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The reading seminar on political theology

When: Thursday, 24 August 2017 - Thursday, 24 August 2017
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
Seminar Room, Humanities Graduate Centre, South West Engineering Building
Start time:9:30

The next Transforming Humanities through Interdisciplinary Knowledge reading seminar will tackle political theology.

It is difficult to think about the political imagination, discourse and practice of our time without engaging a vocabulary that would seem to belong properly to the domain of religion.

Spirit, faith, devotion, sacrifice, prophecy, sin and redemption are all staple terms of political rhetoric even in states underwritten by steadfastly secular constitutions.

While some have noted a palpable ‘re-enchantment’ of a secularized world, others have argued that even the most ardently secular or ‘modernist’ political philosophies (such as democratic liberalism, socialism, communism) have always been constituted in relation to the very same religious precepts and institutions that they purport to distinguish themselves from. 

In short, the distinction between politics and religion has always been difficult to sustain, even as political movements or parties informed by explicitly religious ideologies seek to collapse them (one thinks, for example of the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the BJP in India, the National Front in France, the so-called Tea Party in the USA).

In Africa, the theology of politics reflects the distinctive institutional and ideological legacies of Islam and Christianity, with the latter more firmly bound up with the European colonial project and its aftermath. But these legacies are inextricably entangled with a multiplicity of other and older ways of imagining a transcendent, dynamic moral order, the powers that animate it, and the modes of ritual knowledge and practice that enable political subjects to act effectively within and upon it.  

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