Over the past few weeks, while I have been teaching a Spring course that introduces Religious Studies, I have also been confirming final details of a few forthcoming publications that might be interesting to those of you who come across this site.
In July the Mennonite Quarterly Review will publish my survey of Mennonite political theology and feminist critique, and the Journal of Mennonite Studies will publish my somewhat-constructive study of the sixteenth century Anabaptist idea of the ‘gospel of all creatures’ – a set of distinct and mystically inflected ideas that challenge contemporary distinctions between religion and secularity. I’ll post links to each of these articles when I can, but for those without institutional access or who would like to read them sooner, feel free to email me.
I’ve also recently reviewed a new book by Thomas Lynch called Apocalyptic Political Theology, published in an exciting new series at Bloomsbury called “Political Theologies.”
As I work on my dissertation I’ve been updating this site to better reflect where my research and writing are going. The bio and description of my work are now a little sharper and the list of publications has been updated with some more recent details.
Under the ‘About’ section above I’ve also included a new description of the two major projects that I’m working on: the first being my dissertation on violence, and the second being a series of articles on political theology and the politics of time. In the former category I’ve been putting the finishing touches on an article on the Anabaptist notion of the ‘Gospel of All Creature’s for publication this year in the Journal of Mennonite Studies. And in the latter category, this Fall my study of Nietzsche and Augustine – written quite a while ago now – will come out with Telos.
Beyond these two pieces of writing, I’m excited to be giving a paper at the Laurier conference on Religion and Public Life, and I’m looking forward to finishing up my review of an exciting new book by Robin Celikates called Critique as Social Practice (I’ll post a link here when it’s up).
For those who keep an eye on this page, or if you’re curious about my academic work and end up here, I tend to post updates on my research and writing every few months. The past school year has been busy, and over the past few months I have finished up my exams and moved on to dissertation proposal development.
In 2017 my articles in Identities, Studies in Religion, and the Mennonite Quartlerly Review each made available a different aspect of my work. The Identities article was made up of material I wrote during my masters degree, and I think that the main contribution it makes is to read Clement Rosset and Alenka Zupancic together in a way that hasn’t been done before. Beyond that, the article in Studies in Religion distills my masters thesis, comparing the postsecular thought of Daniel Collucciello Barber with the combination of Spiritualism and Rationalism in the seventeenth century Dutch Collegiants. The article in the MQR articulates the ‘philosophical turn’ I notice in recent Anabaptist Mennonite theology, and serves as a kind of preparation for some of my dissertation work. My edition of Friedmann’s last manuscript, Design for Living, is an early example of the philosophical thread in Mennonite thought, and I’ll be posting links to reviews of it as they appear.
More recently, in late 2017 the Canadian journal Dialogue published a long exploratory article I wrote called “Critique of Metaphysical Violence” – an article that begins to develop some of the work on religion, epistemology, ontology, and violence that my dissertation project will address in much more detail. I expect that the article will appear in a print issue of the journal sometime this year.
This year and the next will see a few more pieces of my writing appear, and these have more to do with my ongoing interest in philosophies of time and history, following on my masters thesis work in some ways. Recently the journal rhizomes published an article of mine on technology and time, and shortly I will submit the final version of my study of Taubes’ Occidental Eschatology to Political Theology, and next year Telos will publish my comparison of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Augustine’s Confessions. These four articles (including the Studies in Religion piece) form a kind of unit, each giving a different account of what it means to think time and history after the postsecular turn.
Lastly, this Fall I will also be teaching a second year undergraduate course called “Violence and Religion” at McMaster in the religious studies department. I’ve posted the draft syllabus here with links to some of the readings in case prospective students come across this space and are curious about the material.
For those who watch this space, here’s an update on my research and writing over the past few months, and looking ahead to the summer.
My edition of Robert Friedmann’s book, Design for Living was released at the end of November 2017, and is now available for purchase online. At some point this coming Fall I may put together a symposium-launch for the book with the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, with contributions from a few scholars who have engaged with Friedmann’s work.
I have been working with several affiliates of the TMTC, and its director Kyle Gingerich Hiebert, on the Mennonite Graduate Student Conference VIII – to be held from June 14-16 2018 in Toronto. My paper will be on moving “Beyond the Crisis and Fatigue of Mennonite Identity,” and it will involve some engagement with the critical-theological work of Hans-Jurgen Goertz. More importantly, the conference will serve as the informal launch of Lydia Neufeld Harder’s essay collection (CMU Press, 2018), and more details on her public lecture will be available soon.
I just returned yesterday evening from the DSR graduate conference at the University of Toronto on the Philosophy of Religion. My paper staged a dialogue between hermeneutic and phenomenological paradigms in the philosophy of religion, and more imaginative and entangled work in political theology, and I had some good engagement from some folks from ICS, and some good conversation on Agamben with Sean Capener. Kiegan Irish, in particular, gave a great paper on Foucault, and I notice that he has a post here on the Locke St. anarchism that Hamiltonians will be familiar with.
After my major comprehensive exams next week, this summer will consist of language study and dissertation prep, and further work on Grace Jantzen’s critical genealogy of violence in her trilogy, Death and the Displacement of Beauty.
This fall I am also excited to be a part of this conference at Brock University:
This study bridges secular philosophical perspectives and Christian theological perspectives by showing how the critique of metaphysical violence is common to certain representatives of both parties. By examining specifically metaphysical, and therefore epistemologically significant, ways of critiquing violence, this study seeks to show that, just as violence cuts across the sacred-secular divide and spans the distance between abstraction and action, so too does the critique of violence.
The past few months have been busy, and so I feel that I should post an update on some things I’ve been doing for those who encounter this space and wonder what kind of work I do in my doctoral studies. I’ve posted links to a few new reviews on the writings tab, and I’ve tried to keep my profile up to date as well. My academia.edu site may slow down, given the way that they are monetizing what was previously a helpful open access forum.
The main page of this site also has posts that contain PDF’s of four articles that I have published in 2017: one on ontology, one on Mennonites and philosophy, one on postsecular epistemology and seventeenth century Dutch dissenters, and one on violence and metaphysics.
In other exciting news, as of November 2017, the Zwickau Press initiative I have been working on slowly over the past few years has published its third title, Isaiah Ritzmann’s More Than Atonement.
Lastly, I should draw attention to some events at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. The first is the recent conversation there with Joan and Oliver O’Donovan on A. James Reimer’s Toward an Anabaptist Political Theology (a report on the conversation is here). The second is the release of Kyle Gingerich Hiebert’s The Architectonics of Hope – a book that I’m very excited to read closely. And the third note is that submissions are open for the eight biennial graduate student conference hosted by the TMTC. See here for the CFP.
“Identity, Ontology, and the Two / Идентитет, онтологија, и две,” Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender, and Culture. Vol. 13 (2016-2017): 101-136. English & Macedonian. Trans. Jordan Šišovski.
The following investigation examines the ontological concept of identity through the perspectives of several contemporary European philosophers, specifically attending to the critique of binary thinking contained within their critical conceptions of identity. Although poststructuralist discourse has long rejected simplistic either/or thinking about identity, few sustained attempts have been made to understand exactly what role distinctions between-two play in the process of individuation. In response to this need, the following study reviews several existing perspectives on ontological identity (Ricoeur, Düttmann, Adorno, Kolozova, Zupančič, and Rosset), and provides its own, all in order to suggest that the individuation of identities is radically dependent upon the Two.
This study provides a particular historical reading of the postsecular moment. In an effort to problematize and historicize the claims of both the secular and the postsecular, this study draws a connecting line between a contemporary postsecular thinker (Daniel Colucciello Barber), and a group of religious dissidents in the seventeenth century Dutch Republic (the Collegiants). In order to demonstrate that the concept of the secular is value-laden and historically situated, the following will explore the ways in which an historical group shares many epistemological characteristics with present postsecular discourse.
“There is a certain antithesis between being philosophical and being Mennonite.”
– Ralph C. Kauffman (1943)
This study traces the history of the relationship between Mennonite theology and philosophy from its early stages in the work of Ralph C. Kauffman and Robert Friedmann, through the differing attitudes toward theological resourcing of philosophy in the works of John Howard Yoder and A. James Reimer, to recent efforts to bring Yoder into conversation with contemporary philosophers. The essay first addresses the supposed contradictions between Mennonite identity and philosophy, and then—drawing on the work of J. Lawrence Burkholder, Chris Huebner, and Peter Blum—it explores the ways in which these contradictions are both resolved and sustained in the conjugation of Mennonite peace theology and philosophy that constitutes pacifist epistemology and its extension to ontology in the debate with Radical Orthodoxy. The study concludes with an examination of pacifist epistemology and the debate between Radical Reformation thinking and Radical Orthodoxy.
“Friedmann writes lucidly, with a free flowing style and above all with keen and empathetic discernment as a man who has cut for himself a broad swath of life and has drunk deeply at its richest sources and overlooks the highest peaks of human aspiration as well as its illusions and pitfalls.” – Clarence Bauman
Written in 1954 but unpublished in his lifetime, Robert Friedmann’s Design for Living asks that pertinent existential question: how should we live? Drawing on literary, philosophical, and theological sources, Friedmann’s answer begins with a critique of utilitarian ethics and popular apathy, and proceeds through an existential preparation that ascends in confessional style to the question of the meaning of human life, culminating in a fourfold set of principles: regard, concern, service, and love. Along the way, Friedmann’s critical eye remains clearly fixed on his object of study – lived experience, and not abstract principles detached from day-to-day life – and he intentionally guides his reader step by step up the mountain of spiritual and ethical inquiry in a deliberate and serious attempt to educate the heart, mind, and soul. At once accessible and scholarly, while troubling our contemporary divide between religion and the secular, Design for Living presents a rare vision of human meaning and purpose that will appeal to scholarly and public readers alike.
Robert Friedmann (1891-1970) was a Mennonite historian known for his work in Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries (1949) and Hutterite Studies (1961), and The Theology of Anabaptism (1973). He taught at Goshen College and Western Michigan University.