The Self-Emptying Subject Book Event: On Shitting, or the ethics of self-emptying

Given the demands of thinking from immanence, Dubilet tells us that this is a book of ethics in so much as it is a book about anything at all. It is a book about the impact of a metaphysical claim, that proclaiming immanence, and the affective demands of that claim upon subjects. We should call this ethics. It is already interesting enough that he distinguishes this kenotic ethics from the ethics of alterity (indexed by the name Levinas) and the ethics of self-cultivation (indexed by the name Foucault), but let’s take as given that the ethics put forward in The Self-Emptying Subject is more adequate to an immanent form of thinking. I, sharing much in common with Alex’s theoretical orientation, agree that it is, but it is because of that agreement that I want to ask a harder question of this book, as a way of asking interrogating not only his thought but the thought that is common to us. Namely I am interested in what this kenotic ethics looks like, since in a certain sense, ethics shouldn’t be necessary within immanence at all. For within immanence there is equality, indistinction, an impersonal and common life or what Alex also calls a “univocal vitalism of nothingness (72).” So why is there something rather than nothing? Moreover, why are there all of these somethings, rather than nothing? Why is there a call at all to the “universality of communization (57)” that resists abstraction? (On these points I have been challenged in my thinking by Marika Rose, both in conversation and in her forthcoming A Theology of Failure: Žižek against Christian Innocence.) To get at this question more fully we must think about shitting. Continue reading “The Self-Emptying Subject Book Event: On Shitting, or the ethics of self-emptying”

New Article by Marika Rose and Anthony Paul Smith


Marika Rose and I have just published our article “Hexing the Discipline: Against the Reproduction of Continental Philosophy of Religion” for the special collection edited by Russell Re Manning on the future of the philosophy of religion (which includes other articles that may be of interest to readers here). Against the mundane toil of academic labor, we invite you to ask yourself if you want to live deliciously.

Here is the abstract: There has been a generalised anxiety concerning the future of continental philosophy of religion as a discipline, with a number of books, articles, conferences, and presentations taking up this theme. This anxiety exists because as a discipline continental philosophy of religion lacks a clear claim to an identity. This article analyses the anxiety concerning the future of continental philosophy of religion as an anxiety of reproduction. By locating the philosopher’s anxiety within a wider anxiety of reproduction we begin to understand this anxiety through the queer anti-social critique of Lee Edelman. This anxiety is traced through three processes of reproduction: intellectual reproduction, disciplinary reproduction, and institutional reproduction. The article goes on to sketch out a position against the reproduction of continental philosophy of religion by taking on and celebrating the discipline’s improper nature. Appealing neither to secular reason nor to established traditions, we draw on the Malleus Maleficarum (as read through queer theory and non-philosophy) to craft various models for thought. Here we find abortion prized over the future of the race, miscegenation over blood purity, and impotence and infertility over the sovereign power of the father. These models are explored both in terms of their historical context and as providing a different image of the work that can be carried out in the discipline of continental philosophy of religion. The article concludes by suggesting other perverse lines of relation that may be opened up when one gives up on the reproduction of the discipline.

Knot of the Soul Book Event: On Philosophical Ethnography

“Life is essentially itself.” — Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion, p. 290

“There’s no such thing as life, just phenomena after phenomena after phenomena.” — Co—star App, horoscope for the author algorithmically generated August 16th, 2018.

Knot of the Soul reflects a commitment to ethnography as both empirical research and a philosophical project. […] The stories, or ‘cases,’ are themselves theoretical sites of elucidation. Concepts emerge within the ethnography, and are brought into conversation with other concepts. […] The ethnography is more than just a description of the there-and-then of its anthropological object, be that contemporary Morocco, psychiatry, the life of patients, psychoanalysis, Qur’anic cures, or the Islamic ethical tradition. It has the nature of a coming to the fore, an encounter, with a world and a tradition, but more fundamentally with what Ilyas called the ‘torment of life’.’” — Stefania Pandolfo, Knot of the Soul, pp. 22, 23

The attentive reader of Stefania Pandolfo’s Knot of the Soul: Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam cannot help but by struck by the beauty of its sadness and the depth of the suffering attended to within its writing. It is this quality of the book that lies at the center of its resistance to the standard modes of academic commentary or review. What do you write about in the face of suffering? It’s a question that lies at the heart of Pandolfo’s project, as I understand it. How do you write and analyze in a way that is faithful to the incoherence of a life lived? How do you deploy concepts and stories, which are used to form coherence, without then shifting attention away from the suffering attended to?

Though these are but two ways of formulating the question, for me the configuration of this question demands a response that looks to the method of the project. Pandolfo’s book, like her earlier Impasse of the Angels, is beautiful at the level of its writing, precisely because her work takes seriously the melancholy of a life lived amongst a people, in a culture, positioned within a society. Yet, the method of her book is not simply to tell sad stories. Continue reading Knot of the Soul Book Event: On Philosophical Ethnography”

Contemporary French Philosophy Seminar (Philly Event)

Glenn Wallis is hosting an Incite Seminar on April 14th similar to the one that I led on the work of François Laruelle in the Fall. This seminar will be facilitated by Villanova University’s Gabriel Rockhill. This intensive seminar will serve as a crash course in contemporary French theory in order to provide students with a rigorous overview of its key movements, figures and concepts. Beginning with the immediate postwar rise of Existentialism, while tracing out its important connections to Marxism, we will then look at the emerging critiques formulated by the “structuralists” and their gradual turn away from Marxism. Finally, we will compare and contrast two rival movements that emerged on the heels of structuralism and continue today: the “post-structuralists,” who sought to radicalize the structuralist turn, and a disparate group of thinkers—from Castoriadis to Badiou—who saw in both structuralism and post-structuralism an intensified embrace of postwar ideology and advocated for a resuscitation of anti-capitalist philosophy. Interested parties are invited to visit the Incite Seminar website for more information.

On the Use and Abuse of Objects for the Environmental Humanities: Recent Books in Object-Oriented Ontology and Ecotheory

Below you will find a long review essay on three relatively recent books in Object-Oriented Ontology as they attempt to engage with ecology and ecological concerns (you may also download it as a PDF if you prefer). For those who read the essay, you will see that I am very critical of these works. The review was originally commissioned for an academic journal. This journal differs from other in its review policies in that reviews are sent out for peer review. The two reports I received from readers were very enthusiastic and recommended the review be published with some minor corrections. One reviewer actually suggested that the review was too forgiving and thought I should be even more critical. When I made my revisions I didn’t act on that suggestion, as I felt the piece was already harsh and, for the few who would read it, would already be controversial as is.

I was excited to publish the review and had spent a great deal of time on it. However, after the initial peer review stage the two main editors also take a pass at the reviews. Both ultimately disagreed strongly with the readers and made a number of suggestions and demands. This process lasted through two rounds and ultimately I felt they were asking me to change the piece so substantially that it was no longer a tolerable situation. Though I disagree strongly with them, I am thankful for some of their comments and respect their commitment to their standards. However, I am criticizing very powerful figures in the broad field of environmental humanities not because I think it is a good career move, but because I believe in the criticism. As I explained to the editors when I decided to withdraw the piece, I am not really rewarded for publishing work at my institution and am provided very little support for research and writing and as such I see no reason to compromise on what I do decide to publish much as they refuse to compromise.

Some of what I put forward at the end of the piece is forming the basis for a new project on ecology and colonialism, which includes a reading of Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” through the work of Frantz Fanon.

On the Use and Abuse of Objects for the Environmental Humanities: Recent Books in Object-Oriented Ontology and Ecotheory

Anthony Paul Smith, Department of Religion & Theology, La Salle University, United States

This review essay examines three recent works of ecotheory, Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green(edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman, and Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, all of which attempt to make use and deepen the philosophical project of object-oriented ontology (OOO). After an overview of the place of OOO within contemporary philosophy and its general principles, the essay posits that there is a unidirectional relationship between OOO and ecotheory (inclusive of scientific ecology). Since the practitioners of OOO discussed in this essay all claim that their work is philosophically realist in orientation, this failure to engage and mutate their philosophical work according to scientific ecology bears witness to the inability to fully break from anthropocentrism. At a deeper level this failure acts as a symptom for a wider failure to break from the colonial episteme that goes unexamined by OOO. Making use of Hortense Spillers’s conception of “pornotroping”, the essay offers a reading of various author appeals to love, erotics, and sadomasochism that argues this same colonial episteme of anti-Blackness structures OOO’s understanding of the object. While presenting a general critique of OOO’s interventions into ecotheory, the essay also calls for a deeper engagement and centering of scholarship in Black Studies and Queer Studies, particularly from an Afro-pessimist and anti-social perspective. Continue reading “On the Use and Abuse of Objects for the Environmental Humanities: Recent Books in Object-Oriented Ontology and Ecotheory”

CFP: RADICAL/IZED RELIGION: Religion as a Resource for Political Theory and Practice

Hannah Strømmen and Thomas Lynch are organizing a conference at Chichester University entitled “RADICAL/IZED RELIGION: Religion as a Resource for Political Theory and Practice” that may be of interest to readers of the blog. The keynotes for the conference are Torkel Brekke, S. Sayyid (whose Recalling the Caliphate was the focus of an AUFS book event), Yvonne Sherwood, andØyvind Strømmen. I have copied the CFP below, but you can check out the conference website for more information about the keynotes and scope. Continue reading “CFP: RADICAL/IZED RELIGION: Religion as a Resource for Political Theory and Practice”