Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I’ve already heard that my paper for The Power of the Word: Poetry and Prayer (June 29-30, London), “‘My God! My God! Why Have You Forsaken Me?’ Poetry, Prayer and Performance in the Absence of God”, has been accepted (abstract here), but I’m waiting to hear back about Haunting Memories: Unsettled Pasts and Disputed Spaces (May 18, London) and The International Society for Literature, Religion and Culture (Oct 19-21, Copenhagen). These papers are all designed to extend my work on emerging Christian practice and philosophical theology into political theology.
My Haunting Memories paper is entitled, “A Spectre is Haunting Religion: Transformance Art, Suspended Space and (Religious) Identity.” Here’s the abstract:
‘[T]he church should be like the singer-songwriter we might listen to when we are working through a difficult situation…’ ̶ ̶ ̶ ̶ Peter Rollins, Insurrection: To Believe is Human; To Doubt, Divine
In John D. Caputo’s deconstructive theology, a ‘religion without religion’ (which has the structure of faith, of the promise, of a messianic expectation) spooks the historical faiths, ‘disturbs their sleep, keeps them up at night, gives them no rest’. This is a spook that speaks of ‘revanants – ghosts from the past, the dangerous memories of those long dead – and arrivants – specters of possibility of shapes yet unseen’. It means that pure faith, the structure of fidelity, cannot settle into any of the world’s religions without also unsettling them from within (Cross and Khôra).
Memory and hope haunt the present structures or horizons of life, including those of religion. This paper reports on two specific cultural expressions that reflect the haunted nature of faith: ‘transformance art’ and ‘suspended space’.
For Peter Rollins, the community of faith should create spaces that invite full participation in the material and existential realities of life. Rather than offering ways of escaping the human condition through the security of absolute presence, liturgy should enable those gathered to ritualistically confront the absence of God. After the death of God, religious practices become vehicles to work through grief at the traumatic loss of surety and certainty, and to edge towards alternative possibilities for religious and political subjectivity.
In ‘transformance art’, discourses and practices of memory and of hope seek to keep participants open to the disturbing spectre, or incoming event, of alterity that can effect subjective transformation. In ‘suspended spaces’, participants endeavour to leave their identities, including religious identity, ‘at the door’, so that they can more readily create alternative subjectivities.
I submitted my ISLRC paper, entitled ”The Meaning of the Absence of God for Life in the End Times: Towards an A/Theological Suspension of Identity Politics”, to the modern theology panel. Here’s the abstract:
Are these times in which we live the ‘end times’? If so, to what end do they bear witness? To the death of God, the demise of the human subject, the destruction of the planet, the terminal crisis and passing away of global capitalism? And what does life in these times look like? Are the end times truly atheist times, as Slavoj Žižek suggests, such that the times bear witness to the absence of God? Or might the absence of God itself be a witness? And to what?
For Žižek, Christianity is ‘the religion of a God who dies’, opening up ‘the space for thinking’ the nonexistence of the big Other. In his Lacanian-Hegelian atheology, God’s total self-emptying at the Incarnation and self-abandonment at the Crucifixion is the foundation of a new and universal (though atheistic) ‘fighting collective’ as God, the Holy Spirit, a community that cuts across divisions within the symbolic Order. For ‘emerging church’ author and practitioner Peter Rollins, whilst experiences of the absence of the presence of God affirm the nature of religious faith, absence and atheism also mean that religious life in the end times should be a/theistic, cutting across not only biological, social and political divisions, as Žižek suggests, but also across distinctions between religious and non-religious identities. He suggests, therefore, that collectives create ir/religious ‘suspended spaces’ in which ‘we place our various identities at the door’ so that participants can more readily build alternative visions for the future, shape different modes of social relation, and enact new, emancipatory ways of living and being.
In this paper, I begin to work through the ways in which the practice of suspended space represents a suspension of identity politics (and return to class struggle), or, rather, a move towards what I call a ‘politics of identity suspension’.
And although I’ve got something of a title, “Salvation and Emancipation: Emerging Fighting Collectives and the Suspension of Identity Politics”, for Alternative Salvations (Sep 18), I haven’t as yet written the abstract (deadline Apr 16).