29 January 2009

The political theologies of Paul of Tarsus

A seminar at the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), 26-29 March 2009 at Harvard.


The figure of Paul dominates the self-understanding of western political and social institutions as Judeo-Christian in their heritage; its significance extends beyond purely religious concerns. The recent resurgence of interest in Paul among theologians, philosophers, and political theorists also attests to the importance of Pauline theology for the contemporary socio-political realm. This "globalization" of Paul has in no small part been enabled by the recognition that Paul's concern for law and justice has little to do with individual salvation or private righteousness, and rather more with its own "globalization" of a "local" context: the decaying Roman empire, in which "nationality" consisted in a multiplicity of "ethnoi" hoping for a justice to come beyond any particular instantiation of justice by law. Taking the plurality and multilingualism of peoples and faiths underlying Paul's universalizing aspirations as a departure, this seminar invites papers to explore and elaborate on any aspect of the politicization and radicalization of his thought. Possible topics include: How does the recent focus on Paul — in texts by Agamben, Badiou, Derrida, and Taubes, for instance - seek to renew a critical language of authority, hospitality, community, and universality within contemporary philosophical and political discourse? To what extent do these political theologies join or part ways with other interpretive communities such as psychoanalysis and Latin American liberation theology? How might translation - by Paul, by his exegetes from Origen to Barth - help (re)draw political boundaries in Pauline discourse? Does the engagement with Paul in literature and film by Hölderlin, Hebel, Kafka, Pasolini, or others challenge the exegetical tradition, or does the local character of interpretation participate in Paul's epistolary message about radical community?

The deadline for paper proposals has passed.

Seminar Organizers: Julia Ng, Northwestern University; Virgil Brower, Northwestern University and Chicago Theological Seminary; Markus Hardtmann, Centre College

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