White guilt? No thanks! But please pass the white shame.

I appreciated the way George Yancy talked about guilt in his recent New York Times piece. I have been trying to think through what it means to attempt an ethics in a world where ideal ethical living is basically impossible. Without going all the way with someone like Dworkin, I know that the relationship those of us with partners have as a couple or even those in polyamorous relationships, however loving and supportive and equal we all try to make it, is still structured by patriarchal norms, capitalism, and heteronormativity. I use that example because it is something most of us live everyday and can reflect on easily. In our homes all the problems of nature and culture meet, all the problems of politics and ethics coalesce, and we navigate them the best we can, but we are bound to failure. The failure of our society and our culture. This is true of myself too but I don’t feel guilt about that. Feeling guilt would imply I was doing some individual action that sullied something that was working before. But I do feel uneasy, I do feel a certain sense of shame because of the subject position as male I am recognized as and inhabit in the social world. 

This is often how I talk to my students about issues of race as well. I tend to work with this distinction between guilt and shame as derived first from the anthropologist Victor Turner and then reworked by the environmental scientist and theorist William Jordan III (though I suspect there are others more attuned to race that I simply have not yet encountered, this being part of the shame of finitude). Read the rest of this entry »

“That was a nice touch”: The Hateful Eight and the Inescapable Violence of Being American

Back in 2009 I wrote a post after watching Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. In that post I reveled in the joy of that film. After all, we get to be party to the killing of Hitler, to the refusal of forgiveness. At the same time, at the end of the film, Tarantino does something that he often does in his consistent refusal to allow some viewers-arguably the majority of them-any comfort. For, though we get to enjoy the fact that, this time, the angel of history wasn’t so powerless, we find out at the end of the film that we are in fact the Nazi. For the film ends from the perspective of Hans Landa after he’s had a swastika carved into his forehead. From the perspective of the camera it is in fact we, the consumers of this violence, who are now marked with the shame of our own enjoyment. (This is, I am sure, not my original idea, but I cannot remember for the life of me who wrote something along these lines. If you do let me know in the comments.) Something similar happens in The Hateful Eight, except without really any of the enjoyment of a clear moral division as there was between the Jewish guerillas and the Nazis.

It should be assumed that from this point forward there are spoilersRead the rest of this entry »

50% off François Laruelle's Principles of Non-Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide

My new book, François Laruelle’s Principles of Non-Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide, is coming out with EUP later this month in the UK and in January in the US. You can currently preorder it for 50% off through OUP’s website with the code HOLIDAYSALE15. Free shipping for orders over $150. But even without it, you’re basically getting the book for the same cost as I would with my author’s discount. cwn-rmwukaapvdo

CFP: Legacies of Colonialism and Philosophies of Resistance, Villanova University

21st Annual Philosophy Conference

Sponsored by the Philosophy Graduate Student Union

Legacies of Colonialism and Philosophies of Resistance”

Keynotes: Dr. Enrique Dussel (UNAM) & Dr. Nelson Maldonado-Torres (Rutgers)

April 14-15, 2016

Villanova University

Call For Papers Read the rest of this entry »

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AUFS at the AAR/SBL

Many readers may find themselves in the midst of the AAR/SBL meeting this week. It is the largest convention for scholars involved in the morass of fields that go under the name “religion”. Below you’ll find a list of sessions that authors of AUFS are taking part of.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Review of Jacob Taubes’ Occidental Eschatology and From Cult to Culture

Below is a long review of two of Jacob Taubes’ recently (relatively) translated works. This was originally written for a journal, but I was not able to speak to the ideological commitments of the journal and so it has languished as they’ve waited for me to correct it. At some point I realized I would never really be able to meet their requests for a variety of reasons and so decided to pull it so they might find a more suitable reviewer. I’m not sure those who are familiar with Taubes or Continental philosophy of religion will find anything new, but since I had spent some time on this (though years ago now) I am posting it here for those who might be interested.

Review of Jacob Taubes, Occidental Eschatology, trans. David Ratmoko (Stanford UP, 2009) and From Cult to Culture: Fragments Toward a Critique of Historical Reason, eds. Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Amir Engel (Stanford UP, 2010).

Anthony Paul Smith (Spring, 2012)

During the mid-point of the Bush-Blair years two intellectual inquiries rose to prominence: questions relating to sovereignty, focused around a renewal of interest in the work of German far-right jurist Carl Schmitt, and questions relating to the so-called “return of religion”, which resulted in a number of para-Marxist engagements with the thought of the Christian apostle Paul. What drove both of these trends from being simply passing academic fancy to something actually reflective of live questions operative within cultural consciousness was their connection to the practice of sovereignty undertaken by the Bush regime and the seeming return of religion into the public sphere, especially in the form of resurgent fundamentalisms vying for political power. These two lines of thought came together in 2004 with the publication of Jacob Taubes’ The Political Theology of Paul in English-translation, which was originally published posthumously in German in 1993 but originally delivered as lectures in 1987. The seminar from which the book comes was to be Taubes last and during its preparation and delivery he was suffering from the final stages of an advanced form of cancer. According to Aleida Assman, the editor of the lectures, Taubes could not stand “even for a moment” during the seminar and delivered his lectures lying down in great pain. This book joined other left-wing philosophical readings of Paul’s writings, like Giorgio Agamben’s The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism, Slavoj Zizek’s own engagements in The Ticklish Subject and The Puppet and the Dwarf, and the less well-known engagement by Jean-François Lyotard in The Hyphen: Between Judaism and Christianity. While there are a number of important theoretical differences at work in these books, though perhaps more minimal with regard to Agamben’s text due in part to shared sources (primarily their working with Benjamin’s theory of time), the crucial difference is that Taubes understood his reading of Paul to be the culmination of his intellectual work. His commitment to give the lectures reveals that Taubes’ intellectual work was more than just an academic interest, but a real struggle with themes and concepts that Taubes believed were of ultimate concern for Occidental history. In the writings of Paul, specifically his “Letter to the Romans”, Taubes finds within Paul, essentially a thinker whose ideas had been completely absorbed into the World (that is, the State, the Church, and all other forms of authority and law), a radical example of the living out of the experience of apocalyptic temporality, an experience that Taubes claims is to be expressed in the philosophical and theological thinking of all true revolutionary moments in history. Read the rest of this entry »

A Debate over the Generic and the Secular

Some of the readers here already listen to my occasional podcast, My Name Is My Name w/ APS, and so will have seen this already. Daniel Barber, Alex Dubilet, and myself have been working on a tri-authored book over the past few months. The impetus for the idea goes back a few years though to discussions occasioned by discussion of the “generic secular” in the Editors’ Introduction that Daniel Whistler and I wrote to After the Postmodern and the Postsecular. We are carrying out the work on the book in public through a series of workshops. At these workshops we aim to present very evocative versions of our work to elicit discussion amongst those working the various disciplines we are engaging with. The first of these workshops, for example, took place at Berkeley where serious work in anthropology and rhetoric around post-secularism finds its home. We recorded our papers for that event and you may listen to them via the podcast.

We will be presenting the next phase of the work this week in Liverpool for the biannual Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion, an important audience for this work. We will be recording our talks there as well. However, these workshops are expensive and we are hoping to cover some immediate costs as well as planning for future ones. If you are able to support us please check out our GoFundMe page where you can find more information about the project as well. These funds are only to cover our costs, including future renumeration for a fourth participant in the project who will be acting as a moderator for one part of the book.

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