Deconstructing the Canon

Pedagogy

If one speaks of Political Theology as a “field” with its own “canon” one must surely be preparing to deconstruct it.

1. What are your reasons for including these top three “key” texts for the field of political theology?

As I don’t invest in a “canon,” I can only presume that others name Carl Schmitt, so I need not open my list with a Nazi; that in this millennium it was Giorgio Agamben’s The Time that Remains, with its ruminations on Paul, Schmitt, and Benjamin; Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground, with its historiography of white exceptionalism; and Michael Northcott’s Political Theology of Climate Change, that launched my specific project, written to be helpful to students, indeed to a network like this one (Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public).

2. In two to three sentences, how would you define and/or describe the field of political theology?

Political theology makes explicit the political history, conflict and potentiality implicit in all theology. By default or intention, for liberation or for domination, theology in the Abrahamic traditions delivers a social ethic for its polis. The political signifies the struggle for a collective good. As a discourse, political theology curates not only the political within theology, but the theology within politics.

3. In what way does it make sense to talk about a “canon” of Political Theology when (a) the field’s definition remains open and contested, (b) the field is open to being changed and challenged in the future, (c) the very establishment of a “canon” depends on various power structures (e.g. who decides what is canonical? Whose interests does the canon serve? etc.) and (d) the ‘discipline’ of Political Theology prides itself in its inter-, cross-, and anti-disciplinary methods?

If one speaks of Political Theology as a “field” with its own “canon” one must surely be preparing to deconstruct it. The sovereign boundaries of an academic decisionism have already been set. If one speaks rather of an interdisciplinary discourse with a growing archive, the “field” appears instead as a shifting forcefield, attractive precisely for its capacity to cross the boundaries of academic specializations and indeed the wall of separation between theological and secular scholarship. But then, most importantly, political theology works its way beyond its disciplines into their world: it mindfully transgresses the thought/world wall, it moves transdisciplinarily, not to shore up its exceptional discourse but to strengthen the intersectional ethics. Then it will be testing its methods for their materializations in the convergent politics of its moment, as right now: race, immigration, sexuality, class, and ecology.

Jonathon Kahn

At the End of Liberal Theory

The texts I have identified as “need to become ‘essential’ texts” function in this spirit…Each addresses questions of community-creation outside of liberal norms and modes of power.

Deconstructing the Canon

If one speaks of Political Theology as a “field” with its own “canon” one must surely be preparing to deconstruct it.

Kwok Pui-lan

Political Theology (政治神學) A Postcolonial Approach

The field has often shown a Eurocentric bias…As such, the field has left out important reflections on political theology during the anticolonial and postcolonial struggles in the Global South.

Adam Clark

From A Liberationist Framework

My point is that in addition to being annoyingly Eurocentric, the discourse of political theology focuses more on administrators and theorists of the modern State than the victims of State.

Political Advocacy As A Humanist

This is a challenging question for me, as I am on the margins of political theology as a philosopher of religion and religious naturalist.

Coming

Christian Interrogation

…Political Theology is the sedimented yet changing and multifarious ways in which Christianity divides itself and (which is to say also: from) the world.

Coming

The Fluidity of the Field

Even while the concept of canon has been thoroughly critiqued and deconstructed, implicit canons remain and it may be best to acknowledge their presence rather than seek to repress them.

Coming

Wittgenstein’s Ladder

…I see my list on political theology functioning like Wittgenstein’s ladder metaphor in his Tractatus. Once graduate students read and grasp these important texts, they should “throw away the ladder”, so to speak, and deconstruct all they have learned about political theology to illuminate contemporary problems on their own. Once they reach the top, they can throw away the ladder.

Coming

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