Update: March 2020

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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!

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Max

Maxwell Kennel is a PHD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University.

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