January 2021: Works in Progress


For those of you who check this space or those who encounter it in the wild, I find it helpful to give an update on my research and writing every few months (for the benefit of myself as well as others). As 2021 begins I am looking back on the work that I was able to do in 2020 and forward to the final 6 months of my PHD. Because so much of my scholarly interest is in philosophies and theologies of time and history, I will divide this survey into past, present, and future – conscious, of course, that the present is a moving target, the past is a construction, and the future is unknowable!

Past

In early 2020 I gave a presentation at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre that summarized my research project on Mennonite Studies. Surveying philosophical, political, secular, and literary Mennonite works, my presentation knit together several of my articles under the banner of a “secular Mennonite social critique.” I’ve since revised the presentation and it will likely be published as a book chapter in a volume on Anabaptism and culture in 2021.

Three of the last in-person academic events I attended pre-covid-19 were (1) a research sharing session with the Niagara Anabaptist Colloquium hosted by Mike Driedger (where I shared a version of my encyclopedia entry on Mennonites and philosophy), (2) a public talk by Miriam Toews at McMaster (which I have since reported on in Hamilton Arts and Letters), and a consultation on peacebuilding at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (where I gave a response to Malinda Berry’s political theology, which will also appear in the aforementioned book chapter).

In December I was honored to be a co-recipient of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre A. James Reimer Scholarship (see here for my statement of appreciation), and since then my Mennonite work has involved digitizing and editing some historical source documents from the tradition.



In October I published an online edition of a 1976 pamphlet called In Search of Peace that collects Metis, African American, Chicano, and Native American articulations of Mennonite pacifism. In a few days, my edition of an important but neglected Mennonite pamphlet will appear on the Anabaptist Historians site. The title is Let’s Talk About Extremism (1968), and its author Edgar Metzler – who kindly supported republication – provides a fascinating expression of what has since come to be called “pacifist epistemology.”



Toward the end of 2021 I also gave two online webinar/seminar talks: one for the CSSR that summarized my dissertation project, and one for a methodology course that reflected on the role of normativity in the interdisciplinary study of religion.

Present

Presently, I am revising the later chapters of my dissertation “Ontologies of Violence,” and revising my book manuscript Postsecular History. These two large projects have taken up most of my time and will be my focus during the first of half of 2021.

My dissertation on the place of violence in the works of Derrida, Mennonites, and Grace M. Jantzen focuses on the normative foundations of the term and the metanarrative orderings of origins, essences, and ends that underpin its use. In connected ways, my book project focuses on the powerful confluence of theological and political strategies of legitimation in periodizing gestures that divide time (past, present, future) and history (Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Postmodern), especially in ‘postsecular’ thought. I hope to defend my dissertation in the Spring, and I expect to submit my final manuscript for the book project in the next few months (for publication in the Palgrave Macmillan series “Radical Theologies and Philosophies“).

Future

The coming months will also bring several other projects to fruition, including an article on Plato, Adorno, and the dialectic, an essay called “Factory Time,” and an essay on the methodological resonances between Internal Family Systems therapy and the study of religion. I am slated to review Daniel Loick’s A Critique of Sovereignty and two anthologies of work in political theology, and I am also hoping to see another review of the manuscript by Robert Friedmann that I edited in 2017. As well, I am excited to write a popular review of this book on Mennonite engagements with aboriginal peoples.

I am currently editing and introducing a special issue of the journal Political Theology that will be published in March 2021. The issue includes historical, secular-literary, theological, and feminist expressions of Mennonite Political Theology – which I argue is, at its best, a broad and pluralistic discourse that far exceeds capture by traditional and institutionally bound Christian theologies. Once peer review is completed I will post the very exciting table of contents here!

Beyond that, I have some hope that 2021 will see the publication of a few more articles (one on technology and posthumanism, one on fanaticism and historiography, and one one violence and displacement), and perhaps news of a postdoctoral fellowship…

By Max

Maxwell Kennel is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto.

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