Wovon man nicht sprechen kann…

A colleague of mine once said that among white students, discussions of race tend toward silence, while discussions of gender tend toward anger. This sounds right to me, and certainly these reactions are not limited to white students. It seems to me that both phenomena share a common root: discomfort with any kind of generalization. Read the rest of this entry »

Forsaking Futurity and a Call for Feminist Theologies: A Response to Gender & the Studio, Part Three

Abstract: Rather than delve into the potential theo-logic of a Butlerian “constructivist” account of gender, this blog post proposes that we pause, and instead question the discursive operations undergirding the very idea of “the future of systematic theology.” The effort to secure the existence of systematic theology, I suggest, is idolatrous—rather, systematic theology needs to lose its own life in order to potentially save it, and can begin to move in that direction by attending to the concrete, historic, material, discursive realities of people’s lives, especially those on the underside. This “losing” is both practical and apophatic, in that it acknowledges that the task demands constant attention to the material realities of people’s lives and the discursive regimes that produce those realities, and that we cannot seek to grasp or claim or secure a telos or overarching discourse. I end, then, by turning briefly to the potentialities within a constructivist frame, and offering some suggestions for possibilities for Christian feminist theologies.

  Read the rest of this entry »

The Third Way!

You know how every so often I’ll say that any political ideology putting itself forward as a brave new path beyond the stale opposition of left and right is always going to be either boring old liberalism or else a new variant on fascism? And you know how everyone always gets really really pissed off about that and thinks I’m giving short shrift to the innovative new ideas of communitarianism and subsidiarity, etc., etc.?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Phillip Blond’s proposal to build the Big Society by means of military academies! Thank you, Mr. Blond, for proving my point for me!

Three thoughts on not having a Facebook account

Now that an anti-Facebook backlash seems to be gathering momentum, I feel increasingly vindicated that I’m one of those lucky few who never signed up in the first place. I will never be able to capture my objections to Facebook with the Adornoesque rigor of Rob Horning, but I would like to put three semi-related points forward:

  1. The last thing I need is another thing to “check” constantly. I know I’m basically an internet addict, and my initial reason for not signing up was precisely that people were finding Facebook so engrossing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it, at least at first, but I also know that it would have crowded out things that are more important to me — or at least made me less attentive and focused while doing them. So to this extent, my initial choice not to sign up was driven by my recognition of personal weakness rather than by any overarching principle. BUT:

  2. I want to have control over how I present myself. It seems like every two weeks there’s a story about Facebook arbitrarily revealing things you thought were private, etc. This possibility always disturbed me. I am probably an over-sharer in many contexts, but at least when it comes to blogging and Twitter, it’s pretty clear what’s out there or not and how to keep things from getting out there — I’m not going to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress has arbitrarily published all my drafts, for example.
  3. I don’t want to be continually reminded of my past. Some relationships are for a certain time, and then it’s okay for them to drift away. I’m grateful for the friends I had in high school and college, and I’ve kept in contact with the ones I wanted to keep in contact with. I can understand the desire to see what people are up to, but it seems like many accounts of Facebook arguments, etc., are a product of putting people back together who don’t belong together anymore — so that all it produces is needless friction. This is compounded by the fact that I was largely miserable between elementary school and grad school. I’m sure everyone has turned out to be a wonderful person and I’m so happy for all of them — but my mental health is largely premised on not thinking about past eras of my life all the time.

I’ve been told that Facebook is a great way to do marketing and to get to know other academics — i.e., it can be future-oriented — but the concerns I list above incline me to just wait until it inevitably flops and we all move on to the next thing.

Psychotic America: On divine hatred

In the afterword to the tenth anniversary edition of Nickeled and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich reveals America to be a society that actively hates, torments, and criminalizes the poor.

One is reminded of Psalm 82:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgement:
‘How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?

Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, ‘You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.’

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
for all the nations belong to you!

The nations that come under God’s judgment, however, are simply failing to intervene on behalf of the poor — presumably the psalmist could not envision a situation in which the poor were being actively punished and humiliated on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Medicalization and ideology

I’m often struck by how deeply affected our common discourse has been by the language psychology. Nowhere is this clearer than in the absolutely pervasive use of the term “depressed” to refer to virtually any negative emotional state. One rarely hears the word “sad” anymore — everything that was previously “sad” is now “depressing.”

What changes with the shift to “depressing”? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in rants. 6 Comments »

In Defense of a Grey Ecology: The Amphibology of the Greenest Green and the Blackest Black

It is probably narcissistic to think that the last paragraph of Owen’s recent Guardian piece is due in part to a conversation we recently had when he was visiting Nottingham, but during that conversation I talked to him about the importance of a militant urban ecology for facing the current ecological crisis. In truth I shouldn’t say crisis, because in a time where there is nothing but crises and crises that the capitalist system feeds off of we risk losing our bearings, we risk distraction, and the kind of hysteric worry that comes when one is assured that there is no real hope of coming through the crisis. This is not a crisis, it is but a spur, a spur to think more rationally, more humanly in the generic sense, towards a kind of disinterested, unalienated earthly humanity. So what follows is a bit of a note on Owen’s piece in an effort not just to combat the usual stupidity of the comments that litter CiF, but the stupidity of the “green” movement itself. That stupidity that thinks the answer to the ecological crisis is hair shirts, apologies to Gaia for being human, and the working towards the death of millions in the name of some kind of “respect for nature”. Read the rest of this entry »

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