Ontologies of Violence (Book)

Meg Harder_Turning Point_2012

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, Mennonite pacifist political theologians, and the late work of feminist philosopher of religion Grace M. Jantzen. Although they each approach the problem of violence with different frames of reference, Derrida’s deconstruction, Mennonite pacifist epistemologies, and Jantzen’s feminist critique each address the ontological and epistemological characteristics of social violence, while arguing that ontologies and epistemologies themselves have the potential to be violent. Through close readings of Derrida’s early essay “Violence and Metaphysics,” the philosophical turn in twenty-first century Mennonite thought, and Jantzen’s late trilogy Death and the Displacement of Beauty, this book provides a theory of violence by treating it as a diagnostic concept that implies the violation of value-laden boundaries. By drawing out and challenging the remarkably similar priorities of its three sources and challenging the assumption that differences necessarily lead to displacement, Ontologies of Violence uncovers the shifting normative foundations of violence in our present public and political discourse and reconstructs the concept of violence in response to both the desire to relativize violence, and the desire to fix it in place.


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