As our discussion of J. Kameron Carter’s Race proceeds, I’d like, in the spirit of “halftime analysis,” to repost a lengthy comment I made on this post. The question at issue was Carter’s treatment of Foucault, which some took as critical, and some as an attempt to draw out a certain problem built in to modernity. What makes this intriguing for me, and worthy of raising again, is the question of the position one adopts regarding the relation between radical criticism and theology. Is radical criticism possible apart from consideration of theology? And if one answers no, then in what sense? That is, even if one accepts the necessity of considering theology’s relevance for radical critique, is it actually necessary to save some aspect of theology from this critique? Here’s the comment:
“Let me try to recap and extend Adam’s point: the narrative of Israel that Foucault says cannot resist biopolitics is a Christian narrative of Israel. So in this sense is criticism as nothing to do with Jewish existence, it has to do with Christian existence.
This seems to be agreed on by all here. If so, then we can agree Foucault is actually criticizing an effect of supersessionism. So Foucault is, in fact, anti-Christian … But mabe not anti-Christian enough. No doubt the case. So this i think means the question is how to be more adequatel anti-Christian.
Foucault, it is being said, “surfaces” the question of Jewish existence. Right. So the question of how to be full anti-Christian has to do with the question of Jewish existence. Being anti-Christian means looking at the manner Jewish existence is devalorized by Christianity.
This is of course a modern problem. But not just modern. There’s a pre-history to it, one that points to figures such as Irenaeus, who locates Israel within Christ. Or to Paul. So doesn’t the question of anti-Christian and Jewish existence push into the ver origin of theology? … that is, the distinction between Israel-as-Jesus and Jewish existence (with its own reading of Israel)?
This is perhaps another matter, but not completely. I think the pushback on the Foucault interpretation is because it could be seen as a diversionary tactic – Foucault may not be enough, but if so why go after Foucault … why not go after Christian theology? In other words it seems like the burden might be getting put on Foucault when it would better be put on theology. Foucault “surfaces” the problem, as the modern secular (if we follow Anidjar the Christian secular) buries it, but isn’t it Christianity that produced it?
These are the questions i think that are emerging here. Especially because of the theology vs. pseudotheology distinction – what would be a theology that responds to Jewish existence, not just to Israel-as-fulfiled-in-Christ … This, again, is why the distinction between “Israel” and Jewish existence is important. And note the work of someone like Seth Schwarz, who argues that Jewish existence, as we now know it, defines itself quite directly in opposition to Christian theolog — i.e. the theology of the era of Irenaeus & co., i.e. right from the beginning of Christian theology.
(Jay, I know ou’re now working on Christology, so these are likely live questions for you; for my part, i’ve advanced a stronger version of the above claim in my own forthcoming book, so these matters are central for me also.)”
So, open question, and feel free to use the comment if specificity is desired: If one wishes, today, and in view of the sort of critical perspective mentioned above, to do theology, then on what basis? What’s the motivation? What conditions the subjectivity of the producer of theology?