Ontologies of Violence (Brill, 2023)

Forthcoming in the Brill “Political and Public Theologies” series edited by Ulrich Schmiedel, Ontologies of Violence: Deconstruction, Pacifism, and Displacement provides a new paradigm for understanding the concept of violence through comparative interpretations of French philosopher Jacques Derrida, philosophical theologians in the Mennonite pacifist tradition, and Grace M. Jantzen’s feminist philosophy of religion. By drawing out and challenging the remarkably similar priorities shared by its three sources, and by challenging the assumption that differences necessarily lead to displacement, Ontologies of Violence provides a critical theory of violence by treating it as a diagnostic concept that implies the violation of value-laden boundaries.

In Ontologies of Violence Maxwell Kennel renews conversations about the nature of violence by charting a course through Derrida and Mennonite political theology toward Grace Jantzen’s celebration of life and beauty. In doing so, Kennel offers a positive vision – or story – of peace that refuses to subordinate difference to a predetermined harmony. The importance of this approach becomes especially clear in the book’s conclusion, where Kennel brilliantly engages with intersectional theories of violence and the question of public health.

–Jamie Pitts, Associate Professor Anabaptist Studies, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

In December 2022 part of the book’s third chapter was published in the UK journal Angelaki, providing the first comprehensive interpretation of all three volumes of Grace Jantzen’s trilogy, Death and the Displacement of Beauty. Being a revision of my 2021 dissertation, and building on my earlier work in a long preparatory article called “Critique of Metaphysical Violence” (published in Dialogue in late 2017), Ontologies of Violence draws together French philosophy, Mennonite pacifism, and Jantzen’s unique approach to violence in order to reframe the problem of violence in relation to value-laden boundaries.


Introduction. What is Violence?

Chapter 1. Jacques Derrida’s Original Violence

Chapter 2. Mennonite Pacifist Epistemology and Ontological Peace

Chapter 3. Grace Jantzen’s Critique of Violent Displacement

Conclusion. Violence as the Violation of Value-Laden Boundaries