Police Violence



My current dissertation work is based on the idea that although we think we know violence when we see it, things are far more complicated than the term initially implies. The use of the term ‘violence’ is fundamentally contested, and its use always implies a set of violable boundaries that are both epistemological and ontological (such is my argument). Violence is not only a contested concept in itself, but it is also a keyword that points outward to broader social problems that lie at the base of western societies.

In the recent conversation on protest movements in the United States, the term ‘violence’ is used as both a legitimizing and delegitimizing tactic, meant to authorize some uses of force or coercion and deauthorize others. Given the readily usable character of the term, the questions at the root of my work are: Who decides how the word ‘violence’ should be used? How is the term used? How should it be used? How can we understand the term as simultaneously descriptive and normative? Turning to occasions of violence helps to disentangle this knot of what is and what ought to be. Understanding violence requires attention to police violence because police violence is paradigmatic of the greater problem of violence.

As we know, George Floyd – a black man – was killed in Minneapolis on March 25 by a white police officer named Derek Chauvin. Three different sets of video footage show Floyd complying with officers. Although Floyd tells the officers that he is claustrophobic they successfully force him into the back of the cruiser, after which Chauvin (who has just arrived on scene) pulls him through the opposite door and onto the street. Chauvin then kneels on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. While he is still conscious Floyd can be heard saying the words: “I can’t breathe.” Chauvin continues to compress Floyd’s neck with his knee until after EMTs arrive and instruct him to release Floyd. According to two autopsies – one private and one from the state – Floyd’s death was determined to be homicide by asphyxiation.

The four officers involved were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and each face charges, but the public response has swept the United States and beyond. Protesters flooded the streets of major American cities, marching in support of Black Lives Matter and against police violence. Among many peaceful marchers were also those who committed acts of looting and vandalism, but one must ask: does the fixation on violence and the fact that it sells cause media outlets to overemphasize looting and vandalism at the direct expense of large numbers of peaceful marchers who do not make good news? I think so.

Since Floyd was killed thousands of people have marched in protest of police violence against Black Americans, and by May 30 at least twelve major American cities had declared curfews.

In short order, the president of the United States wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!” However, in a later tweet he threatened protesters with violence, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Then, on June 2, Trump was pictured in the news holding a Bible in front of St John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC – an act that clearly shows the unique American entanglement of religion and politics.

During the protests in Minneapolis more video footage shows members of the National Guard marching before an armored vehicle through a residential neighborhood while shouting at people on their porches to get inside. Some who did not obey were shot with paint pellets by soldiers, despite their clear compliance with the curfew order.

In the face of police violence and protest, some have shown hospitality rather than aggression. In Washington, DC, during the protests last week Rahel Dubey opened his home to protesters who had been blocked into his street. As the curfew and threat of police violence approached, he let at least 80 people into his home. Video footage shows Dubey welcoming his guests to stay “as long as it takes.”

However, police violence continues. Without provocation, during recent protests in Buffalo a police officer pushed an elderly man to the ground. As the man lay motionless on the pavement while bleeding from his head, video footage shows one officer kneel down to help him before another pulls him away. The two officers involved were suspended without pay, and the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo wrote on Twitter: “Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law.”

But what is the difference between enforcing and abusing the law? Who decides which acts of violence are legal and legitimate, and which acts of violence are not? The concept of violence itself does not give an answer to these questions. There is a double problem at the core of the question that violence poses. On one hand, what counts as violence is contested. On the other hand, what justifies violence is contested.

Disagreement about what counts as violence and what justifies violence is at the heart of the current conflict between police and protestors in the United States. Deciding what is properly called violent or not is a powerful act made by many public and political figures. For example, despite the fact that, according to the FBI, the group had no involvement with the violence in DC on May 31, Trump’s threat to designate ‘Antifa’ as ‘terrorists’ is an expression of this kind of power, and his more recent response to the events in Buffalo exhibits the easy conspiracism that dominates right-wing thinking in North America.

Terms like ‘terrorist,’ ‘radical,’ ‘extremist,’ and ‘fanatic’ are very often used to disqualify the violence of one group and authorize the violence of others. So too with the term ‘violence.’ In his work on death and politics, Achille Mbembe argues that “the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides, to a large degree, in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die.” Mbembe’s work helps us see that violent power is exercised when police officers and political leaders decide that certain lives are expendable or worth less than other lives.

The power that Derek Chauvin wielded when he killed George Floyd was violent in large part because Chauvin used his power as a law enforcement officer to prevent bystanders from intervening to save Floyd’s life. This powerful decision about who lives and who dies is a constituent part of policing.

In his recent book Critique of Sovereignty, Daniel Loick argues that, as “a monopoly on legitimate physical force,” sovereignty is a modern European invention that is not naturally given, but made and perpetuated. Indeed, there have been many societies that do not rely upon the threat of physical force by police to maintain social order.

How does the historical relativity of sovereignty reframe the conflict often presented between police and protesters? I think it points to the fact that to say there are violent members of ‘both sides’ is to diminish the kinds of violence described above.

Both supporters of police and supporters of protesters use the word ‘violence’ to condemn the other. But is there really a ‘debate’ between protesters and police? The term ‘violence’ is used to characterize protestors by those who call for more military involvement. Even though the majority of protesters have been peaceful, in a violent article for the New York Times, Tom Cotton called for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” Pointing to three instances of police officers being shot by protesters (one of which was fatal), Cotton argued that the military should use physical force to preserve the law.

But consider that hundreds of thousands of people across the United States have marched peacefully in protests this past week, and compare the results of this social movement with the statistics on police violence against Black Americans. In 2019 police in America killed 1099 people, 24% of whom were Black, despite being only 13% of the total population. These statistics should shock us and show us why protesters continue to respond to the violent killing of Black Americans by police, while police and the National Guard attempt to preserve ‘law’ and ‘order’ by means of physical violence.

Some try to present a neutral and balanced view of these two opposing groups, arguing that there are ‘bad apples’ among both police and protesters. Others point hopefully to police who lay down their gear and join protestors, or to police who kneel in solidarity with protestors. These moments hold great potential, but many were followed by further police violence in the same locations, making any clear interpretation of them difficult.

When we try to present police violence in a neutral light by pointing to problems with ‘both sides’ we miss the violence of systemic racism that persists within police forces in America and around the world. We don’t need a universal concept of violence to see that police violence is masked by those who present it as a debate with two equal sides about which we should be balanced and moderate.

In a time when journalists are being attacked by police, and when unmarked officers refuse to identify which federal agency they belong to, the problem of police violence remains. Defenders of the police and those who advocate for police reform point out that not all police forces conduct themselves in the violent ways we have seen on the news this week. But again, presenting this fact and using language of ‘reform’ rather than ‘abolition’ has the effect of stalling substantial conversations about police violence and standing in the way of serious changes to community safety practices.

Despite the ill-considered words of several politicians, Canada is not exempt from the problems of racism or police violence. Indeed, the conversation on police violence is just as relevant in Canada given the high number of Black and Indigenous Canadians who are victims of racial and police violence.

Following the encouragement of a recent anthology that sustains the conversation on police violence, I think that we should ask incisive questions about “how exactly and how lawfully the police works, and on the other hand how disproportionately, or even excessively, it makes use of its force and authority.” As the public reckoning with police violence continues in the United States and Canada, the difficult task will be to ask these complex questions in ways that move beyond both neutrality and polarization while actively valuing Black lives and clearly condemning police violence.

Much of this task, I think, should involve taking a closer look at the values that underpin our uses of the term ‘violence.’ My work is based on the notion that violence points back to values, so that the question becomes: what is violated when violence is done? If we value human life then instrumental uses of the term ‘violence’ to damn, vilify, and demonize – and here I intentionally use these theopolitical terms – are not sufficient, and this is precisely because they reproduce what they purport to oppose.




Update: March 2020



It’s been a strange time since the COVID-19 epidemic began, and stranger still as philosophers have responded to it with varying degrees of thoughtfulness and clarity (better examples being this piece by Elettra Stimilli, and this piece by Robin Celikates).

Because it is so difficult to do anything helpful from home, except continue to work on my dissertation and other projects, I’ll include a brief update and log of my work below, for what it’s worth in these times (time having much to do with how isolation influences us, and time having much to do with the way that this pandemic will retroactively serve as a periodizing marker of a ‘before’ and an ‘after’).

Having the privilege to be able to carry on working form home, I have recently submitted an updated entry on “Philosophy” for the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) – a survey that outsources some of the literature review for the second chapter of my dissertation project, and extends my work on Mennonites and philosophy in my 2017 “Mennonite Metaphysics?” article.

At the same time, my broader work on reconceptualizing the field of Mennonite Studies continues, and I have updated my recent TMTC paper on Mennonite Studies here for those who are interested.

Apart from these larger projects and a few book reviews in progress, before the outbreak I was able to attend and contribute to a few interesting events.

On February 21st I gave a brief overview of my encyclopedia entry, titled “Mennonites and Philosophy: A Brief History,” at the Niagara Anabaptist Colloquium. Organized by Michael Driedger, the symposium also included fascinating contributions from John D. Rempel (on his new book), David Neufeld (on his book project), Vic Thiessen (on his translation of some fascinating German Mennonite correspondence), and Jonathan Seiling (on his co-translation of Jakob Hutter‘s complete works, forthcoming from Plough Publishing).

On February 25th, Canadian novelist Miriam Toews visited McMaster and was interviewed by Grace Kehler and Travis Kroeker about her new novel Women Talking. As a self-described ‘secular Mennonite’ whose artistic works express a kind of antipatriarchal pacifism, Toews is a fascinating and helpful voice in the conversations on Mennonite identity and Mennonite writing, and I think her work is a potential source for further reflection within Mennonite Political Theology.

In early March I also had the opportunity to travel to the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, for a peacebuilding consultation where I responded to a working paper by Malinda Berry. Although Malinda’s political theology differs from the Mennonite Political Theology I am interested in developing, being invited to respond to her methodological approach was a great chance to reflect on the problem of dissociation in political theology, especially on the question of oikonomia and the relationship between abstract and personal ‘household economies.’ My response was titled “Political Theology and Dissociation” and I hope to work it into a future piece on Mennonite Political Theology.

Lastly, this term I audited two fascinating courses, one comparing Melville’s Moby Dick and Augustine’s City of God, taught by my supervisor Travis Kroeker, and another on Fanaticism, taught by Mike Driedger (see here for an interesting crossover).

Thanks to those who keep an eye on this space,

More to come!

January 2020 Update



Shortly I’ll be giving a paper at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre that summarizes much of my research and sets forth a paradigm for my work in Mennonite Studies (see here for the presentation). The forum at TMTC allowed me to consolidate and summarize much of my work, and I’m grateful to Kyle Gingerich Hiebert for his efforts in showcasing Mennonite-related work around Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Hamilton.

As far as future events are concerned, I’m quite excited for the Mennonite/s Writing Conference in Goshen this coming October, especially since I have begun reading Daniel Shank Cruz’s book Queering Mennonite Literature. Cruz’s book does something unique with Mennonite identity that I’m very interested in following, and I am looking forward to Grace Kehler’s forthcoming review of it. 

I’ve also received exciting news about the book by Robert Friedmann that I edited in 2017. It has recently been reviewed in the Mennonite Quarterly Review by Justin Heinzekehr (whose excellent book The Absent Christ has also just come out [see my review here – 2020/04/11]). See here for a PDF of the review, courtesy of John Roth, and below for an excerpt:

“Editor Maxwell Kennel has provided us with a new window into Friedmann’s thought with the publication of Design for Living, a manuscript that originated as lecture notes from an undergraduate course taught in 1954. This book reflects Friedmann’s attempt to articulate a meaningful philosophy of life by translating the values of Anabaptism into a public, secular context. As such, Friedmann builds an argument for a life oriented toward values of regard, concern, service, and love without assuming a prior commitment on the part of his audience.”
– Mennonite Quarterly Review 93.3 (October 2019): 569-570.

With Friedmann in mind, as well as Heinzekehr’s recent revival of the question of metaphysics for Mennonites, I am also working on expanding the 1989 “Philosophy” entry in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. It has been exciting to look back further than I did in my 2017 article on the topic, and to discover philosophical writing by Dutch Mennonites like J.A. Oosterbaan (for example, his article “The World and its Wisdom” and his dissertation on Hegel).

I have also been thinking more about the relationship between Religious Studies as a discipline, and the sub-field of Political Theology – especially the normative tensions in both discourses. And so in the next few months I will be writing a review essay for Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses  that compares two recent anthologies in Political Theology (Wiley-Blackwell and T&T Clark) and considers how this conversation intersects with Religious Studies.

Two Upcoming Talks (2019/2020)



On November 23rd 2019 I will be on a panel discussing the work of Adam Kotsko at the American Academy of Religion meetings in San Diego (along with An Yountae, Laurel C. Schneider, and Jared Rodriguez). Although my response is focused on the specific ways in which time and history are periodized in neoliberalism and Kotsko’s critique, my paper puts to use some ideas from the broader paradigm that I have been trying to develop in my work on ‘postsecular history.’ It’s very exciting to be presenting on the panel, and I’m looking forward to the conversation that will follow.

Toronto Mennonite Theological CentreAnd then in January I will be presenting some of my work at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. In the talk – tentatively titled “Secular Mennonite Social Critique” – I will be summing up some of my articles on secular, philosophical, political, and literary Mennonite scholarship, and fielding the core argument of my dissertation, “Ontology of Violence.”

Telos 188 (2019) Response


Telos 2019 Cover

The new issue of Telos has just come out, and I have an article in it called “Periodization and Providence” that compares the philosophical and theological narratives of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and Augustine’s Confessions. I have a few thoughts that I’d like to add to my article now that it is public and published and partly summarized by David Pan in the introduction to the volume.

Pan begins his introduction by pointing to the connection between global political order and theology, claiming that “it has become clear that religious conflicts drive political ones” (3). Being situated in the conversation on political theology, I think that statements like this one need more unpacking, because in a way, the claim rests on a clear and causal distinction between religion and politics. Now obviously Pan doesn’t think that these categories are simple or separable. His argument is that in order to understand the ‘political’ we need to understand the ‘theological,’ and he rightly points out that the postsecular turn names the persistence of certain theopolitical visions within and beyond secularization. I appreciate the way that Pan’s introductory comments point to the limits of political and military calculations as keys to understanding global order – for theological and religious powers are always also at play.

That the Fall 2019 issue is mostly composed of articles on Islam is heartening (although I still need to read them through). A few issues ago, Telos published a review of Michael Ley’s 2015 book Der Selbstmord des Abendlandes: Die Islamisierung Europas. The reviewer recounts Ley’s argument that “only an Islam without Sharia is compatible with human rights” (187), and sympathetically engages with Ley’s notion of the “Islamicization of Europe” while pointing to the author’s previous work on antisemitism. I found the review disturbing. At each turn it attempted to anticipate the reaction of the reader who would level charges of Islamophobia against the book, using Ley’s credentials and previous work to deflect anticipated attacks. The reviewer then writes that, “Ley also predicts that there will a rude awakening for gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and adherents of gender ideologies of all sorts: they will disappear from the landscape of an impending European caliphate. The political future of Europe will instead mirror the present-day realities of Lebanon, parts of the former Yugoslavia, the present states of the Middle East, and parts of Africa.” (189). The reviewer then summarizes Ley’s conclusion that “The solution can therefore only lie, according to Ley, in a return to the basics of European cultures: the national, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity and the European values of humanism and the Enlightenment.” (190).

The prediction that Islam will cause LGBTQ* people to disappear from Europe is Islamophobic – not least because it conveniently returns to a general representation of ‘Islam,’ and allows all the author’s previous distinctions between Sharia and moderate Islam to disappear. Whether this is an accurate summary of Ley’s book or not I am not sure, but the fact that a sympathetic review of a book like this appeared in Telos was concerning to me because I knew my article was also coming out in the Fall issue. This is why I was glad to see work on Islam in the most recent issue of the journal – especially work that makes and maintains the necessary fine distinctions between different kinds of Islam (just as there are different kinds of any other religion).

The idea that Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Secularism are categories whose content can be evaluated wholesale is something that I hope most scholars of religion fundamentally question, not because any of those grouped under these categories should get a free pass for the use of violence, but because each term attempts to collect such a massive tradition that is so interiorly diverse that it cannot be subjected to evaluation in a singular way (much less prediction). This returns us to categories like ‘the religious’ and the ‘political’ – categories that the new issue of Telos concerns itself with – for these categories too are often blamed for problems by those who want to preserve one general category and denigrate another (as if to say, ‘religion is the problem, not politics!’ or the reverse). I think, in its own way, my article approaches some of these problems of representation.

Pan provides a summary of my article in the introduction after narrating the arc of the articles on Islam, and for the most part he presents my work accurately. I do attempt to provide an alternative model for thinking about history that takes the postsecular situation seriously, and I do think that Nietzsche and Augustine differ fundamentally in their treatment of the way that the past, present, and future are drawn together in the present moment (Zarathustra’s Augenblick and the tension of Augustine’s distentio animi). However, it’s not quite right when, concerning my reading of Nietzsche, Pan states that: “With the falling away of intentionality, there is no more basis for a trajectory and there is only repetition.” (6). Rather than focusing on intentionality or using it as a key term to delineate the difference between Zarathustra’s Augenblick and Augustine’s distentio animi, the article focuses on the theopolitical power of periodization, showing how Augustine’s pilgrimage and Zarathustra’s wandering both divide time and history into periods. Whereas Augustine’s peregrinatio is a kind of guided providential journey that is retroactively laden with meaning, Zarathustra’s lonely hike is a journey without a telos.

Both Zarathustra and the Augustine of the Confessions are messianic figures who present visions of lived time and make broader claims about history, doing so in literary, philosophical, and theological ways (while disturbing the boundaries between these categories in the process). My aim in the article is to show how both Augustine and Zarathustra divide up their time, periodizing their journeys using terms like ‘conversion’ and ‘metamorphosis’ respectively, and further periodizing history: Zarathustra’s time is like a gate between two paths in which the gate is the Augenblick that divides past and future, and Augustine’s time is a tension, intention, and distention in the soul that gathers the past and future into the present moment. Both figures mediate and periodize time in significant ways. Augustine’s time is teleological, and Zarathustra’s time is circular (He says, “All that is straight lies.”).

I hope that my article will also be read with this in mind. At the end of the article I praise Augustine and critique Zarathustra’s journey because the latter seems to fall prey to alienation (and I use this in the sense developed by Rahel Jaeggi), and not because Augustine is more intentional and teleological than Zarathustra (or Nietzsche for that matter). These distinctions are important, because the last thing I want to do is to set up a debate between Nietzsche and Augustine and have Augustine come out as the winner because he is more intentional and teleological. Instead, I think that Augustine’s providential pilgrimage is too coherent, and Zarathustra’s aimless wandering is not coherent enough – and here I am thinking specifically about the way that both periodize their autobiographical and cosmological narratives.

When I write about a postsecular history, I am trying to find a way between and beyond theopolitical periodizations that make either providential meaning or ateological meaninglessness compulsory. At the end of the article I do claim that “Zarathustra’s journey seems too incoherent and fragmented to lend anything constructive to the present postsecular situation.” But now I am not so sure. Although I think that Nietzsche does not give good resources for overcoming alienation, I do think that his critique of the straightforwardness of teleological time is a help to those who want to address the alienating aspects of modern, postmodern, and neoliberal life. I’m interested in finding ways to talk about providence that don’t fall into the simple distinction between the meaningfulness of all experiences and the meaninglessness of all experiences. I see Zarathustra and the Confessions as influential texts that have provided scaffolding for these questions, and which may still serve as guides for thinking about periodization and providence in the relationship between autobiographical and metaphysical time and history.

This article is also part of a larger project that attempts to articulate a postsecular history by making connections between political theology and the politics of time using periodization as a key term. My dissertation, on the other hand, is about violence. And so, I am attentive to the ways that violence can get covered over by historical, political, and religious abstractions. Reading Klaus Theweleit’s Männerphantasein has me thinking about the ways in which violence is explained away, avoided, and reduced, by interpreting violent acts using overdetermining categories or by making certain violences about something else (ex. ‘the violence of murder is really about an abstract or natural desire that men have for competition’). My current dissertation work attempts to address the problem of using abstract, linguistic, or natural categories to talk about violence – meaning that when I worry about Islamophobia I am worried about how representations of Islam that generalize and homogenize translate into very real cultural sentiments that have materially violent effects. In the swing to the right – analyzed by Francois Cusset, for example – representations of Islam are always being manipulated, especially in obscured movements from specific instances of violence to the broadest possible category called ‘Islam.’ My worry about the review in Telos is connected to my worry about the production and reproduction of enmity in political theology, as a result of the persistence of Carl Schmitt’s categories. The problem of misrepresentation – and here I mean the manipulation of representation such that some events or groups are made exemplary of large categories like ‘Islam’ or ‘Religion’ and others are ignored – is a constituent part of the desire to divide the world into friends and enemies, whether by demonization or scapegoating or desiring a ‘return’ to Enlightenment or Christian values, as if these values were not produced at the expense of so many. Perhaps an example will help.

In his recent book The Demons of Liberal Democracy, Adrian Pabst begins by dignifying the resentment of western liberal democracy (2), while at the same time proclaiming “the failure of dualistic thinking” (3). A few pages later he constructs a caricature of “hyper-liberals” who reject national identity, are self-righteous, and can’t be reasoned with, unlike “most people” (6). In the book’s central critiques of oligarchy, demagogy, anarchy, and tyranny, Pabst returns to this figure of the “hyper-liberal” in order to authenticate his claims. Complaining that traditional values have declined (33) and opposing both demagogic manipulation and conspiracy theories (73), Pabst accuses liberals of either reducing the world to the facts of instrumental reason or resorting to a hands-off ‘agree-to-disagree’ world of irreducible values (74). Advocating for a return to truth (99), Pabst eventually divides up the political world into ‘illiberal liberals’ and ‘anti-liberal insurgents’ (150) and plays into the dichotomous logic he condemns at the beginning of his book by feeding back into the polarization he condemns (ironically demonizing in an effort to cast out demons). My worry is that Pabst – who is a contributing editor to Telos – has made the production of enmity and resentment central to his work by using cheap representations of ‘liberals’ or ‘hyper-liberals’ to argue that his position marks the clear middle between the extremes of “doubling down on abstract liberal cosmopolitanism or a retreat to nationalism and even atavistic ethnocentrism” (87).

I’m as concerned about social fragmentation as anyone else, but I don’t think that the answer is returning to truth and tradition, much less the values of the Enlightenment. In some ways, the very figure of a return is a theopolitical periodization that puts to use the restitution of a supposedly better time in the past for the purposes of advancing a present order. This is the sort of problem I am trying to address with the notion of theopolitical periodization. The invocation of a ‘return’ to truth, values, or tradition, is a particular expression of power that rests on theological and political structures of legitimation. Whether by manipulating the relationship between part and whole to produce exemplary events and stable identities (as in Ley’s misrepresentation of Islam), or by manipulating the relationship between past and present by calling for a return to truth (as in Pabst’s argument), the configuration of part and whole often relies upon the construction of a representative enemy: the Muslim who wants to take over Europe, or the hyper-liberal who can’t be reasoned with. In both cases the implicit (and sometimes explicit) argument is that there is an enemy out there who cannot be reasoned with – a fanatic who isn’t reasonable like ‘us’ (here I am thinking of Cavanaugh’s Myth of Religious Violence and Toscano’s Fanaticism). But this doesn’t take seriously enough the real conflict in values faced by liberal democracies, nor does it treat each party involved as having real reasons for their values and actions amidst the profound conflict of normative orders in the globalized and globalizing world.

Overall, I’m pleased to see the article in print in Telos. I think the journal can be a place for thinking past some of the problems mentioned above. At the same time, I have serious reservations about some of the problems of representation that I see – specifically representations that demonize, scapegoat, and produce enemies by moving from the specific to the general. I hope that the argument of my article and some of the reflections can help to remedy some of these problems of representation, and I hope the article is helpful for those who are interested in the problems of postsecularity and its often implicit negotiations between Christianity, religion, and secularity.




August 2019 Update



As Fall approaches I am anticipating the publication of two articles on philosophical, theological, and literary themes. The details of both are posted in the publications tab (with updated links to come soon), and although they are coming out at the same time they were written almost two years apart. The article in Telos is an edited version of the first term paper I wrote when I began my PHD studies in Fall 2016, and the Literature and Theology article was written last year in the lull between the end of my exams and the beginning of my dissertation. I hope that both will be interesting for those who encounter my work, and I’d be more than interested to hear comments and critiques on the material that they make public.

Looking forward to the Fall, I am continuing to work on my dissertation project, expanding and clarifying some of the initial ideas that I developed back in 2017 in my “Critique of Metaphysical Violence” and working with the distinctions between ontologies and epistemologies of violence and ontological and epistemic violence.

At the same time, I am developing a theoretical framework that uses the methodological orientation of political theology to think about the periodization of time and history. This November I’m excited to be on a panel at the AAR discussing Adam Kotsko’s work. My paper will be on the theopolitical periodization of time and history in neoliberalism and Kotsko’s critique in Neoliberalism’s Demons.


June 2019 Update



Over the past few weeks, while I have been teaching a Spring course that introduces Religious Studies, I have also been confirming final details of a few forthcoming publications that might be interesting to those of you who come across this site.

In July the Mennonite Quarterly Review will publish my survey of Mennonite political theology and feminist critique, and the Journal of Mennonite Studies will publish my somewhat-constructive study of the sixteenth century Anabaptist idea of the ‘gospel of all creatures’ – a set of distinct and mystically inflected ideas that challenge contemporary distinctions between religion and secularity. I’ll post links to each of these articles when I can, but for those without institutional access or who would like to read them sooner, feel free to email me.

I’ve also recently reviewed a new book by Thomas Lynch called Apocalyptic Political Theology, published in an exciting new series at Bloomsbury called “Political Theologies.”

Thanks for checking out this space!

February 2019 Update



As I work on my dissertation I’ve been updating this site to better reflect where my research and writing are going. The bio and description of my work are now a little sharper and the list of publications has been updated with some more recent details.

Under the ‘About’ section above I’ve also included a new description of the two major projects that I’m working on: the first being my dissertation on violence, and the second being a series of articles on political theology and the politics of time. In the former category I’ve been putting the finishing touches on an article on the Anabaptist notion of the ‘Gospel of All Creature’s for publication this year in the Journal of Mennonite Studies. And in the latter category, this Fall my study of Nietzsche and Augustine – written quite a while ago now – will come out with Telos. 

Beyond these two pieces of writing, I’m excited to be giving a paper at the Laurier conference on Religion and Public Life, and I’m looking forward to finishing up my review of an exciting new book by Robin Celikates called Critique as Social Practice (I’ll post a link here when it’s up).

Thanks for checking out this space!