17 April 2010

Articles on political theology, third installment

Here's a third installment of recent articles:

Seyla Benhabib (Yale), "The Return of Political Theology: The Scarf Affair in Comparative Constitutional Perspective in France, Germany and Turkey", Philosophy & Social Criticism, 36 (3-4), March 2010:
pp. 451-71.

Abstract: "Increasingly in today's world we are experiencing intensifying antagonisms around religious and ethno-cultural differences. The confrontation between political Islam and the so-called 'West' has replaced the rhetoric of the Cold War against communism. This new constellation has not only challenged the hypothesis that 'secularization' inevitably accompanied modernity but has also placed on the agenda political theology as a potent force in many societies. This article analyzes the contemporary revival of political theology by focusing on the headscarf debate in comparative constitutional perspective. It compares the well-known decision of the French Parliament banning the wearing of the headscarf in public schools (2004) with the decision of the German Constitutional Court concerning whether Fereshta Ludin, an Afghani-German teacher wearing the hijab, could teach in German schools (2003) and with the more recent judgment of the Turkish Constitutional Court (summer 2008) upholding the ban on the wearing of the scarf or the turban in institutions of higher learning. At stake in these debates is not only the meaning of fundamental human rights but also why women and their bodies become the object of disciplinary conflicts in culture, law and religion."

Ola Sigurdson (University of Gothenburg), "Beyond Secularism? Towards a Post-Secular Political Theology", Modern Theology, 26 (2), April 2010: pp. 177-96.

Abstract: "In this article I analyse some of the reasons for a recent, resurgent interest in religion and theology by political philosophers and relate this interest to an inherent instability in modernity itself. In the first part I describe the landscape of current political philosophy with a particular emphasis on radical philosophers. In the second part I describe how the liberal distinction between religion and politics generates a theological instability due to the effective disappearance of the social embodiment of religion within modernity. In the third part I draw some conclusions regarding the challenges the new post-secular condition presents to theology."

Jared Hickman (Johns Hopkins University), "Globalization and the Gods, or the Political Theology of 'Race'", Early American Literature, 45 (1), 2010: pp. 145-82.

Excerpt: "Modernity is getting modernized. In order to explain the world in the early twenty-first century – a transnational world from which religion shows no signs of disappearing – recent scholarship increasingly considers modernity in terms of a long history of globalization whose relativizing effects cannot be equated with 'disenchantment.' In this framework, the colonial Americas – as the bridge between Atlantic and Pacific worlds – rather than Enlightenment Europe immediately take modernity's center stage insofar as globalization, by definition, became possible only with the European 'discovery' of the Americas and the momentous transformations this enabled. Eurocentrism takes an unprecedented hit when we trace modernity to an incipient globalization that necessarily coincides with intercultural encounter in the Americas and beyond rather than to an Enlightenment that proceeds from intracultural European self-reflection."

Charis N. Papacharalambous (University of Cyprus), "The Event and the Subject: The (IM)Possible Rehabilitation of Carl Schmitt", Law and Critique, 21 (1), February 2010: pp. 53-72.

Abstract: "The subject is the bearer of the sovereign decision, according to C. Schmitt. This decision grounds on certain situational pragmatics, yet mainly is born out of a 'null'; as the decision forms the political normalcy that follows after, it displays its nature as an 'event'. This subject is simultaneously a legal and a political one; it is the founder of the Nomos. This founding subject has been eclipsed in alignment with its post-modernly acclaimed 'death'. The subject is deemed to have been inherently divided, as long as its identity steadily postpones itself, is incessantly 'differing', according to the deconstructionist approach; or it is considered as fundamentally 'passive', meaning not so much 'weak', but rather dethroning the Western preoccupation with the active autonomous individual; or, it is maintained but intrinsically reversed, now held either as part of a fundamental ontological order and indirectly of the nature (Agamben), or, opposite to Kantian assumptions, as primarily captured in a radical heteronomy, which constitutes it as a proper ethical subject (Levinas). Crucial is how to develop a concept taking into account the eventfulness of the constitution of the subject, without effacing the political character of such constitution by reducing it to non-political discourses, i.e., to metaphysics, morals or economics; how to conceive of Derrida's 'democracy to-come' as political event, namely both as secular act and in the same time as referring to extramundane fundaments (to a 'political theology'?); how to go beyond the linearity of the liberalist ideology by equating the political event with a messianic miracle 'without messianism'; how to 'salute' democracy?"

Ronald Beiner (University of Toronto), "Has the Great Separation Failed?", Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, 22 (1), March 2010: pp. 45-63.

Abstract: "In The Stillborn God, Mark Lilla illuminates why 'political theology' remains relevant today, in a world we might have assumed was thoroughly secularized. Lilla suggests that political theology is the norm, and that Christianity inadvertently gave birth to an exception. But the exception – liberal theology, or a separation of church and state that would give full play to religious impulses – was doomed. Religious impulses were not satisfied by mere moral sentiment, as offered by Rousseau and Kant; and Hegel opened the door to messianism – and eventually to Hitler – by bringing a philosophical version of redemption into liberal theology."

Michael Allen Gillespie and Lucas Perkins (both Duke University), "Political Anti-Theology", Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, 22 (1), March 2010: pp. 65-84.

Abstract: "In The Stillborn God, Mark Lilla argues that political theology invariably leads to apocalyptic politics, and that we can avoid this fate only by maintaining a 'Great Separation' between politics and religion, such as the one that Hobbes initiated, but which was overturned by Rousseau and German liberal theology – leading to Nazism. We argue that Hobbes never established such a divide; political theology is far more diverse than Lilla suggests; and liberal German political theology was not a significant source of Nazism. Moreover, liberalism is itself a political theology, suggesting that religion and politics should not, and perhaps cannot, be divided – although they may be reconciled."

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia (Pennsylvania State University), "The Political Theologies of Empires: Jesuit Missionaries between Counter-Reformation Europe and the Chinese Empire", in "Friars, Nobles and Burghers – Sermons, Images and Prints: Studies of Culture and Society in Early-Modern Europe. In Memoriam István György Tóth", eds. Jaroslav Miller and László Kontler (Central European University Press, March 2010): page numbers not given.


No abstract or excerpt given.

Giacomo Coccolini (Associazione teologica italiana per lo studio della morale), "Il ritorno della teologia politica [The return of the political theology]", Rivista di teologia morale, 42 (165), 2010: pp. 45-55.

Abstract: "The contemporary political theology is again perceived as ambit of central reflection. It is owed to the renewed centrality of the theological matter in the current political debates, and also to the debate on the political matter related to its bases and legitimation. There are two aspects to deepen: the political one, that seems to forget its own theological origin, even though secularized; and the different theologies that, for long time, have refused a political declination of their fundamental assertions. To answer to these questions, the article analyzes three matters: the secularization of the political matter in the European public ambit; the historical relationship between Christianity and politics; the inseparable connection between theology and politics in the today's post-secular society [sic]."

Kristien Justaert (Catholic University of Leuven), "Liberation Theology: Deleuze and Althaus-Reid", SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, 39 (1), April 2010: pp. 154-64.

Excerpt: "The contemporary relation between theology and philosophy is a complicated one, but there is at least one strand in theology that has always explicitly used philosophical mediations to clarify and support its theological programme: so-called liberation theology. [...] According to one of the most famous liberation theologians, Enrique Dussel, Marx's thought as a 'philosophy of liberation' was used to 'formulate a metaphysics demanded by revolutionary praxis and technologico-design poiesis against the background of peripheral social formations. To do this it is necessary to deprive Being of its alleged eternal and divine foundation' [...]. This last remark is crucial to understanding the world view and the general perspective of liberation theologians: it is holistic and immanent, not created by a transcendent God that made creation necessarily Good. On the contrary, creation is pervaded with sin, in every place and in every moment where or when human beings or other creatures are oppressed. It is in the 'face' of the oppressed that God can be found, and from the perspective of the 'poor' (in a broad sense) that resistance must grow."

Laura C. Robson (Portland State University), "Palestinian Liberation Theology: Muslim-Christian Relations and the Arab-Israeli Conflict", Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 21 (1), January 2010: pp. 39-50.

Abstract: "This article offers an investigation of the history and intellectual development of Palestinian liberation theology. It focuses in particular on the ways in which the movement's founding writers both made use of and departed from the Latin American model to produce a new theology firmly grounded in specific, local historical and political conditions; the importance of the first intifada for the genesis of this new Palestinian version of liberation theology; and the effort by Palestinian liberation theologians to recast the relationship between Christianity and Islam in the modern Israeli/Palestinian context. It argues that Palestinian liberation theology has become an important intellectual movement among Palestinian Christian elites who seek to convince both Western Christians and Middle Eastern Muslims of a Christian theological justification for a political solution to the Palestinian plight."

Nissim Leon (Bar-Ilan University), "The Transformation of Israel's Religious-Zionist Middle Class", Journal of Israeli History, 29 (1), March 2010: pp. 61-78.

Abstract: "This article argues that the emergence of a new religious-Zionist middle class in Israel may be a factor in restraining the radical potential of the political tendencies that research on religious Zionism has been pointing to for years. It examines, as test cases, the restrained protest against the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the most recent attempt to change the political leadership of the religious-Zionist parties prior to the 2009 elections. It concludes by connecting the processes described here with a discussion of the possible role of the Israeli middle class in mitigating the rifts within Israeli society."

Anthony G. Reddie (Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education), "Exploring the Workings of Black Theology in Britain: Issues of Theological Method and Epistemological Construct", Black Theology: An International Journal, 7 (1), 2009: pp. 64-85.

Abstract: "This essay outlines two contrasting methods for undertaking Black theology in Britain, namely the respective work of Robert Beckford and that of the author of this paper. The paper is offered as a contribution to the wider development of urban theology in Britain. The author, who is one of the leading Black theologians in Britain, offers this work as a means of unpacking some of the methodological and epistemological concerns of this developing mode of largely Christian inspired Black theological reflection in this country."

Anthony G. Reddie (Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education), "Not Just Seeing, But Really Seeing: A Practical Black Liberationist Spirituality for Re-interpreting Reality", Black Theology: An International Journal, 7 (3), 2009: pp. 339-65.

Abstract: "One of the biggest challenges that confront Black people living in the UK is how to assess the veracity of the macro and micro contexts in which our lives are lived. In a country whose indices for what constitutes normality and acceptability are predicated on notions of 'Whiteness', Black people have always needed to possess an armoury of experiential and psycho-social tools in order to discern how to live as a potent symbol of 'otherness' within the body politic of the nation. This essay, which arises from engagement with a group of Black Methodists, seeks to demonstrate how the use of personal experience and the role the spirit in Black life can lead to ways of being able to discern ones positionality within the broader world of White dominated Britain. The essay brings together reflections on Black theology, Pneumatology and experiential learning in order to great a Practical/Participative Black theology for seeing and reinterpreting the reality of being Black in Britain."

Jonathan L. Walton (University of California, Riverside), "Black Theology and Birmingham: Revisiting a Conversation on Culture", Black Theology: An International Journal, 7 (3), 2009: pp. 259-81.

Abstract: "The purpose of this essay is to trace the development of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies in order to suggest that it offers a viable option for black liberation theologians concerned with interpreting the intersections of theology and culture in general, and pop culture forms of religious expression such as televangelism in particular. This essay will reveal that the varying methods of cultural studies and black theology have, in many ways, mirrored one another since their respective inceptions. And over the course of the past decade leading black liberation theologians have appealed to the theories and methods of cultural studies in their work. Yet a review of Dwight Hopkins theological analysis of the intersections of black religion and popular culture will demonstrate that revisiting the Birmingham tradition can still prove beneficial, theoretically and methodologically, to the black liberation project. This is particular true in regards to finding the appropriate balance between creative cultural agency and interpretive freedom of the folk, on the one hand, and the ideological dimensions of mass mediated cultural expression such as black televangelism, on the other."

Young Bin Moon (Seoul Women's University), "God as a Communicative System Sui Generis: Beyond the Psychic, Social, Process Models of the Trinity", Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science, 45 (1), March 2010: 105-26.

Abstract: "With an aim to develop a public theology for an age of information media (or media theology), this article proposes a new
God-concept: God is a communicative system sui generis that autopoietically processes meaning/information in the supratemporal realm via perfect divine media ad intra (Word/Spirit). For this task, Niklas Luhmann's systems theory is critically appropriated in dialogue with theology. First, my working postmetaphysical/epistemological stance is articulated as realistic operational constructivism and functionalism. Second, a series of arguments are advanced to substantiate the thesis: (1) God is an observing system sui generis; (2) self-referential communication is divine operation; (3) unsurpassable complexity is divine mystery; (4) supratemporal autopoiesis of meaning is divine processing; (5) agape is the symbolic medium of divine communication. Third, this communicative model of God is developed into a trinitarian theology, with a claim that this model offers a viable alternative beyond the standard (psychic, social, process) models. Finally, some implications of this model are explored for constructive theology (conceiving creation as divine mediatization) and for science-and-religion in terms of derivative models: (1) God as a living system sui generis and (2) God as a meaning system sui generis."

Matthew L. Becker (Valparaiso University), "What Good is Theology?", Daystar Journal, fall 2009: page numbers not given. Available here:


Excerpt: "How does good theology relate to the publics that are 'society' and 'the world'? In other words, is there a viable 'public theology' that can claim the adjective 'good?' While the constraints of this little essay preclude even a partially-developed understanding of public theology, a few key elements can be highlighted."

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