auto-immune disorder. This is part of the argument of Michael Mack’s rather good Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity (though I think he would disagree with me that Israel is an example of anti-Semitic nation-state) and, in case you miss it, Mack’s earlier work on Germany philosophy and “the Jew” is going to be an important source for Carter in the next chapter.

    Anyway, I guess I’m saying I don’t see how Foucault at all repeats a racist logic. If the problem is one of supercessionism I don’t see how it applies to Foucault or anyone not doing Christian theology! To make that argument, and be clear about it, I think Carter would have had to show how Foucault’s thought is somehow determined still by a Christian theological unconscious. A task that I’m not entirely sure is possible, though perhaps Andy (if he has time) will have something to say about it.

    At this stage I suppose I’m still not sure what counts as racism for Carter and I’m growing weary of the notion that there is something in a relationship with God (however you spell it) that gets us out of that logic. I’m open to being wrong though.

  7. Tim McGee Says:

    On Dan’s point: I would hesitate to read the genealogy as a narrative of declension from origins (“fall”) and also place emphasis on the political in Carter’s inquiry into theopolitics (it’s not an idea of anti-semitism that Carter is interrogating but the formation of the modern racial state as a kind of Christian theological performance, or pseudo-theological performance as he says).

  8. dbarber Says:

    Tim, just to clarify: I don’t see how anti-semitism could be separated from the formation of the modern racial state.

    If, by “anti-semitism” you are referring to the Pauline moment I mentioned, then I’ll admit, ok, no “fall,” exactly. But, the question remains: why was it that the modern racial state emerges within Christianity? The emphasis in the book is on this being a PSEUDOtheology, but I’m noting that it’s likewise a pseudoTHEOLOGY (and note here that theology = CHRISTIAN theology). Is there something about Christianity that makes possible the modern racial state? I would suggest that there is. Specifically, it’s not random that a racializing state will emerge out of tradition that begins by claiming it is beyond race at the same time that it devalorizes certain bodies (“Jewish existence”). I’m not saying there’s direct causality, but I am saying they are certainly connected.

  9. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I reread the two chapters of Foucault that Carter is mainly talking about, and it seems to me that it would’ve made more sense for Carter to say that the transition between race struggle to “scientific” racism is parallel to the movement of supercessionism — rather than to claim that Foucault is somehow supercessionist. I honestly don’t know what to make of the latter claim at all, unless he’s saying that Foucault is being supercessionist by implying that the Jewish history isn’t something theologically “special” (i.e., by saying it can be reappropriated by other races). And if that possibility of identification is what undermines the Jews’ “specialness,” then how is African-American Christianity not supercessionist? If the reference to God’s special relationship to the Jews is the key to not being supercessionist, then it seems like everyone who’s not a believer is somehow supercessionist, which seems like an odd claim to make.

    To me it would make more sense to say that African-American Christianity, like the advocates of “race struggle” in late medieval times, were non-supercessionist in that they identify with and engraft themselves into the basic Jewish narrative of liberation — but that the modern racists were supercessionist in that they mis-appropriated that narrative by reversing it (as African-Americans might hypothetically have done had they, for instance, taken over the state of Georgia and started purging it of the white vermin…. and such “black triumphalist” rhetoric does exist, albeit at the extreme margins).

  10. Rod of Alexandria Says:

    In addition to affirming what has been said here, I think it would have benefited J. Kameron Carter to perhaps give a specific example what it is theologically in the narrative of the “biblical Israel [&Judah] that would aid in resisting that state’s claim to the human body in the formation of race and nation (page 42).

  11. Tim McGee Says:

    Dan,
    I catch you now and think you are actually restating Carter’s point (i.e. on the theological origins of racial state). Within this book, Christian theology becomes pseudotheology precisely in this anti-Jewish trajectory (and so a theology that devalues Jewish existence is, by definition, according to Carter, a pseudotheology). I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the later chapters as well as the sections on the patristics, as those are the places where he unfolds a Christian theology that isn’t predicated on anti-Jewish sentiments.

    Anthony,
    Carter is making the claim that this theological unconscious surfaces with the question of Jewish identity in Foucault’s thought. Maybe the next chapter on Kant will further clarify this theological structure to modernity, which would then help support (or not) the claim re. Foucault.

    Adam,
    I think when you say “engraft themselves into the basic Jewish narrative of liberation,” you highlight the ambiguity that Carter points out with Foucault’s analysis. Israel as the site of this universal counter-history or “narrative of liberation” is also a site for enhanced anxiety insofar as Israel’s peculiarity must become disciplined–”overcome” as Carter says–so as to be a universal particularity, a particularity that is just like all other particularities. Insofar as Israel explicates its identity through terms of election and covenant, Israel becomes the figure of a racialized identity that refuses to submit to the universality of the liberation that its existence foretold (and thus it must be surpassed as we enter into this universality).

  12. Brandy Daniels Says:

    Ditto to what Tim has said…

    To echo Tim, especially in regards to Adam’s point, the claim regarding Foucault’s supercessionism coming from “implying that the Jewish history isn’t something theologically “special,”” seems to not speak to the nuance of what Carter is claiming here—that a theological account of Israel might precisely be that which move beyond the binarization/racialization that operates from biopower… It seems like Carter is not wanting to completely disagree with Foucault, but rather to nuance his specific claims re: Israel in order to embrace the broader points re: biopower and race that Foucault is making.

    Though, like Anthony, I did find myself wondering at different points what exactly counts as racism for Carter, as that piece didn’t seem entirely clear to me, especially in light of how Foucault defines it…

    Also, I think the points made re: the way Christian theology itself figures into the problem and/or the solution particularly interesting. On the one hand, I think the concerns y’all have brought up are fair. In her review of this book in Theory & Event, Shatema Threadcraft makes a point that relates to y’all’s concerns. She writes:

    “Did those on modernity’s dark side lack any ground on which to launch a critique of racial hierarchy before they had the resources on offer through Christian theology? If not, does this not suggest that blacks had to be forcibly converted to concepts like human dignity and equality? Scholars who work on concepts like Ubuntu would certainly disagree. That Christian theology was a significant translation resource for blacks as they encountered a society structured on racial hierarchy (and in their attempts to communicate their human status to a world that disbelieved them) may be true, but it is not the sole and only resource. In suggesting Christianity’s centrality, Carter unwittingly participates in efforts to disassociate blackness from knowledge, and delegitimizes the vital and detailed connections between Afro-Christianity and pre-Christian black social, political and spiritual ideals.”

    On the other hand, how do we understand these critiques in light of what Carter is trying to accomplish and who he is communicating to in this text? I’m curious about Threadcraft’s language about “suggesting Christianity’s centrality”—is that necessarily what Carter is trying to do here? I don’t think it is…

  13. Adam Kotsko Says:

    In future chapters, he does seem to be suggesting Christianity’s centrality.

  14. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    It hadn’t dawned on me that this conversation around my book had begun. I was meeting with my research asst this morning over a cup of coffee who brought it to my attention. He mentioned that there’s been much hand wringing around my reading of Foucault in relationship to the modern/colonial Judenfrage, and asked me if I had plans to step in to the fray at any point.

    First of all, I very grateful for this conversation. I think that Brandy has done a fairly good job of clarifying me to myself and in so doing to others as well :-) For this I most grateful. I think that the Jewish question goes to the heart of the matter in many ways for what I was trying to do in this book. And Tim (along with Brandy) have rightly hit the nail on the head on my reading of what’s at stake in Jewish question as both a sociopolitical and a theological matter.

    I draw heavily and positively on Foucault in much of my thinking, though in this opening chapter I both wanted to established the deepest moment of clarity that F offers up for understanding modernity as a religio-theological and theo-political problem and at the same time mark out what I see as the limitation on his thought precisely at the moment of its maximal insight. And Tim has brought the point really home. The problem that I was pressing on in F is how he sees that modern has been constituted in relationship to a disciplining of the people of Israel, that this disciplining is a Christian and more specifically Gentile Christian (which will become a gentile secular) disciplining, and that finally this disciplining is racial disciplining. I’d go even further. Though F doesn’t mobilize this language, he’s put his finger on the fact that the Gentile/Western Christian disciplining of Israel as part and parcel of the modern/colonial racial state and the making of racial subjects is the production of Whiteness (particularly, the White Masculine) in relationship to its non-White Others. The negative anchor of the White Masculine is the Savage, who became the black and finally the Negro. All of this is inside of and in fact *is* a Christian theological production.

    Now of course, this is not sui generis. It is historical and therefore has roots in the premodern. And of course, we can have that discussion. But my point is to understand the specifically modernist mutation of a longstanding supersessionistic problem. And what makes it *modern* is (1) the utter transformation of space and (2) time that modernity’s iteration of supersessionism has inaugurated and (3) the the form of ‘species-being,’ shall we say, or of the ‘the human’ that modernity’s iteration of supersessionism inaugurated. The mutations of space concern the way in which ‘globality’ arose in relationship to supersessionism; the mutations of time concern the way in which some were seen as without history or lacking behind those who more rightly situated in time because they would be the path to an eschaton/utopia (the former are the various iterations of the savage, those stuck in the spatial and temporal archipelagoes outside of Europe/EuroAmerica); and the mutations of ‘species-being’ concerned the anthropological inventions of Man, where Man here is shorthand for European Man understood as having exhausted meanings of the human.

    My current research goes beyond *Race* to examine more closely all of this: how we are inside of the theological production of Man as he (!) has been produced between *creation* (the creation of a New World/the world we’ve been formed in (some positively, some negatively) and *eschatology* (the both making of a telos and being that telos toward which the modern/colonial aims [here is where one must situate the yearning for the 'postracial']) with death/atonement through the religious-become-secular/universal work of a false God-Man/Mediator functioning between the creation and consummation of Man.

    Foucault both sees and doesn’t see this problem. He sees that Man (cf. The Order of Things) is the figure who must be understood and moved beyond. Moreover, he has something of a grasp that Man’s production is theo-logical and is tied to the problem of Jewish existence in the modern world or how the Jew has been positioned in the modern world. And finally still, he grasps that the making of Man concerns a *knowledge* around this figure and that this knowledge is a knowledge-in-power. He understanding that knowledge is a disciplining knowledge, a knowledge that in disciplining also disciples us. Therefore, it is a subjectifying knowledge, a knowledge that makes subjects (and, I might add objects and abjects).

    But here is where F stops (I was working primarliy through “Society Must be Defended” when I was developing these arguments). But not only stops. It’s where he (unwittingly I think) reinscribes the basic disciplining gesture–the disciplining of the Jewish witness to what it means to be creature and not the Creator. He was unable to drill deeply enough into how modernity/coloniality rests upon taking over a Jewish semiotic in regards to Israel being an elect people. Foucault’s limitations in this regard, I think, are connected to what feminist anthropologist and Foucault scholar Ann Stoler was getting at when she argued that Foucault’s work at best only touches the surface of the race problem and has virtually nothing to say about the (French) colonial problem, but that these problems have everything to do with the machinery of discipline, punishment, and making of modern subjects. The oversight that Stoler points to in her book *Foucault and the Education of Desire* has everything to do with just the limitations I’m pointing to.

    Chapter 2 of my book, which deals with Kant, is meant to point to a figure who is exemplary of how the logic of supersessionism works in the making of the modern/colonial world. Kant doesn’t bear the burden alone. I’m not saying that it’s all Kant’s fault, for he only represents the maturing of a gesture that has its genealogical origins in the 15th and 16th centuries. Moreover, in his own time Kant had many intellectual compatriots both in Germany and in England and France and other European sites. I found Kant a fruitful person through whom to display the problem that Foucault starts to expose in his wide-ranging and generative work and that in his own he remains caught within even as he tries to escape the long shadow of Gentile pride, its bravado in claiming and seeking to own the meaning of the human by being ‘Man’.

    But let me quickly say that the point here isn’t to say, Foucault is a racist. He isn’t. Indeed, I go out of my way to say he patently isn’t. One need only think through his position during the Iranian crisis of the 1970s (among other social and political positions he took as an activist) to understand that this is not the case. Rather, the point I’m making is that he never fully escapes the very mode of thought that he’s working against; namely, the gesture to disciple Israel’s particularity in his (rightful from my perspective) quest to breath new life into humanism. The challenge that Foucault’s thought poses and answers even if not fully so is this: what does it mean to understand the modern/colonial problem of Man as the theological problem of Gentile humility, the problem of the (Western) Gentile refusal of its posture of humility before Israel and the God of Israel, the refusal of its election inside of Israel’s election and ultimately inside of the election of Jesus the Jew. This is the problem. It is the problem as a friend of mine has put it of the mutation of ‘faith seeking understanding’ at the twilight of the modern/colonial world into ‘faith judging reason, intellectual capacity, and finally ‘human’ possibility’ and the world created of, as Barth put it in CD 4/2, the judgment and ‘The Pride of Man’.

    Now for all of the resourcement folks out there, my invocation of the mutation of ‘faith seeking understanding’ into something else, doesn’t mean (a la Milbank and even some of the Barthians et al) that I’m advocating some sort of stabilizing of the Christian logos vis-a-vis ‘The Tradition.’ Actually, my work also points to how the making of the making of Christian/White Masculine does so in reference to ‘Tradition’, and that therefore the whole notion of Tradition needs to be rethought and in its current form at least, possibly abandoned altogether. But that’s another discussion.

    OK. Enough for now as I want the conversation to continue.

  15. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    As for the issue of Christianity’s centrality: I’m not trying to do something totalizing here. I’m not trying to do a project of ‘religion’ as religion had come to be constituted within the regimes of the knowledge of Man. I’m only asking throughout my book, how must Christianity reconceive itself if it is not to be part of the religo-secular project of Man.

  16. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I still don’t understand how Foucault can even be understood in a framework where he can be interpreted as a supercessionist. It seems like a really huge shift in categories to me. Is he supercessionist because he observes these other groups taking up the basic model of Israel’s messianic narrative (whether the “good” race war types or the bad race-science types), but then doesn’t come out to some kind of position where Israel is “really” privileged in this way and the other groups can’t take it over but must be engrafted, etc.?

    Why does his failure to say the latter even register as a failure? He’s not a theologian! Accusing Kant or Hegel or someone like that of being a supercessionist makes a lot of sense — and your chapter on Kant is really excellent in my view — but Foucault? Does the failure to even care about the question of Israel’s particularity count as a supercessionist gesture?

  17. Adam Kotsko Says:

    And just to be clear: I have no particular stake in Foucault. I’m not “defending” him or somehow upset that you’re reading him critically — I honestly don’t care that much about him at all. I am just sincerely having trouble understanding what you’re trying to say about him.

  18. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    Adam, as I remark in chpt 1, Foucault does register in the 75/76 lectures SMBD that the problem of race war is tied to the problem of how the Jews came to be situated in the modern world. Whether he calls himself a theologian or not is in some sense irrelevant. He’s pointing to a matter of theological/religious concern when he makes this observation. In good Foucauldian fashion, Foucault is not giving two flips about disciplinary boundaries. All I’m doing is saying that F was onto something of profound significance. I just sought to trace out what this insight yields for F. I try to think it all the down into what he’s doing in SMBD in trying to make sense of race war and the production of the biopolitical state as the racial state.

    Further still, my point is not to say “Foucault is a supersessionist.” I think—I hope—my reading of Foucault is much more nuanced than that. The key passages of my analysis are on pp. 68–77. I say on those pp. that the position of the Jews in F’s theorizing of the modern world is ambivalent. He both embraces the centrality of the Jews and the mythico-biblical story of Israel and points to it as a problem. They signify the spirit of revolution, the spirit of Protestantism, the spirit of counterhistory against dominant history. The religiously signify the counterhegemonic that marks modernity at its best. This, I go out of my way to say, is an interesting embrace of Israel. Now I have qualms with this way of understanding Israel. But let’s be clear; it’s an embrace of this people. And therefore, in some sense, can’t be called supersessionist. And yet, this embrace comes at a cost. The cost is that Israel is basically made into the interpretive grid, the religious symbol of modernity. Moreover, for F they become “the index of modernity’s discontents insofar as those discontents cluster around (racial) collectivity can spawn”–and has spawned–”a new form of hegemonic sovereignty, the sovereignty of the collective now conceived of as the race” (73–74). F’s labors to show basically in SMBD that race war, or the production of the biopolitical/racial state, grows out of this mythico-religious (Jewish) attitude. I conclude chapter 1 with this problematic aspect of F’s thought (all of the other great stuff about F that I like and draw heavily upon, notwithstanding) by claiming that this strand of F’s thought has deep roots in the very intellectual and performative architecture of modernity. The purpose of the next chapter is to establish this point vis-a-vis Kant.

    Again, my point here isn’t that “F’s a supersessionist”. Besides being so un-nuanced, it obscures the deeper questions. It gets us nowhere. I think Foucault is correct to point us in this theological direction—his not being a theologian, notwithstanding. He is correct to try wrestle with the problem of how and why the Jews came to occupy this position in modernity’s mythico-religoius imagination. All of this is correct. The problem is that his theorizing of the matter unwittingly reproduces the problem it’s meant to explain and extract us from, for on the backside of his theorizing about the Jewish question, theoretically at least, he both ascribes modernity’s racial/biopolitical woes to this people and its account of being (racially?) elect and his own moves forward suggest containing the Jews all over again at the pressure point of their election. Thus, we’ve in some sense not escaped the problem of how the modern is constituted through taking over a Jewish semiotic regarding its election.

    What therefore is needed is not jettisoning F but learning from him. We must learn from his turn toward trying to think deeply through the significance of the Jewish question in the constitution of the modern. But we must also learn that a different account is needed, one that differently and more deeply into its theological architecture.

    Maybe, hopefully, this helps in clarifying how I was trying to think about Foucault and the theological work to which I put him in chapter 1.

  19. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    One more quick thing about Foucault not being a theologian. I approach many thinkers with theological issues in mind. And I also approach them trying to hear how theological concerns are being voiced by them. And so, for example, my work on Du Bois tries to takes seriously his wrestling with theological problems. This goes against the grain of Du Bois studies. But this isn’t Du Bois’ fault. It’s the fault of those who come to him with disciplinary blinders on and who’ve already determined what they will hear. The same can be said with reading people like Richard Wright or Fanon or Sylvia Wynter or Toni Morrison or Angela Davis or Walt Whitman etc.

    I remember reading somewhere of a letter that Carl Schmitt once wrote to Jacob Taubes in which he said in celebration of the latter’s work that “everything is theology—except what the theologians are talking about.” Isn’t this a great quote?! As a theologian it challenges me to not be surprised who speaks the theological (“out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you, O God, have ordained praise”) and that most often it’s not the theologians who speak the theological.

  20. Tim McGee Says:

    Perhaps an odd path into Carter’s argument would be through Gil Andijar’s reading of Edward Said (in _Semites_). Anidjar argues that Said should not be understood as a critique of religion and advocate of secularism but as, more provocatively, an anti-Christian thinker, since Said understood that both religion and secularity were modalities within Christian imperialism. Carter’s point could then be understood as saying that Foucault wasn’t radically anti-Christian enough as the problem of colonialism–and its theological contours–lay beyond the scope of his critical engagement. Foucault then, and against the trajectory of his commitments, ends up reproducing a certain anxiety over “the Jew,” and this anxiety highlights how the “theological” is at play even in this “secular” framework (or, as Carter is trying to argue, a pseudotheology). Jewish particularity must be disciplined and in this sense overcome or erased in order for their mode of narration/history to become the basis for Foucault’s counter-history. Carter is highlighting the precarious placement of Israel within Foucault’s thought, and noting that this precariousness is a secular reproduction of Christian supercessionism.

  21. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    Tim, excellent! You nailed again!

    Anidjar’s reading of Said is a great way to capture exactly what I’m saying about Foucault. Foucault is specular. His ambivalent thought towards the Jews is a mirror to us. It mirrors the wider Christian supersessionism that is internal to imperial modernity, but that he can’t adequately get at precisely because his anti-Christian orientation isn’t radical enough. His critical gaze isn’t critical enough. It actually retains the deep moment of anxiety towards “the Jew” within imperial (Christian/secular) modernity. It’s this anxiety that produces “the Jew” within a bio-genealogy called “the Semite” (which of course embraces the Arab/the Muselmann) over against which is (European) Man, which is to say, the White/Christian-then-become-secular/universal Masculine. This is the problem F is wrestling against but yet remains trapped within despite the trajectory of his thought. My concern in the chapter isn’t to say” F’s a supersessionist”, but whence this anxiety? What’s this anxiety signify?

    Thanks Tim.

  22. Hill Says:

    This book event is off to an incredible start.

  23. Adam Kotsko Says:

    How is his thinking on the influence of the Hebrew Bible on revolutionary movements ambivalent toward “the Jew”? All the uses of the Hebrew Bible he’s talking about are Christian uses — including anti-Jewish Christian uses! And indeed, it’s precisely the anti-Jewish uses (culminating in “scientific racism”) that are what he sees as the negative uses! Isn’t supercessionism precisely an example of using the Hebrew Bible in an anti-Jewish way? Doesn’t Foucault praise the same kind of liberatory use of the Hebrew Bible that you find praiseworthy in African American Christianity?

    Insofar as I understand your argument, it’s an example of what I’ve called your conflation between ancient Israel and modern Jews. In reality, they just are not the same thing. Being “anxious” (if that’s even the right word) about the influence of the Hebrew Bible on certain groups of Christians — which, let’s be honest, does include some stuff that obviously prefigures modern racial politics, including God-ordained genocide — is just not the same as being anxious about the role of the Jew in modern society.

    I’m left wondering what a non-supercessionist Christianity looks like in your view. Does it mean the necessity of dialogue with actual existing Jews of the present day? If it does, then your book certainly doesn’t model this. Does it mean the necessity of drawing on actual post-Christian Jewish uses of the Bible? Again, that doesn’t seem to be present in your book.

  24. Brandy Daniels Says:

    Adam, I haven’t read Carter as conflating the two in the same way you have…

    I’m thinking in particular of a footnote he has at the beginning of the second chapter (p80, fn2), where he makes the claim that the problem of modern theology “must be situated within the interconnections between the modern problem of race, the modern problem of Jewish existence, and the question of modern statecraft or the nation state. That is, they must be situated in relationship to how medieval political theology transformed itself into modern political theology” (398). So the interrogation does not seem to presuppose a static relationship between ancient Israel and modern Jews, bur to examine and call into question the particular content of the shift–of *how* (and why) Jewish existence shifted in modern discourse, moving from “an interfamily theological squabble between Jews and Christians” to something much different, a “racialization and nationalization of Christian anti-Judaism” (398). Carter also overtly eschews a direct conflation between ancient Israel and the politics surrounding modern Israel, writing that “a Jewish theological covenantalism is not to be confused with modern Zionism in the state of Israel” (399)…

  25. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    What I’d say in response to you, Adam, is that this I’m not conflating ancient Israel with present day Jews. Brandy has pointed to some instances (among others) in which I hedge against this. Nor is the point that Christians must sit down and talk with present-day Jews, for in our post-Auschwitz world there’s a lot of that going on. Of course, I’m not against this and sitting down with Jews can be a take-away from my project. But we can’t get it twisted either: sitting down with the Other, to live by an “appreciation” of difference can be still way of enacting domination.

    What I am calling attention to is how much of stone of stumbling and rock of offense Jewish election has meant for Western Christian Gentiles whose own relationship to (the) God (of Israel) is mediated through this people, whose relationship is not immediate but mediated and who therefore relates to (the) God (of Israel) in “weakness”, if I may put it this way. A rising Gentile/Western Christian Europe did not like this, and much of what we mean by colonial/modernity was a response to this refusal of Gentile humility. The response was to invent, as it were, and live into what Edward Said calls in *Culture and Imperiaism* and in *Orientalism* Western “cultural strength”. Christianity was made to be the central ingredient in this “cultural strength” over against the supposed cultural weakness of Others. But it was to be the central ingredient through a vital way of positioning Israel–both present day, Jews in Europe and a way of reading biblical Israel to justify matters–within a Western Christian ‘order of things’.

    I am trying to unearth this mode of “Christian” thinking as a mode of Western life and thought—a mode of Culture and Imperialism (again, to stay with Said)—and be rigorously anti-Christian and announcing a “counterlogos” (Bonhoeffer) against this Logos of the Christian/Secular West.

    This is the fundamental point of Part 1 of my book. It seeks to establish the problem I’m going after with the help of Foucault and then vis-a-vis Kant capture the deeper logics of this episteme (Foucault) or a regime of knowledge—the knowledge of Man—that has established itself through the birth of “Christianity” as providing the inner architecture of the modern/colonial world.

    I do not think this project of mine entails a problematic confusion or conflation of biblical and present-day/actual Jews.

    Also I’d say that I think some of these concerns are addressed as the book’s argument unfolds as well.

  26. Adam Kotsko Says:

    On page 73, where you’re making the crucial move about Foucault’s anxiety about Jewish existence, you continually jump back and forth between biblical Israel and modern-day Jews — with no evidence that Foucault is explicitly making that connection. If he’s talking about biblical Israel, he’s talking about Jewish existence in the modern world, and vice versa — and you make this move despite the fact that the uses of the Hebrew Bible he’s documenting were developed in indifference (at best) or open hostility toward actual-existing Jews and despite the fact that the Jewish use of Scripture in the modern world has been very different and indeed opposed to the kinds of triumphalist narratives Foucault is pointing out. That is to say, in Foucault’s narrative, the Hebrew Bible is already “directly accessible” as Christian Scripture without any special reference to contemporary Jews at all. The fact that the ultimate outcome of this trajectory is the worst imaginable victimization of the Jews should be a hint that contemporary Jews were not consulted.

    The very fact that you continually use the term “Israel” in your argument (I’m toward the end of chapter 5) shows a similar problem — it’s symptomatic of your embrace of Irenaeus’s model where Mary-Israel gives birth to Jesus, etc. You want to reject Gnostic/Marcionite-style scapegoating and rejection of the Jews and the body, but the narrative you embrace is still basically supercessionist. You say we must have a “theology of Israel” that keeps sight of Jesus’s Jewish flesh, etc., but I don’t see concretely what the relationship to actual-exiting, present-day Jews is supposed to be. “Jewish existence” is basically the biblical narrative that gives birth to Jesus, after which actual-existing Jews appear to have no role in your narrative — which makes sense, given that they have no role in Irenaeus’s narrative either.

  27. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Probably not necessary, but: nothing but love, of course! And I should point out that my Politics of Redemption barely deals with Judaism at all — only a couple years after graduating did I start researching Jewish thought in any serious way, weirdly as a result of blog comments (i.e., Bruce Rosenstock, who I really wish would show up…).

  28. Tim McGee Says:

    On Foucault: I think Carter’s point is that, insofar as Foucault sees the Protestant counter-history as building within a certain use of Hebrew Scripture, and insofar as this counter-history is deemed a historical modality to be embraced or through which to understand the world, the Jew’s own religious particularity (claims to election) begin to symbolize the hardening of this counter-history into a racial identity that impedes the very movement of liberation (or counter-history) originally conceived in its name. The question is not the “source” of these reflections on Hebrew Bible but on how Jewish identity gets conceived on the basis of these reflections. It is at this point that Foucault’s positive embrace differs from the African-American embrace that Carter will outline, for Foucault unintentionally carries forward the concern over the Jew as religious/racial impediment to the continual transgression of boundaries that is the freedom of critique/Enlightenment. In the critique/transgression of boundaries of identity, the Jew who refuses to submit to this dissolution or opening up of Jewish particularity stands as a symbol for a retrogressive hardness, a kind of embrace of religion-as-racial-identity that must be overcome as part of the counter-history originally conceived in their name. Carter’s point isn’t that Foucault jumps headlong into this option but that his thought remains haunted by it–the critique isn’t thorough enough on this point to allow him to successfully dislodge it.

    Perhaps that also helps clarify Carter’s concern over Jewish identity, Israel, and biblical Israel. He is, as you point out, not engaged in a kind of Jewish-Christian interreligious dialogue but is instead probing how the construction of modern identity vis-a-vis the racial state has embedded within it a deep anti-Jewish logic that must be surfaced and redirected in the effort to produce constructions of identity beyond this racial formation. To return to Foucault: Foucault actually surfaces much of this formation but simply can’t work through the theological questions he himself raises and so too quickly dismisses them in his account (which allows them to have a residual effect).

  29. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    Adam, I’ve already responded to your point about my reading of F. Nothing that you’ve ultimately said, I think, takes away from the way I’m reading him. Even if I concede your point that there may be need to make sure there isn’t slippage between ancient israel and present-day Jews in my execution of my project (something I don’t have a tin against), my argument and fundamental point still holds. And that argument concerns Gentile pride and arrogance and hubris as the root of the making of the modern/colonial world and the episteme born of this production. We can distinguish—and should distinguish—ancient Israel and present-day Jews. I’m fine with that; in my future work I’ll do better; I promise. But such a distinction doesn’t mean there’s no connection between the two, nor does this “lapse” in the conceptual deployment of my argument weaken or sabotage the argument.

    Moreover, you’d be right that I’d be thinking within a supersessionistic framework were I thinking under the assumption that Christians had immediate (!) access to the Hebrew bible without the mediation of the Jews. This in no way is my claim; I don’t say anything of the sort in the book; nor do I think it follows from anything I said in the book or the book overall argument.

    As I often say to my students: It might be helpful to think of the Christian reality in terms of a party. The Jewish people are having a party (the story of Hebrew scripture) to which we Gentiles are not privy and have not been invited–unless someone from this people invites you to the party. (Think of the story of Ruth the gentile and Naomi the Jew.) Moreover, all of the discourse of the party, the symbols used at the party, the language that people are speaking at the party is one that you as a Gentile neither know or could ever know–again, unless someone from party, someone from among this people, introduced you to that language, to the symbols of that community, and how it all works. (This is an important point, for by language here I mean much more than *knowing* or learning Hebrew, its syntax etc, to read the Hebr bible. I mean a mode of existence and life. I mean something tied to the election of the Jewish people/biblical Israel. This can only be opened up to a gentile by invitation and gift. Again, see the story of Ruth and Naomi an example inside of the Hebrew bible that illustrates what I mean.)

    Given this, the question is then is Who is Jesus? He’s the one from among the people of Israel/the Jews who actually did open the doors of the party to Gentiles (it’s not all he did, maybe not even the central thing he did, but he did do this.) He’s the one who in confirming the election and life of the Jewish people in the face of Roman imperial power invited others to the Jewish party, as it were.

    Now to be sure, there were some at the party who didn’t like this, some who derided Jesus for what he did, casting him as a trader to his people. And also, there were some, in fact many, Gentiles who didn’t like this either, being told that they had need of another King, namely, himself. But let it quickly be said that there were also those in the Jewish house-party (replete with rappers, turntables and the like–that was a joke:-), those among this people who were down with what the Jewish Jesus did and what he was doing.

    The debate among those in the party, among the Jewish people, around what this specific Jewish person (Jesus) did in inviting all these gentiles to the party but who had not rights to be there, has raged on and has never ceased.

    It hasn’t ceased because his actions provoked a most basic question: What does it mean to be a Jew? What does Jewish *becoming* mean? Is it a mode of *becoming* like other modes of *becoming*? What does it mean for Jews to follow the God of Israel? Is it the becoming of a cultural nationalism that seals itself off from the other, unable to touch the other, to feel the other, to makes itself known to an-other, to use Fanonian language? Or, is it something else? And if so, how so? Jesus the Jew provided one particular answer to these questions. And his answer had already spurred a debate inside of the life of biblical Israel, a debate that carried on across history up through the life of present-day Jews—of course, with the added complexity now of how within the course of that history a profound change happened: the very gentiles that the Jewish person Jesus invited to the party came to believe that, in fact, the party to which they were invited as guests who had to be tutored in the ways and language and life of the part–that the party was in fact their party!

    My concern is not to pronounce upon the party, for I am a gentile who was invited in (this is grace) because of Jesus the Jew (this is Mediation). My concern in the book and more broadly in my intellectual project as a Christian theologian is to ask a set of question against the backdrop of what Jesus did in what he took as his own being a faithful Jew and follower of YHWH or the one he called “Father”. Those questions can be summed us thus: What is Christian *becoming*? Is it like other forms of *becoming*? What does it mean to be a disciple, a follower of the God witnessed to by the Jewish person Jesus? How does Christian discipleship/becoming, which takes place inside of Jewish discipleship/becoming before the God of Israel/YHWH as disclosed to us not directly but in the mediating life of the Jewish man Jesus?

    From this, it should be clear (I hope) that I’m not bypassing Jews in the name of a immediately known Christian logos. Indeed, I don’t believe I’m doing that for for two reasons. First, throughout this project I have been in ongoing and rigorous conversation with present-day Jews, all of whom don’t buy what I’m saying but see that there is something to it. One person in particular who’s been and continues to be a serious conversation partner in my work is my teacher (still at UVa despite all of the changes there) the Jewish theologian and philosopher Professor Peter V Ochs. And there are other Jewish intellectuals who are vital to my work. But the other reason why or at least I hope I’m not living out or thinking in terms of Gentile pride and hubris in this project is because the biggest theological move that grounds my project is a christological one that seeks to rearticulate the identity of Jesus himself as not being the religious figure who confirms the identity of the West, the identity of Western Man, but rather as the figure who is both of the ancient/biblical people of Israel and who therefore exists an ongoing tension-filled relationship and connection even with present-day Jews. The does not swirl around the around, Are the Jews ‘saved”, are they the people of God? With their election, this isn’t a question—at all! The question is that of the nature of their (!) party, to revert back to my metaphor? For us as Christians, who today are predominately gentiles, the question is NOT What does it mean to be a Jew? Rather, it is, What does it mean to be a Gentile. And this is a question that Christians, at least, that we can’t answer—we are a riddle to ourselves (Barth). It can only be and has been answer by a Jew. And that Jew, again Christians claim, is Jesus of Nazareth.

    The modern world has resulted from the belief (and the practices of colonialism, imperialism, racial and gender formation, and the making of the biopolitical state) that West Christian gentiles had a direct answer to this question, an answer that entailed policing a Jewish answer to this question, the answer of Jewish election. All I’m saying is that F is wrestling with the fallout of the answer to this question that yielded the modern/colonial world. Thus, I’m situating F within a problematic that connected to and wider than what he himself saw. In this regard, I’m constructively reading F, reading both that said and the-unsaid and the-unable-to-be-said within his project.

  30. Adam Kotsko Says:

    We’re probably at the point where others need to join in the conversation if we’re going to make any progress. Brandy is probably going to post on the next chapter today or tomorrow, too, so that can provide an opportunity to regroup.

  31. J. Kameron Carter Says:

    No problem at all. And you I’m with you Adam in regards: this all in love and nothing personal at all. much peace.

  32. Adam Kotsko Says:

    We’ll have to hold really firm to that once we get around to the Cone chapter.

  33. Hill Says:

    I would contend that quite a bit of progress is being made in the comment thread as it is currently configured.

  34. dbarber Says:

    (note: missing the letter x and z)
    Let me tr to recap and extend Adam’s point: the narrative of Israel that F sas cannot resist biopolitics is a _Christian_ narrative of Israel. So in this sense is criticism as nothing to do with Jewish existence, it as to do with Christian existence.

    This seems to be agreed on b all here. If so, then we can agree F is actuall criticizing an effect of supersessionism. So F is, in fact, anti-Christian … But mabe not anti-Xn enough. No doubt the case. So this i think means the question is how to be more adequatel anti-Xn.

    F, it is being said, “surfaces” the question of Jewish existence. Right. So the question of how to be full anti-Xn as to do with the question of Jewish existence. Being anti-Xn means looking at the manner Jewish existence is devalorized b Christianit.

    This is of course a modern problem. But not just modern. There’s a pre-histor to it, one that points to figures such as Irenaeus, who locates Israel within Christ. Or to Paul. So doesn’t the question of anti-Xn and Jewish existence push into te ver origin of theolog … that is, the distinction between Israel-as-Jesus and Jewis existence (with its own reading of Israel)

    This is perhaps another matter, but not completel.I think the pushback on the F interpretation is because it could be seen as a diversionar tactic – F ma not be enoug, but if so wh go after F … wh not go after Christian theolog. In other words it seems like the burden might be getting put on F when it would better be put on theolog. F “surfaces” the problem, as the modern secular (if we follow Anidjar the Xn secular) buries it, but isn’t it Christianit that produced it.

    These are the questions i think that are emerging here. Especiall because of the theolog vs. pseudotheolog distinction – what would be a theolog that responds to Jewish existence, not just to Israel-as-fulfiled-in-Xt … This, again, is wh the distinction between “Israel” and Jewish existence is important. And note the work of someone like Seth Schwarz, who argues that Jewish existence, as we now know it, defines itself quite directl in opposition to Xn theolog — i.e. the theolog of the era of Irenaeus & co., i.e. right from the beginning of Xn theolog.

    (I know ou’re now working on Xtolog, so these are likel live questions for ou; for m part, i’ve advanced a stronger version of the above claim in m own forthcoming book, so these matters are central for me also.)

  35. dbarber Says:

    letter between x and z

  36. Brad Johnson Says:

    Dan, was the omission of x thru z due to a technical malfunction of some sort, or is this some sort of syntactical exercise you’ve taken on? I assume the former, but want so much to believe the latter.

  37. dbarber Says:

    oulipo!

  38. dbarber Says:

    … but, that aside, i hope my comment is able to clarify some issues, and would be interested in hearing thoughts from others on them.

  39. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Dan addresses some of my core concerns. To put it more in terms of the theological points of reference, it does seem like Jay makes the case that there’s some kind of parallel going between Kant and Irenaeus’s description of what he calls Gnosticism. But Irenaeus’s answer is just an argument that’s less supercessionist than Marcion (or I guess Valentinius, though it’s not clear to me that anti-Judaism was necessarily part of the package for him).

    Irenaeus maintains the connection to the Old Testament, construed precisely as such — and as for Irenaeus’s contemporary Jews, I honestly can’t remember a single place where he addresses them (other than lumping in the so-called “Ebionites,” who appear to have been something like “Jewish Christians,” with the Gnostics, thus actively rejecting some contemporary Jews who have signed on for the Jesus thing). You can make the case that modernity introduces an imbalance into this system that pushed the supercessionism into high gear in a Marcion-like way — one pretty clear give-away is probably Harnack’s book on Marcion, where he says we should probably go ahead and follow Marcion’s lead… — but calling modernity simply supercessionist seems to understate the problem. It’s another layer on top of an already supercessionist Christendom.

    If supercessionism is the core problem, you have to go back further than pre-modernity, as Dan is saying.

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