Two New Journals

As I continue to think through my responses to the excellent latest posts on A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature, I thought that I should point readers to two new journal ventures. The first is a reviews journal that comes out of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World.

The other is a student-run journal coming out of UWO’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. The journal, named Chiasma, features a number of strong articles touching on themes that AUFS readers will be interested in (the range present between Eileen Joy’s article on hope and Roland Boer’s discussion of Kautsky speaks to the openness of the journal’s focus). Of special interest, however, may be the two articles on Laruelle (one that connects his work up with Audre Lorde) and a short piece by Laruelle himself on deconstruction.

Also, as a side note, NDPR just posted a very strong review of Principles of Non-Philosophy(translated by Nicola Rubczak and myself).

A hypothetical course on Islam

Let’s say, just in theory, that a friend of mine were to be assigned to teach an introductory course on Islamic thought at a college with a discussion-centric pedagogy based on primary texts. Let’s say further that this friend of mine wants to strike a balance between Islamic scripture, legal reasoning, philosophy, art, and literature — perhaps capping off the course with a modern novel in an Islamic setting. What would you recommend to this completely hypothetical person?

On the Muslim question

i recently read Anne Norton’s On the Muslim Question (Princeton 2013), and thought i’d post some quick comments. A friend over last night to watch Seven Psychopaths and play a few rounds of dutch blitz noticed the book lying on the table and asked, “so what’s the answer?” What is the answer to the Muslim question? “All of the above,” I replied. “Yes to all of the above forms of life.” And like Colin Farrell in the film, a screenwriter who wants to make a life-affirming movie about carnage and destruction (serial killer serial killers), the book works through scenes of torture and drones and state terror to urge us finally to recognize what is already happening all around us. Not “war is over, if you want it”, because of course there is and will ever be conflict, but “snow removal and garbage collection, if you want it”. Norton argues that the figure of the Muslim today, much like the figure of the Jew earlier, is where a host of Western anxieties converge — anxieties about democracy, secularism, sexuality, equality, freedom. Yet these anxieties have less to do with Muslims per se than with problematics internal to the West and its history. And so Norton in elegant prose lays out just how unexceptional Muslims are. (How terrible that this is itself an achievement.) These are questions of living together, and people every day work out how to do so. She concludes:

Knowing these things, I see the Muslim question as the Jewish question of our time: standing at the site where politics and ethics, philosophy and theology meet. This is the knot where the politics of class, sex, and sexuality, of culture, race, and ethnicity are entangled; the site where structures of hierarchy and subordination are anchored. It is here, on this terrain, that the question of the democratic — its resurgence or further repression — is being fought out. (228)

And in this demonstration, for me as for others, there is a sort of relief. It means that the burden of these questions is not inexorable. It means they can be shared — with you, between us.

Almost the opposite strategy was offered by Martha Nussbaum in last year’s The New Religious Intolerance (Harvard). Read the rest of this entry »

Miracle and Machine/Islam

Philosophy (and philosophy of religion) no less than other disciplines today remains immune from Islam and the questions of Islam. (Islamic studies mirrors this, for all its contemporary heat and funding, in maintaining its textualist heritage against the vapid enthusiasm for “interdisciplinarity” bursting from the other humanities.) Thus Islam appears in philosophy for the most part either as a cipher for religion-as/and-politics (that is, a cipher for danger) or as a recourse to gain critical distance for one’s argument. We can offer various hypotheses about this limit, but remarkable here is that Derrida follows neither of these courses, trying also to avoid the temptation of taking Islam as “available” to his arguments. Thus Islam is introduced in “Faith and Knowledge” under the question of the name (Islam, or a certain Islam, what passes for Islam today, or what speaks in the name of Islam). Islam is “clearly not just one religion among others in the current debates about the fate or place of religion” (25). Yet when Derrida looked across the conference table at Capri almost two decades ago, he saw (only) European men. “No Muslim is among us, alas, even for this preliminary discussion, just at the moment when it is toward Islam, perhaps, that we ought to begin by turning our attention” (§5). The references to Islam that follow in the rest of the essay through Miracle and Machine - undermining the confidence of translation, figuring the risk of democracy, attacking the right to literature, possessing a global “prerogative” to the question of religion - should be read in the melancholic light of this observation. Read the rest of this entry »

Zizek Urinalysis: a question regarding Hegelian urination and insemination

I am working through Zizek’s portions of God in Pain.  On pp. 114-115, he quotes Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, 210: Read the rest of this entry »

Contemporary Jewish and Islamic Writings on Job

I’m currently in the planning stages of a course for next year. Currently the title of the course is “Contemporary Religious Thinking” and so, as you can expect, the options for this are quite vast. At the moment I’m playing around with the idea of having the course focus around suffering and violence by looking at contemporary responses to the book of Job. So we would read Alter’s translation of Job together and then the Job books of Gutierrez, Jung, and Negri. This would cover some very different “religious” forms of thinking, but I want to include responses from Judaism and Islam as well. Do any of our august readers know of any contemporary (so broadly within the 20th-21st centuries) works on Job from these traditions?

Audio of “From the Fractured One of Shi’ism: On a Speculative Theory of Concealment and Dissimulation”

I expect that there will continue to be relatively little from me on the blog until I’ve finished my dissertation (the tentative hand-in date is July 1st). On Wednesday, though, I took time out to present a paper on some of the work in Islam I’ve been doing for the “Speculative Philosophies and Religious Practices: New Directions in the Philosophy of Religion and Post-Secular Practical Theology” workshop co-organized by Daniel Whistler. The event was good and it was interesting to speak with practical theologians whose concerns are very different than my own. My talk, “From the Fractured One of Shi’ism: On a Speculative Theory of Concealment and Dissimulation“, was a mix of the personal, reflecting on the environment in which my interest in Islam has grown, as well as the beginnings of some of my speculative re-working of certain Islamic practices. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really like giving very technical papers and this is the second polemic I’ve given, but I hope to bear out the argument more intentionally in its future written form.

Easter Sunday Sermon: “Too Good to Be True!”

The following is my draft of my sermon for this coming Easter Sunday, which will be delivered at Zion “Goshert’s” United Church of Christ, where I am Pastor.  There’s a lot going on here, perhaps too much, although it’s still not terribly long, and I’d love to hear your feedback.  I am preaching from the lectionary, although modified a little, primarily upon Colossians 3:1-4 and Matthew 27:45-28:15.  I will be incorporating the children’s book, Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, into the children’s message and into the following sermon.  Thanks for reading. 

UPDATE:  Revision posted 4/22, noon (EST)

When was the last time something happened to you that was just too good to be true?  Like finding out that the one you had a crush on also has a crush on you?  Or that after searching for a long time, you finally got a job that you like?  Or after years of waiting, your prayers are answered?

But we also live in a world where sometimes what could be believed to be too good to be true doesn’t happen and we are just faced with a long line of bad luck.

And we can also conceive of the fact that when things do go our way, and when our prayers are answered, that we are rarely, if ever, satisfied when the things that we believe to be too good to be true actually happen.  They might be “good” but we can always think of something better.  Read the rest of this entry »

Some Philosophical Fragments on the Struggles in Tunisia and Egypt

Like many of our readers I’ve watched the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt unfold with a mixture of hopeful expectation and anxious trepidation. It has been a long time since something called a revolution has actually been one. Still, I am one of those on the Left who celebrate every act of resistance, regardless of its subsequent failure, because they serve to remind all of us that the state we are in is always contingent. That there are fissures and cracks dotting the seemingly monolithic entity that is Empire. And so with the same expectation I have watched and tried to understand. I don’t think that I do completely understand, as I’m sure most of us feel, but I felt the need to write down some thoughts on the matter especially since the other big theology blogs yet again remain silent in the face of massive political and social unrest. Preferring instead to continue their usual self-flagellation about their chosen career path or posting links to lectures by yet another conservative theologian espousing a sophisticated form of apologetics. Read the rest of this entry »

I wish I could quit you

For those hungry for more Milbankian outrage, X-Cathedra has a very thorough post detailing some of Milbank’s previous arguments in favor of Western imperialism, along with a few scholarly responses thereto. A highlight:

He also includes an odd and manifestly reductive genealogy of the fundamental difference that makes “the West” and “the East” culturally incommensurable (all in three pages!). This of course translates into two different views of religio-political power and thus two different kinds of empire: because the East has an essentially arbitrary understanding of divine and regal power, it has no resources within itself to regulate or redeem its imperial strain; but for the West, justice and the Good “are themselves the vehicles of Western imperialism.” And while the latter may occasionally don the mask of domination, at the very least the Western type can (theoretically) produce an internal cultural critique (295). Hence, the antidote to the Western abuse of power can only come from within Western culture itself. Further, because the idea of an “essential Christianity” free from all cultural attachments is a myth, a non-Western cultural expression of Christianity “is just nonsensical” (292).

Sounds like Milbank needs to take my Global Christianity course this fall!

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