This is a book about India and China. It is about the ways in which these nation-forms, and the nationalist understandings of religion that have thereby developed, have been transformed by Western imperial modernity.
Debates over the virtue or vice of modern liberal political arrangements often boil down to narratives about violence, whether we are speaking of violence in its literal sense, or in the more metaphorical use made so fashionable by postmodernism, namely, the attempt to erase or neutralize difference. According to the eulogists of liberalism, it rescued us from the darker ages of religious tyranny, in which zealots of orthodoxy used political power to enforce uniformity, and even to violently persecute dissenters.
We have spent now four posts tracing the historical development of Protestant two-kingdoms theology, and its influence on early modern political thought. This has all been an attempt to vindicate the claim, advanced in the first installment of this series, that the wider world of political theology has good reason to attend to the disputes over this doctrine that have heretofore been the province only of a characteristically combative subgroup of the American Reformed. Has it been vindicated?
The Royal Remains is a culmination of years of reflection on the conditions of the emergence of modernity, the ways in which it has been underpinned by a pound of ‘spectral yet visceral’ flesh. The book presents a complex politico-theological and psychoanalytic narrative about how the demise of transcendence has left us with a ‘surplus of immanence,’ a bodily too-muchness, an errant fleshy excess that still defines our condition and haunts it. From Marat’s death to Rilke’s Malte, from Kafka’s “Country Doctor” to Foucault’s biopolitical body, I track the palpitations of this surplus and explore the possibilities of developing new ways of living with and through it.