This article aims to present Judith Butler’s theory of diaspora as a theological paradigm for post-secular social existence. Her accounts of dispossession, statelessness, and exilic identity all afford us a normative challenge for how to think politics and the theological together. We begin by framing Judith Butler’s diasporic theory of politics within Adriennes Rich’s poetic perspective on ecstatic identity. We proceed to argue that by emphasizing both the precariousness and interdependency of social life, Rich and Butler’s shared commitments to universalizing (...) queer forms of collective belonging and affective relations offer an alternative post-secular paradigm to that offered so far by theorists such as Charles Taylor or Jürgen Habermas. Achieving a post-secular “state” may ultimately be a matter of embracing the failure of our own representations, particularly the failures of contemporary religion to represent either the divine or the human, or to constitute a society with its own political theology. It is paradoxically this kind of failure that can open us up to look at ourselves, and to focus on the precariousness and vulnerability of human existence that we see with our very eyes and reproduced by our very own hands. (shrink)
The legacy of an antinomian messianism within a Jewish historical context -- Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben on the processes of messianicity and canonicity -- Conclusions formulated on the basis of part I: recognizing the challenges of a "political theology of immanence" -- The radical hermeneutics of theology -- The "violence" of the canon: a contemporary context for the canonical form -- The necessity of hermeneutics.
This article seeks to lay out an analysis of Giorgio Agamben’s central claims with regard to the formation of a theory of citationality. By juxtaposing Walter Benjamin’s theory of citations alongside his more recent, critical engagements with the Western theological tradition, Agamben sets himself the goal of redefining ethics along Levinasian lines in order to arrive at a respect for the face of ‘whatever’ being before us, the true source towards which all citations point.
For Derrida, the ‘‘as if’’, as a regulative principle directly appropriated and modified from its Kantian context, becomes the central lynchpin for understanding, not only Derrida's philosophical system as a whole, but also his numerous seemingly enigmatic references to his ‘‘jewishness’’. Through an analysis of the function of the ‘‘as if’’ within the history of thought, from Greek tragedy to the poetry of Wallace Stevens, I hope to show how Derrida can only appropriate his Judaic roots as an act of (...) mourning that seeks to render the lost object as present, ‘‘as if’’ it were incorporated by the subject for whom this act nevertheless remains an impossibility. As Derrida discerns within the poetry of Paul Celan, bringing a sense of presence/presentness to our experiences, and as a confirmation of the subject which the human being struggles to assert, is the poetic task par excellence. It is seemingly also, if Derrida is to be understood on this point, the only option left to a humanity wherein poetry comes to express what religious formulations can no longer justify. (shrink)
The ‘messianic’ is one of philosophy’s most appropriated religious terms, yet one apparently now bereft of its historical religious particularity. This essay thus explores a genealogical approach to the ‘messianic’ which might prove helpful in uncovering the reasons for this transformation from the theological to the philosophical, and what role, if any, theology still has in determining the meaning and usage of this term. Accordingly, this essay traces the term through the work of Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben. (...) This development is made against the backdrop of another religious term which indirectly pervades the work of all three authors: the canon. The canonical is a term which lingers on the margins of these messianic discourses and needs to be explored further in the context of this work in order to provide a fitting foil to these otherwise ‘purely philosophical’ developments of the messianic. The necessity for invoking the canonical form will become clear as this analysis is extended to the work of Agamben in order to determine how canons remain an unstated factor in his attempt to eradicate all representation from a just ethical paradigm. In this attempt to articulate a model of understanding that goes beyond the universal/particular divide, he will in fact advance a movement from particularity to particularity which can be profoundly read as a genuine paradigm for articulating a theological principle of creation. Thus, this essay intends to point toward two related conclusions: first, that the triad of canon-creation-representation might be understood as a necessity for cultural intelligibility, yet one that must also be seen in relation to its messianic-redemptive-unrepresented elements; and, second, that even this epistemological framework can be undone through a bid to end all representations which nonetheless allows us to return to a more profound realization of creation. (shrink)
This essay seeks to articulate the many implications which Giorgio Agamben's work holds for theology. It aims, therefore, to examine his conceptualizations of language in light of particular historical glosses on the “name of God” and the nature of the “mystical,” as well as to highlight the political task of profanation, one of his most central concepts, in relation to the logos said to embody humanity's “religious” quest to find its Voice. As such, we see how he challenges those standard (...) notions of transcendence which have been consistently aligned with various historical forms of sovereignty. In addition, I intend to present his redefinition of revelation as solely the unveiling of the “name of God” as the fact of our linguistic being, a movement from the transcendent divine realm to the merely human world before us. By proceeding in this manner, this essay tries to close in on one of the largest theological implications contained within Agamben's work: the establishment of an ontology that could only be described as a form of “absolute” immanence, an espousal of some form of pantheism yet to be more fully pronounced within his writings. (shrink)
Though the work of René Girard has highlighted the interrelations between sacrifice and sacrality in the contemporary world, it has yet to engage the work of Walter Benjamin and his heir, Giorgio Agamben, whose project concerning the Homo Sacer has aroused interest in contemporary political thought. By focusing on Benjamin's early description of mimesis and its relation to language, a position can be elaborated that steers mimesis clear of its indebtedness to language and towards a ‘purer’ realm of gesture. Benjamin's (...) formulation of a more proper ‘divine’ language of gestures could then be said to coalesce with certain historical-religious proclamations, something that Agamben's work challenges us to consider as a viable, albeit ‘profane’, political and ethical option for humanity. (shrink)
The work of Giorgio Agamben could perhaps best be described as an original extension of the onto-theological critique that has dominated much of the last century’s philosophical endeavors. For him, this fundamental critical perspective extends itself toward the deconstruction of traditional significations, including the boundaries said to exist between the human and the animal as well as between the human and the divine. By repeatedly unveiling these arbitrary divisions as being a result of the state of ‘original sin’ in which (...) we dwell, Agamben aims to advance philosophical discourse ‘beyond representation’ and toward a ‘pure’ encounter with the myriad of faces always ever present before us. In this sense, he works toward redefining ‘revelation’ as being little more than an exposure of our animality, something which indeed lies now unveiled at the real root of our being. This animality is in fact locateable beyond the separation of being into form and content, a division which is rather indebted to the onto-theological representations that have governed the discourse of being.By focusing instead on the manner in which paradigms could be said to operate over and against the rule of representations, he articulates a movement from particularity to particularity that resists the temptation to universalize our language on being. In this sense, then, the analogical logic of the paradigm, expressed always through the absolutely singular, exposes the beings which we all are before another, rather than violently condense any given being into a formal representation. By thus determining the contours of the paradigmatic expression, this essay intends to unite several ‘loose’ strands of Agamben’s thought in order to demonstrate the consequence of this line of inquiry: that the end of representation, often criticized as a form of political nihilism, is the only way in which to develop a justifiable ethics, one beyond the traditional binary divisions of subject and object, or of universal and particular. In the end, as Agamben illustrates repeatedly, there is only the ‘thingness’ that each thing is, and which must be safeguarded in its precarity, thus paving the way for an ethical discourse to appear.It is a final gesture toward the messianic, then, toward a religiously-inflected terminology which hovers over his entire oeuvre, that will ultimately guide Agamben’s ‘political’ project back toward its canonical moment most clearly identifiable within the Christian heritage. As his reading of Benjamin’s relationship to Saint Paul indicates, there is much to be discerned for him in the transition from Judaic law to Christian ‘forms of life’ . Rather than be content with a simple re-affirmation of Christian claims, however, Agamben deftly maneuvers his own position toward one of exposing the logic of Christianity as that which reveals a deep investment in a pantheistic worldview, one which theology can no longer afford to ignore. (shrink)
René Girard’s work often seems suspect to liberals, because it appears as a totalizing narrative. Such hesitancy with respect to either dismissing or endorsing it follows from the demise of “grand narratives” that brought with them imperialistic and hegemonic tendencies. Yet if a liberal viewpoint does not embrace Girard, it is for different reasons that conservatives are either fully supportive of his thought as promising a return to religious values or hesitant about accepting his theories because they critique a form (...) of violence inherent to any community. Girardian thought, it can be argued, has focused on deconstructing mythological justifications for violent activity at the expense of establishing a fruitful position regarding positive communal formations. The tensions between these juxtaposed liberal and conservative viewpoints, as taken up in this article, illustrate an impasse between deconstructivist-genealogists and communitarians —one that shows up in a variety of contexts today. Highlighting this particular standoff in interpretations of Girard can, nevertheless, yield important insights regarding the ultimate significance of his work. (shrink)
Critiques of Derrida from contemporary Marxist positions are nothing new, though the nature and force of their argumentation need to be further analyzed in order to conceive of what stake Derrida will continue to have in our understanding of any political inheritance within the coming decades. In this essay, I seek to advance the conversation between Derrida and his Hegelian-Marxist critics—with Slavoj Žižek’s unique reading of Derrida being here foremost among them—in order to ascertain more precisely the framework of debate (...) on dialectics and deconstruction that continues to define our realms of political representation. (shrink)
This concise yet thorough summary of 20th century continental thought explores research questions that are relevant to contemporary developments in the fields of continental philosophy and political theology, wrestling with the implications of entering a post-secular epoch in both fields.