August 2020 Work-in-progress

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The past six months and the course of the covid-19 pandemic have been a strain to say the least, but amidst the adjustment to working from home, the stress of family health crises, and ongoing political upheaval, I have found that writing continues to be therapeutic – even cathartic.

Concurrent with my dissertation, I am working on several other larger projects (which are not ready quite yet), and so below I’ll point to a few smaller pieces of writing that have recently been published or are coming out this Fall. Hopefully these links give those of you who encounter this site some idea about my current work.

So far this year I have published two online contributions that extend my work on Mennonites and philosophy. The first is an update to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) entry on “Philosophy” – the original of which was authored by J. Lawrence Burkholder in 1989 (see here for my review of his autobiography).

The second piece was recently published on the Anabaptist Historians blog, and it is called The Philosophical Legacy of Robert Friedmann.” The essay extends my biographical work on historian Robert Friedmann, whose manuscript on existentialism and ethics Design for Living I edited and published in 2017. The blog post gives a sense for the ambiguities of Friedmann’s ‘confessional’ identity and points to his deep connection with his Jewish background. 

My work on the complexities of Mennonite identity continues, and most recently my 2019 Literature & Theology essay “Violence and the Romance of Community” received the 2020 Julian Gwyn Prize in Baptist and Anabaptist History and Thought from the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies.

Looking ahead with this part of my research in mind, I’m excited to say that this Fall’s special issue of Hamilton Arts and Letters will publish my account of Miriam Toews’ visit to McMaster earlier this year, titled “Secular Mennonites and the Violence of Pacifism: Miriam Toews at McMaster.” The issue is on Mennonites, literature, and art, and it is edited by Grace Kehler whose work on Toews is extensive

My broader work on Mennonite identity will be laid out more fully next year – if all goes well – when I expect to publish a long programmatic article that lays out my approach to Mennonite Studies and connects each of my Mennonite essays thus far. It is called “Secular Mennonite Social Critique: Pluralism, Interdisciplinarity, and Mennonite Studies,” and it is slated for publication in a volume called Liberation and Responsibility: Anabaptism and Cultural Engagement, edited by Lauren Friesen and Dennis Koehn. The collection will also feature an essay by Daniel Shank Cruz whose literary-critical work pushes existing boundaries of Mennonite identity in exciting new ways.

This Fall will see the publication of a few other articles including a study called “Plato, Adorno, and the Dialectic” which is forthcoming in the Macedonian journal Identities. The article compares dialectical thinking in Plato’s Republic and Adorno’s lectures, while following up on some of the ontological themes of my 2016 article, “Identity, Ontology, and the Two” (chiasmus, dialectic, intertwining).

A little closer to home, my opinion essay “Religious Studies and Internal Family Systems Therapy” will be coming out in the journal Implicit Religion sometime in the near future. The piece explores some methodological connections between Religious Studies, Political Theology, and an approach used by counselors and psychotherapists called “Internal Family Systems” in which the self’s multiplicity is affirmed rather than pathologized. I’m grateful to my partner Amy and her colleagues for their help as I try to understand major approaches in their field, while making (hopefully non-reductive) connections with my own area of study.

Beyond that, I have some reviews in various stages of great books like Daniel Shank Cruz’s Queering Mennonite Literature, David Newheiser’s Hope in a Secular Age, an edited collection called Recovering from the Anabaptist Vision, and a collection of essays by Jacob Taubes called Apokalypse und Politik.

Lastly, and most importantly, in October I will be fielding the argument of my dissertation at a webinar panel put on by the Canadian Society for Studies in Religion. The talk is titled, “Ontologies of Violence: Deconstruction, Pacifism, and Displacement.” See below for the poster:

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Max

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

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