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Quijano reimagines the long-lasting and contemporary status of colonialism seen through the lenses of race, modernity/rationality, and economic exploitation, encouraging us to produce theological and political critiques from the ever-enduring nature of coloniality.

Anibal Quijano Obregón (1930-2018) is one of the most influential decolonial thinkers emerging from Latin America in recent decades.[1] A sociologist whose work leads us to engage with the ramifications of past and present-day colonialism, a topic especially pertinent to theological analysis in light of the contemporary political landscape of Latin America. Though not present directly in his work, these theological possibilities could make available a new corpus to expand amidst the ever-growing field of political theology in the region. Quijano’s incise work articulates problems of modernity and capitalism, aiding political theologians in their projects to explore how these continue to play out in the region and beyond.However, his work and thought are little known outside Spanish-speaking audiences or adepts to decolonial theory. As an educator and ardent political activist, Quijano’s work led him to incarceration in Peru, exile in Mexico during the early 1970s, and resigning a university post to protest Alberto Fujimori’s neo-liberal government (Jonas, 2019). Quijano was a life-long leftist, influenced by the works of his fellow countryman, José Carlos Mariategui, who was critical of the Global North’s imperial and capitalist incursions in Latin America in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, as Jonas points out in his Memoriam for Quijano, where many “leftist Peruvian social scientists, who have viewed Peruvian rural indigenous communities solely as ‘peasant,’ that is, only in class terms, he built a complex analysis of race/racism, focusing on indigenous ethnicity and identity” (Jonas, 2019). This added dimension of race and racism would be central to his articulation of how the colonial enterprise leveraged its power in the Americas.

Anibal Quijano’s work is not codified into long-form texts or a magnum opus; instead, his work is woven across years of essays, conferences, and journal entries on a multiplicity of topics. In 2014, CLACSO (Latin American Council of Social Sciences) published a collection of over twenty of his most important essays into the anthology, Cuestiones y Horizontes: De la Dependencia Histórico-Estructural a la Colonialidad/Descolonialidad del Poder (Aníbal Quijano, 2014). As a result this text covers topics as diverse and interconnected as dependency theory, socialism, racism, neo-imperialism, coloniality, and Latin America.

Quijano’s texts distill complex ideas into detailed analyses of varying lengths. Two seminal texts exemplify this, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America” (Quijano 2000) whichconsists of twelve pages, while “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality”(2007) is just under fifty pages. However, there is depth and flexibility within every line that invites the reader to the hermeneutical task. Many such as Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Freya Schiwy, and others have labored to unpack his conceptual interventions in different fields, from history to economics.

Race, Capitalism, and Coloniality

Anibal Quijano has undoubtedly been one of the central figures in the theoretical formulations known as the “decolonial turn.” Walter Mignolo frames Quijano’s work as set on, “de-colonization as epistemological reconstitution” (Mignolo, 2007). This addition by Quijano is a significant development and mark of differentiation from other postcolonial efforts. This “epistemological reconstitution” attempts to question the foundations of modernity and coloniality, through the work of a wide range of Caribbean authors, Latin American authors, and indigenous social movements, as interlocutors of the current state of coloniality.

The critique of capital and neo-imperialism is present across Quijano’s work, decolonial analysis takes precedence over any oversimplifying Marxist conclusion. Mignolo further illustrates that Quijano’s usage of Marxism is nuanced by the fact that Marx’s project was elaborated in a European context. Because of this, though Marxist analysis may be of use, it cannot be directly overlaid onto the Latin American experience that has been subjected to centuries of colonialism. The “European Marx” is born in a time and space different from the conditions of the colonized Americas. Moreover, while the Marxist project is “a critical and liberating project,” decolonial theory cannot be “subsumed under Marxism ideology,” instead, it is a discursive tool that “points towards the same direction,” namely the project of liberation (Mignolo, 2007).

In his work on Marxism and capitalism, Quijano nuances class criticism with the added notion of race as a critical piece to understanding colonialism’s enduring and unfolding nature in Latin America. In the essay “¡Qué Tal Raza!”, Quijano emphatically states that concept of “race” and the implementation of “racism” are the most “efficient tools for social domination to have been invented in the last 500 years.” (Aníbal Quijano, 2017).[2] Stating that racism would form the underlying conditions and basis for capitalism in the Americas. Quijano concludes that there cannot be a critique of capitalism that does not take into account the “racial axis,” noting that “the racial axis has a colonial origin and character, but it has proven to be more durable and stable than the colonialism in whose matrix it was established” (Quijano, 2000).

Colonialism hinged on racism, which was totalized through dividing, categorizing, and codifying the new world. Quijano and Immanuel Wallerstein go so far as to say that “the capitalist world-economy would not have taken place without the Americas” (Anibal Quijano and Wallerstein, 1992).[3] The invasion of the Americas implied a new way of organizing society: “the monetization of labor also made it possible to concentrate the control of commercial capital, labor, and means of production in the whole world market” (Aníbal Quijano, 2000). Again, Quijano and Wallerstein bundle these new colonials practices and the seemingly disparate processes of domination into a final deduction, “we must remember, firstly, that with the conquest, colonization and baptism of the Americas at the end of the XV century, is the beginning of the world market, capitalism, and modernity” (Anibal Quijano and Wallerstein, 1992). [4] The conceptual framing of capitalism connected to colonialism and modernity will become a key piece in Quijano’s work.

Quijano’s Ideas and Language

The language that Quijano employs in his work can at first glance appear “nebulous,” concepts that lend to multiple interpretations and possibilities (Gandarilla Salgado, García-Bravo, and Benzi, 2021). Quijano’s terms may seem similar yet hold important distinctions: coloniality, colonial/modernity, modernity/rationality, coloniality of power,and the colonial matrix of power. These terms are used in Quijano’s texts interchangeably and are open to interpretations. This ambiguity leads the reader to develop their own adaptations of these concepts—even though each of these ideas functions as tools for specific moments and problems. We should note that Quijano uses the slash to connect his ideas to create new articulated concepts. The slash is meant to function as a bridge over Eurocentered categories that mean to divide, thus creating a conceptual apparatus for connecting both “colonial” and “modernity,” rendering it colonial/modernity.

Perhaps the most important of Quijano’s contributions to decolonial conversations is the notion of coloniality, an idea is worked out across Quijano’s texts. In contrast to colonialism, which is the historical process of material and cultural domination of one people over another group of peoples. Coloniality refers to “the most general form of domination in the world today, once colonialism as an explicit political order was destroyed” (Quijano, 2007). Coloniality is the expressed organization of oppression at work globally; it is the raison d’être of domination played out.

Quijano further dissects how coloniality operates in terms of power in the notion of the coloniality of power. Various theorists have developed coloniality along other terms. Whether through the “coloniality of knowledge (Edgardo Lander), the coloniality of being (Nelson Maldonado-Torres), and other helpful contributions, such as the coloniality of gender (María Lugones)” (Gandarilla Salgado, García-Bravo, and Benzi, 2021). This articulation helps us understand the conceptual richness in analyzing the perpetuity of coloniality in its diverse forms.

An Yountae states: “Quijano’s notion of the coloniality of power highlights the polychronic nature of power that is operative in colonialism. On this account, coloniality manifests itself beyond the historical institution of colonization” (Yountae, 2020). Early in his work, Quijano emphasized the enduring aspect of coloniality, “once the formal status of the colony ended, coloniality did not end, it has persisted in social hierarchies and cultures the European and non-European” (Quijano and Wallerstein, 1992). [5] Quijano explains that, “The structure of power was and even continues to be organized on and around the colonial axis”(Aníbal Quijano, 2000).

This idea of the coloniality of power is articulated across Quijano’s work via the colonial matrix of power. We can see the enmeshed nature of coloniality in its various modes of domination of the colonized peoples. Mark L. Taylor frames it as:

a matrix of four ambits of social structural and cultural practices. These include, first, labor (structural practices of global capital), sex and sexuality (structural practices of hegemonic masculinism and heteronormativity), subjectivity (structural practices of Eurocentric white racism), and state authority (structural practices of state boundary fortifications). These four ambits are not separate circles of operation. They should be seen as overlapping, with various interactions specifiable between them

Taylor, 2014

In this way, Quijano gives a socio-historical way of identifying these matrices at work through labor, sex, subjectivity, and the state. In his article “Coloniality of Power, Globalization, and Democracy,” Quijano nuances this matrix as “not always being clear, much less systematic or organized, [especially] these relations between domination and exploitation” (Aníbal Quijano, 2001). [6] Here, coloniality and the colonial matrix of power intersect in the dual action of oppressing peoples and extracting resources from the colonial period to the present.

For Quijano, both coloniality and the coloniality of power rest in a historical juncture named the “colonial/modern.” The “colonial/modern” is an epochal moment pointing to the project of European modernity bound up into the enterprise of colonialism. The vision of freedom and equality of the enlightenment can only be understood alongside coloniality, manifested through the oppression and domination of the colonial other. By the nomenclature “colonial/modern,” Quijano seeks to resist and re-interpret the history of the last 500 years. This revision goes against the Hegelian notion of the “progress of history” but re-articulates it from the place of the colonial wound. For Quijano, the situations that enabled European “success” can only be seen through marginalizing and victimizing the peoples of the colonial project. Quijano further crystalizes this idea in the terms “modernity/rationality” and “rationality/modernity,” which he seems to use interchangeably. Modernity/rationality tries to clarify the intuition that Europe’s knowledge production and its rational underpinnings were molded by and towards colonial gains. This concept is best summarized in his seminal work, Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality,

Such confluence between coloniality and the elaboration of rationality/modernity was not in any way accidental, as is shown by the very manner in which the European paradigm of rational knowledge was elaborated. The coloniality of power had decisive implications in the paradigm’s constitution, associated with the emergence of urban and capitalist social relations, which in their turn could not be fully explained outside colonialism and coloniality, significantly not as far as Latin America is concerned. The decisive weight of coloniality in the constitution of the European paradigm of modernity/rationality is revealed in the actual crisis of that cultural complex.

Aníbal Quijano, 2007

Both Enrique Dussel and Quijano elaborate this idea of colonial/modern/rationality across various essays, understanding that these concepts are historically entwined. Dussel develops this notion in essays, such as “Europe, Modernity, and Eurocentrism” (Dussel, 2000) and “Eurocentrism and Modernity” (Dussel, 1993),where modernity affirms “emancipation” on the one hand and the other the “justification of genocidal violence” (Dussel, 1993). The European beginning of the “modern rational” era is the beginning of the Americas’ colonial subjugation and fragmentation. For Quijano, as Mignolo states, “there is no modernity without coloniality; thus, modernity/coloniality are two sides of the same coin” (Hoffman and Mignolo, 2017).

Quijano and Political Theology

Quijano’s work unfolds new opportunities when seen through the lenses of political theology. Mignolo points out that in Quijano, there is a challenge to “salvation by conversion to Christianity, salvation by progress and civilization, salvation by development and modernization, salvation by global market democracy (e.g., neoliberalism)” (Hoffman and Mignolo, 2017). Here the theological exploration resides in reconstructing on what “salvation” could mean outside the Christian colonial gaze? What could salvation or soteriology, more broadly, look like through a decolonial lens?

Any theologian concerned with democracy will find a critical conversation partner in Quijano, whose catalog on political economy, neo-imperialism, and modern nation-states will offer new insights on these topics. For example, how do we de-articulate the coloniality of power away from current democratic states? Additionally, how does ecclesiology equate to a decolonial vision of democracy?  

Finally, Quijano’s later work on the concept of “Bien Vivir” (Good Living) engages with theological reflections on utopian ideals and possible visions of shalom. The idea of “Bien Vivir” draws on the work of Indigenous and ecological conversations that are taking place in Latin America. Additionally, in an apocalyptic and realized eschatological tone, Quijano is preoccupied with re-conceiving utopia in Latin America, “the utopia of time which comes, is now amongst us” (Quijano, 1990). [7] Those interested in eschatology find various passages that elucidate a time to come in Quijano, thus interpreting decolonial eschatology. This preoccupation with the future is of a political and theological nature in rethinking the present in light of the future and a new future. Thus, Quijano is a unique Latin American voice for those elaborating ecologically minded or Indigenous-oriented theologies. This possibility is especially true for theological formulations emerging from the Quechua or Aymara people of the Andean region that challenge colonial visions of ethics and community (Quijano, 2015).

Anibal Quijano is a complex and multi-faceted thinker who offers much for elaborating a decolonial framework into theological explorations. Quijano’s political and ethical vision breaks from the past colonial systems of oppression into the possibility of a holistic vision for peoples and the planet.

Annotated Bibliography


Quijano, Aníbal. “Beyond Eurocentrism: On José Carlos Mariátegui.” Translated by Nicholas Allen. Versobooks.com. Accessed February 12, 2021. https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3976-beyond-eurocentrism-on-jose-carlos-mariategui.

A short distillation of Quijano’s analysis of the life and work of Jose Carlos Mariategui. Those interested in Latin American Marxism and its contextualization in Peru would benefit from reading this text.

———. “‘Bien Vivir’: entre el ‘desarrollo’ y la descolonialidad del poder.” In El pensamiento latinoamericano: diálogos en ALAS: sociedad y sociología, edited by Alberto L. Bialakowski, Marcelo Arnold Cathalifaud, and Paulo Henrique Martins, 360–76. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Teseo, 2015.

A wonderful read in which Quijano unpacks the Indigenous idea of “Bien Vivir.” In this essay, Quijano uses “bien vivir” to combat development-oriented economic thinking as a continuation of present-day coloniality; thus, “bien vivir” becomes a decolonial alternative to development.

———. “Colonialidad Del Poder, Globalización Y Democracia.” In Poder, Salud Mental Y Derechos Humanos, Vol. 4. Lima, Perú: CECOSAM, 2001.

Quijano, in this essay, utilizes the concept of the coloniality of power yet interpreted through the lens of globalization and democracy. It is a crafty way to highlight the continued ways in which coloniality seems to propagate in a globalized and democratic setting.

———. “Coloniality, And Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21, no. 2–3 (March 2007): 168–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601164353.

Perhaps one of Quijano’s richest and most insightful texts in unpacking the problem of coloniality. A helpful primer for those interested in decoloniality and philosophy since he situates coloniality as the modern philosophical rationale.

———. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America.” Translated by Michael Ennis. Nepantla: Views from South 1, no. 3 (2000): 533–80.

Another must-read for anyone interested in the work of Quijano. In this essay, Quijano expands coloniality from a socio-phenomenological history of eurocentrism in light of colonial expansionism.

———. 2014. Cuestiones y Horizontes: De La Dependencia Histórico-Estructural a La Colonialidad/Descolonialidad Del Poder: Antología Esencial. Edited by Danilo Assis Clímaco. Primera edición. Colección Antologías. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

An anthology that compiles a large swath of Quijano’s work across his career. An excellent and lengthy dive into Quijano’s thinking.

Quijano, Anibal, and Immanuel Wallerstein. “La  Americanidad Como Concepto, o América En El Moderno Sistema Mundial.” International Social Science Journal XLIV, no. 4 (December 1992): 549–59.

Quijano and Wallerstein frame the current economic world-system in light of coloniality and capitalism. Framing these two poles as mutations of the same problem still manifests in Latin America.


Gandarilla Salgado, José Guadalupe, María Haydeé García-Bravo, and Daniele Benzi. “Two Decades of Aníbal Quijano’s Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America.” Contexto Internacional 43, no. 1 (April 2021): 199–222. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0102-8529.2019430100009.

A succinct overview of Quijano’s work considers his influence on decolonial theory. This paper develops Quijano’s ideas on coloniality, eurocentrism, and Latin America, a welcome companion to his essay with the same name.

Germana, Cesar. “Una Epistomologia Otra: El Proyecto de Anibal Quijano.” Nómadas 32 (2010): 211–21.

An exciting interpretation of Quijano’s project was analyzed from the perspective of epistemology. Therefore, this essay is an overview of Quijano’s overall project of countering Eurocentered epistemology.


Dussel, Enrique. 1993. “Eurocentrism and Modernity (Introduction to the Frankfurt Lectures).” Boundary 2 20 (3): 65. https://doi.org/10.2307/303341.

———. 2000. “Europe, Modernity, and Eurocentrism.” Translated by Javier Krauel and Virginia C. Tuma. Nepantla 1 (3): 465–78.

Gandarilla Salgado, José Guadalupe, María Haydeé García-Bravo, and Daniele Benzi. 2021. “Two Decades of Aníbal Quijano’s Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism and Latin America.” Contexto Internacional 43 (1): 199–222. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0102-8529.2019430100009.

Hoffman, Alvina, and Walter Mignolo. 2017. Interview – Walter Mignolo/Part 2: Key Concepts. https://www.e-ir.info/2017/01/21/interview-walter-mignolopart-2-key-concepts/.

Jonas, Susanne. 2019. “In Memoriam: Aníbal Quijano Obregón (1930–2018).” LASA Forum 50 (1): 41–44.

Mignolo, Walter D. 2007. “Introduction: Coloniality of Power and de-Colonial Thinking.” Cultural Studies 21 (2–3): 155–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162498.

Quijano, Aníbal. 2000. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America.” Translated by Michael Ennis. Nepantla: Views from South 1 (3): 533–80.

———. 2007. “Coloniality, And Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21 (2–3): 168–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601164353.

———. 2014. Cuestiones y Horizontes: De La Dependencia Histórico-Estructural a La Colonialidad/Descolonialidad Del Poder: Antología Esencial. Edited by Danilo Assis Clímaco. Primera edición. Colección Antologías. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

———. 2015. “‘Bien Vivir’: entre el ‘desarrollo’ y la descolonialidad del poder.” In El pensamiento latinoamericano: diálogos en ALAS: sociedad y sociología, edited by Alberto L. Bialakowski, Marcelo Arnold Cathalifaud, and Paulo Henrique Martins, 360–76. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Teseo.

Taylor, Mark L. 2014. “Decolonizing Mass Incarceration: ‘Flesh Will Wear Out Chains.’” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 13 (1): 121–42.

Yountae, An. 2020. “A Decolonial Theory of Religion.” Contending Modernities. February 28, 2020. https://contendingmodernities.nd.edu/decoloniality/a-decolonial-theory-of-religion/.

[1] A special thanks to Mark L. Taylor for his conversations on Quijano and for helping me process this critical thinker.

[2] Translation, my own.

[3] Translation, my own.

[4] Translation, my own.

[5] Translation, my own.

[6] Translation, my own.

[7] Translation, my own.

Kojin Karatani

A short overview of Kojin Karatani’s Marxist influenced focus on modes of exchange as revealing the Borromean ring of Capital-Nation-State, and the import of this ring for religion.

Silvia Federici

Federici provides a model for political theologians engaging with race, gender, and sexuality through the lens of capitalist oppression

Luce Irigaray

“Perhaps it is in precisely this ambivalent way that air (and Irigaray) reminds us of just how much we belong—to the air itself, to this emptiness that hovers and sings in lifedeath. We might forget air, we might forget that we breathe, or how to breathe. But air does not forget us. And air will never cease to carry us, to lift us up, to set us into flight, even when we no longer live in a body that tried (if unsuccessfully) to fly.”

Niklas Luhmann

David Kline introduces the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann for political theology and reflects on how it might think about its own limits of observation.

N. Katherine Hayles

A reflection on the political implications of N. Katherine Hayles’ critical aesthetic inquiry into the ecological relationships between the human and the technological, thought and cognition, and information and materiality.

Isabelle Stengers

Isabelle Stengers, continental philosopher of science, offers pragmatic resources for animating thinking with interest and passion, affirming heresy over conformity and undercutting the all-too-common binaries of religion/science and science/fiction.

François Laruelle

“[For] quantum gnostics, there has never been a creation of the world or in the world—it is the world that is ‘wicked’ or ‘evil’, and consequently also the God who claimed to have created it and yet hesitates to assume it.”

Enrique Dussel

Rafael Vizcaíno offers a biographical introduction to the philosophical work of Enrique Dussel, a major figure of the decolonial turn. Separate from his theology, Dussel’s philosophy of liberation offers crucial reflections for contemporary political theology.

Claude Lefort

It is as productive to think with as it is to think against Claude Lefort, a revolutionary-turned-philosopher who analyzed power and the political regimes to which it gives rise.

Fred Moten

Moten’s prophecy bespeaks aesthetic registers in ordinary (Black) life, but he denies that the aesthetic is redemptive.

Saba Mahmood

Saba Mahmood (1962-2018) was a pioneering anthropologist of Islam and secularism, a feminist theorist of gender and religion, and a critic of liberal certainties.

Paul Virilio

Paul Virilio, one of France’s foremost theorists of speed and technology, is a deep well for doing political theology in an apocalyptic time.

Stuart Hall

The late public intellectual Stuart Hall, with his concept of the conjuncture, assists political theology in analyzing our current moment and potential interventions.

Talal Asad

Rather than establishing structural analogies or historical filiations between “religion” and “politics” (terms he opens to question), Talal Asad urges attention to shifts in the grammar of concepts across different situations.

Quentin Meillassoux

Meillassoux’s thinking of post-Copernican cosmic immanence and cosmic delegitimation constitutes a challenge to political theology as still predominantly Ptolemaic in its assumptions and focus

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt argued that interreligious difference and Christian theology are steady influences on political movements, action, and thought.

Catherine Malabou

To read Catherine Malabou is to embark upon an adventure of thought. Her writing demands change from her readers if they are to follow her on that adventure. It is a process of change that is sometimes joyful, sometimes painful.

Jean-François Lyotard

Lyotard’s thought as it appears in Le Différend describes a linguistic state that evades speech, and the ways in which justice could be done to it, or not. Bearing witness to unpronounceable utterances brings about the idea of faith.

Aime Césaire

This essay will uplift Césaire’s anticolonial consciousness, in hopes that new directions in political theology might emerge/surface

Jacob Taubes

Taubes’s thought revolves around two poles, philosophy of history and political theology, with the aim of inverting the Schmittian position and thinking a new form of community by means of an innovative return to Paul of Tarsus and Walter Benjamin.

Gloria Anzaldúa

Anzaldúa develops a theory of this borderlands consciousness through the experiential and embodied knowledges of Chicanx (and women of color) feminisms; or what she calls a ‘mestiza consciousness’.

Martin Buber

Meeting Martin Buber, in other words, means meeting the voice behind the words, a man who did not always know how to “recover from institutions.”

Han Byung-Chul

Psychopolitics is Han’s main contribution to political theory. It reflects Han’s rethinking of Bentham’s panopticon and Foucault’s biopower as disciplinary society transitioned into a digital achievement society that defines our contemporary neoliberal globalized world.

Jean-Luc Marion

[Marion’s] central concepts and phenomenological method offer an ambiguous resource for political theology: on the one hand, he articulates a rigorous method of doing phenomenology which is trained to remain open to phenomena historically ignored and marginalized, and on the other hand, his own conclusions can veer towards a Christian triumphalism which is in danger of betraying the primary aim of his philosophical project.

Kuan-Hsing Chen

Chen suggests that Western political theologians should incorporate more resources from local knowledge—such as popular culture, literature, films, and music—in order to notice resistance in daily life.

Judith Butler

Judith Butler’s work has altered the trajectories of multiple disciplines in the last thirty years; what can they teach scholars of political theology?

Anibal Quijano

Quijano reimagines the long-lasting and contemporary status of colonialism seen through the lenses of race, modernity/rationality, and economic exploitation, encouraging us to produce theological and political critiques from the ever-enduring nature of coloniality.

Michel Henry

What [Henry’s] oeuvre offers political theology is a reimagining of what constitutes life together—an attention to Life and thereby, spirituality.

Cedric Robinson

Vega focuses on three Robinsonian concepts that are useful for political theology: racial capitalism, Black radical tradition, and African metaphysics.

Marcella Althaus-Reid

Althaus-Reid’s work asks whether Political Theology is capable of accounting for the power of sex, a power that comes to the fore if the theologian focuses on queer bodies.

Julia Kristeva

Kristeva’s psychoanalytic approach and practice shed light on the unconscious, affective, and bodily formation(s) of religious and political discourses and systems.

Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe’s work excavates the legacies of colonial reason and violence shaping the powers of death in the world today.

Frank Wilderson III

Wilderson doesn’t use the term “zombies” in his work. But his afropessimist stance includes a set of concepts—social death, gratuitous violence, sentient (but not living) existence—that could be easily applied to any episode of The Walking Dead.

Adriana Cavarero

Cavarero’s feminist theory of nonviolence takes the biblical commandment of “Thou Shall Not Kill” as its starting point. This commandment is ethical (it is about one’s relationships with others) and religious (it is about one’s relationship with God), but it is also political (without it, political communities cannot exist).

Jean-Luc Nancy

The subtlety and poetry of Nancy’s language can mask the rigor and the urgency of his thinking. I hope to share that rigor and urgency here, particularly as it relates to global capitalism, Christianity, and ontology.

Roberto Esposito

In Esposito’s most explicit political theology work, he is concerned with re-working, or rather destabilizing, the essence of political theology.

Ernst Bloch

In many ways, Bloch’s work inverts the classic dictum of political theology advanced by Carl Schmitt, that “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.” For Bloch, theological concepts are intimations of the freedom of the secular and revolutionary socialist society.

The Invisible Committee

The Invisible Committee may be productively, albeit counterintuitively, understood as Gnostic, a perspective that will put into question some of the assumptions behind the way the political and the theological are demarcated from and related to each other in contemporary debates.

Gil Anidjar

While Carl Schmitt claims that the enemy constitutes “the political,” his various writings largely ignore the historical and discursive evolution of the enemy. Anidjar’s major contribution to modern political theology lies in responding to this lacuna.

Sara Ahmed

Scholars and activists cannot rely on fact-checking or dry reason in this political climate. We have to feel our way toward change.

Hortense Spillers

What would it mean for scholarship in political theology to claim monstrosity? Perhaps it would mean focusing on underappreciated aspects of the Christian tradition, and other religious traditions, particularly those developed by women’s intellectual labor.

Lauren Berlant

Berlant is our preeminent contemporary theorist of how intimate practices bleed into and with national formations, and condition specific and powerful fantasies for what a good life or functional society would involve. To read their work is to become attuned to a set of dynamics that can be excavated in any given scene: the attachments being made and unmade, the forms of belonging that flash up and dissolve, the feeling-worlds that mediate everyday life, what remains unfinished.

Critical Theory for Political Theology: From Theorists to Keywords

We launched this series to make available theoretical resources that keep pace with the concerns raised by those working with political theology today, whose interests are increasingly tied not only to questions of genealogy, speculation, and political modernity, but also to questions of race, colonialism, gender, sexuality, disability, ecology, labor, finance capitalism, and economies of affect. 

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