In a few weeks I’ll be presenting a summary of my forthcoming book Postsecular History: Political Theology and the Politics of Time on a panel hosted by Brock University’s Posthumanism Institute: https://brocku.ca/pri/2021/02/08/pri-roundtable-posthuman-spirituality/
In the next two months, as I make my final revisions on the Postsecular History book manuscript, I will be giving two online talks on material from the project.
The first talk, in late February, will be part of an upper year methodology seminar in the Religious Studies program at the University of Lethbridge, taught by Dr. Jennifer Otto – whose project on the Radical Reformation looks fascinating. I’m looking forward to sharing about the methodological challenges I encountered in the book, and exploring some of the normative problems in Religious Studies and Political Theology.
The second talk, on March 8th at 4:00 PM, will be a contribution to a panel on posthumanism and spirituality, convened by the Posthumanism Research Institute at Brock University. My presentation will draw on the fifth chapter of my book – an earlier version of which is published here – to examine how the prefix ‘post’ that precedes both the postsecular and the posthuman is a way of periodizing time and history that owes some of its power to theological-political concepts.
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!
Guest lecture for the McMaster University, Department of Religious Studies methodology seminar “Issues in the Study of Religions,” taught by Dr. Dana Hollander. December 9, 2020.
Atalia Omer, “Can a Critic be a Caretaker Too? Religion, Conflict, and Conflict Transformation,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79.2 (June 2011).
Selections from Rainer Forst, Normativity and Power: Analyzing Social Orders of Justification. Trans. Ciaran Cronin (London: Oxford University Press, 2017).
The following text is my prepared material for the seminar and although it does not reflect the entire discussion, it does contain the major questions that I posed to the group.
I have selected Rainer Forst’s work on normativity to discuss in this seminar because I think that a key question for the discipline of Religious Studies is:
- How should Religious Studies scholars understand the relationship between normative prescription (advocating for something, or arguing that something ought to be the case) and description (giving an account of what is the case)?
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:
See here for my review of an excellent and recent book by Agata Bielik-Robson, Another Finitude: Messianic Vitalism and Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 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!