Clayton Crockett: The Conception of Insurrections

Deleuze Beyond Badiou

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a guest post from Professor Clayton Crockett, in which he discusses how the series began, and where it may be going in the future.

1. In the Beginning

The idea for a book series that became Insurrections began in Philadelphia in December 2005 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Creston Davis was telling me that a Christian publisher approached him about editing a book series with Slavoj Žižek, and he asked if I was interested in participating in such a series. I told him that I was currently working with Jeff Robbins on a series for a small publisher in Colorado, so what if we both came on board? Creston set up a breakfast with Jeff and I and Slavoj to talk about this possibility. We quickly realized that any book series we could co-edit would exceed traditional theological boundaries, and so we brainstormed about potential publishers. Jeff had just submitted a book he was editing to Columbia University Press, on the recommendation of Santiago Zabala. This book, published as After the Death of God, featured John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo, and it became the first book in the series. We contacted Wendy Lochner and she encouraged us, asking to see a proposal. This series proposal was approved in summer 2006 at the same editorial board meeting that approved the book manuscript After the Death of God. Even though having four co-editors seemed a bit unconventional and perhaps even unwieldy, in practice it has worked incredibly well because we all trust each other, and have a great working relationship with Wendy and Christine Dunbar (and previously Christine Mortlock).

2. A Body of Work

As of this writing, we have published 16 titles in the series, and we are extremely proud of all of our books, not only in themselves but in terms of the kinds of interconnections they make and the kinds of energies they unleash together. We seem to have a friendly rivalry with Amy Allen’s great series “New Directions in Critical Theory,” that started around the same time and has published about the same number of titles. We share some overlapping theoretical interests but of course Insurrections is more explicitly focused on issues and questions of religion. We have published works by and featuring major European philosophers, including Slavoj Žižek, Gianni Vattimo, Alain Badiou, Catherine Malabou, and Peter Sloterdijk. We have published major American philosophers of religion such as John D. Caputo and Richard Kearney, and we have published religious theorists engaging important postcolonial themes like Arvind Mandair and Ananda Abeysekara. It’s about creating an intersection around religion as a void or an empty space where themes of Continental philosophy, political theology and critical theory converge and amplify each other, opening up new ways of thinking about religion and politics understood in broad terms. Later this spring, we have three more books appearing in the series: a translation of Jacob Taubes, To Carl Schmitt, with an introduction by New Zealand scholar of religion Mike Grimshaw; a translation of another book by Peter Sloterdijk, Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, with an introduction by Creston Davis; and a book co-authored by Catherine Malabou and Adrian Johnston on Self and Emotional Life. Finally, we have books forthcoming by Ward Blanton, Katerina Kolozova and Tyler Roberts, as well as translations of books by Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri and François Laruelle.

3. What is Insurrectionist Theology?

Jeff and I come out of a tradition of American radical theology, including Death of God theology and postmodern theology. We both studied theology at Syracuse University with Charles E. Winquist, who was succeeded there by John D. Caputo. Creston studied theology at the University of Virginia with John Milbank, and engaged the political critiques of Radical Orthodoxy, which drove him deep into the philosophies of Žižek and Badiou. Slavoj affirmed his solidarity with Thomas J. J. Altizer’s understanding of the death of God at a conference in Montreal in 2009. So the Insurrections series represents a radical theoretical vision on religion, politics and culture that we all share. As a way to name this and elaborate our perspective more explicitly, we are working on a manifesto-type book that would explain what we mean by Insurrectionist Theology. Insurrectionist Theology affirms the tradition of radical theology in the United States, including the death of God, although that can be understood in different ways. Insurrectionist Theology refuses political neutrality, and works not only to critique contemporary corporate capitalism, but to offer ways of thinking and possibilities of living beyond capitalism. We refuse any simple opposition between the religious and the secular, and we argue that both are implicated in the world we live in as well as harbor potential to transform it in important ways. We are dedicated to a kind of experimental testing that exceeds instrumentalism, because there is no fixed identity for ourselves or our objects of study; we are always in process, or en procès (on trial). We affirm a materiality of existence which is neither a crude reductionist atomism nor a consumerist materialism, but a materialism based on energy transformation. And this materialism does not preclude the profound importance of vital ideas. Finally, we share a commitment to the Real, defined in broadly Lacanian terms. Insurrectionist Theology is an insurrection with and against theology itself. As Carl Schmitt declared in a letter to Armin Mohler, “today everything is theology, except what the theologians declare to be such.” We attend to Schmitt’s powerful critique, but we ultimately oppose his reactionary vision of political theology. The book will include an Introduction laying out what we mean by Insurrectionist Theology, along with four sections or “gospels” based loosely on Heidegger’s Fourfold. So there will be a section on Earth, a section on Sky, a section on Gods, and a section on Mortals. The goal is to set out more explicitly what we mean by Insurrectionist Theology, and lay out a vision for thinking about religion and the political today.

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