Is there a conversation around political theology (as concept, field, method, or however you understand it) from the past twenty years that continues to fascinate you?
I should begin by expressing my amazement at the popularity — all things being relative, as we are speaking of academic matters — of the phrase “political theology.” The phrase is an old one, of course, and yet I find it difficult not to wonder about the co-incidence, whereby the interrogation of the concept of religion (its Christian colonial history and its general imperialism) was just getting started, when the new phrase was ushered in as a substitute of sorts, with ever more imperial claims. Suddenly — and without the help of missionaries nor of colonial administrators — a new category was deemed immediately relevant and eminently translatable to every possible realm, culture, or period. It is therefore the fact of a proliferating conversation (yet another incitement to discourse) that I want to register as an object of fascination — and wonder.
What conversations working with the concept of political theology do you find most fruitful today?
Within the field, I nevertheless want to single out two trends (if trends they are) that seem to me particularly exciting. First, is what Vincent Lloyd has called “the political theology of race.” The conversation on religion and race is, of course, growing, yet the particular entanglements, indeed, the possibility that, when it comes to race and religion, we may not be speaking of two distinct fields, barely of different analytics, is what the volume promises, which Lloyd edited under that title. The potential for a global conversation is made most manifest, it seems to me, in the work of Houria Bouteldja (who, incidentally, does not mention political theology, but then again, why should she?) whose book Whites, Jews, and Us: Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love opens new and indeed fascinating spaces for conversation.
The second trend I am interested in is represented in the work of Catherine Keller, who refers to a “political theology of the earth,” or, in Michael Northcott’s wording, “a political theology of climate change.” The urgency of a holistic reflection on the ongoing catastrophe is what these scholars foreground, proposing a truly challenging mobilization of the phrase “political theology.”
Where do you hope to see discussions of political theology in 20 years?
I cannot say that I hope for more discussions of political theology in 20 years. But I do hope for the endurance of conversation, indeed, for the preservation of the art and wisdom of conversation.