Lines in the Innumerable: Enmity, Exceptionalism and Entanglement

Lines in the Innumerable: Enmity, Exceptionalism and Entanglement Abstract This article originated from the Literature and Theology Annual Lecture, as the keynote address of the 18th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, held at the University of Glasgow, 9–11 September 2016. The lecture speaks both to the theme of the conference—‘Lines in Sand: Borders, Conflicts and Transitions’—and to the (theo)political moment of the time of its delivery: the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, the 2016 US presidential campaign, and the North Dakota pipeline protests. The piece considers how the ‘line in the sand’ marks difference, even ethical demarcation, but it retains its granular multiplicity; when it hardens it into the borderline between us and them, ‘friend vs. foe’, a recognisable politics is in play, indeed a political theology of hardline power. How does a democratizing multiplicity morph into the Schmittian sovereignty of the exception? Do US and white exceptionalisms work in tandem with a theology of human, and indeed Christian, exceptionalism? How in a perilous time might a theology of entangled difference resist the political theology of the hard line? ‘Lines in Sand’: what a prescient title chosen for this event already several years ago—long before this political moment: this year of some shockingly hard lines, of lines drawn with rising popular vehemence, lines to separate a nationalised, racialised us from those others, those migrant multitudes, those tawny too many. ‘Boundaries, conflicts and transitions’ indeed. Odd, how Europe and the US are particularly entangled in this struggle. I feel in Scotland like I am tossing sand in a wound just to say Brexit. And likewise it hurts to mention the American whose mother emigrated from Scotland, who announced this spring that Scotland would help him win the presidency, and flew to tout his golf course in Balmedie as a great success. He sold his popular hard line, the line separating the true us, spelled US, from the impinging, infiltrating, innumerable tawny immigrants, Muslim or Latin American: and the line becomes the wall, in the desert sand between the US and Mexico. ‘Build the wall,’ his crowds roar: ‘and make them pay.’ Actually, when I first heard it, the conference title had undergone some unintended electronic transatlantic distortion. Lines arrived spelled with o-umlaut before it—‘Oelines’—so I thought this was some playful Saxonism for oil-lines through desert sand. Hard lines indeed of the global economy and our deteriorating climate. And as we gather we may hear the drums of the gathering going on simultaneously—an unprecedented gathering of a hundred American tribal nations blocking the building of the North Dakota oil pipeline through their sacred land while threatening the water supply of eight million downstream. They are drawing their own line in the sand. Against the oil pipelines prophesied by Black Elk as the black zuzeca serpent that would threaten the world. So then we must ask: what metamorphosis makes a line in the sand harden into a wall or a pipeline? First of all, surely, it ceases to be a sandy line—a line of sand. How will we draw our line between a sand line and a hard line? As the multiple sessions of this conference brilliantly demonstrated, we have to deal not with one line but an abundance of them. First of all, here, that means the lines between multiple disciplines. The conversation of this extraordinary society [International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture] seems to move between religion and literature by way of the sandy zone of culture and so between multiple disciplines. But then these lines between trace not division but affiliation; they are not lines of separation but of relation. And because they multiply they cease to be imaginable as hard lines, they bend and twist, they bifurcate and intersect, they mesh, they tangle. There is nothing politically innocent about such interdisciplinarity. When academics draw hard lines between our disciplines we are kept disciplined indeed: divided and conquered—convenient to the regnant political order, as interdisciplinarities far more readily foment protest (think of the function starting in the 1970s of women’s studies, Black studies, peace or environmental studies programmes, and then queer theory, the new materialism …). It is no coincidence that economics is the most specialised of academic disciplines. And there is a special political intensity around an interdisciplinarity that includes religion, indeed religious multiplicity—given for instance the surging politics of Islamophobia, given the echoes of twentieth century anti-semitic fascism. The political potentiality is heightened when you draw religion into the mix, as entangled in the other disciplines, and even Christian theology, as entangled in the other religions. For, as I hope will become apparent, then what is called political theology can be exposed and engaged—that is, we can surface the theological lines that operate in secularised form across the political spectrum. And so align ourselves most responsibly. Indeed the very notion of political theology that has arisen forcefully in the twenty-first century less within theology than within the interdisciplinarity of political theorists (such as Giorgio Agamben1), provoked by the work of Carl Schmitt, with its fascist taint, and re-engaged by a few theologians. This peculiar interdisciplinarium has been demanding my attention recently, as I seek the transdisciplinary lines of force that may move through versions of eco-social justice theology into the saeculum—the age—of refugee and climate crisis. So if I may sketch a sandy outline: we will notice something peculiar about the metaphor of the line in the sand—a sense in which it deconstructs itself. And in so doing (or undoing) it may help us think through how the political hard lines of us versus them, of friends versus foes, get produced out of prior categories, out of the very act of categorising. And how this act justifies a kind of exceptionalism, forged in a state of emergency and justified by a particular form of political theology—the brand of sovereignty. We then pursue three lines of enquiry into that hard line exceptionalism: as political, as anthropic and as religious. The tangling of these lines may then yield a flashback to an ancient line in the sand. It may serve as parable for a counterexceptionalist entanglement in the political ecology of current crisis. Something quiet, almost imperceptible is going on with a line in actual sand. Unlike a hard line, a pipeline, or a wall—it cannot establish itself as the one over and against the other, the not-one; the straight line us against the chaotic colours of the not-us. It cannot hold the line against multiplicity because it is multiplicity. For it is drawn in and of the granular manifold of sand. In an innumerable crowd of tiny beings responsive to the least air or ocean current, constantly flowing and shifting, molecular and not molar in the Deleuzian sense. A line in the sand is a deterritorialisation of what will be territorialised in its name, an autodeconstruction of what will be constructed on its unstable grounds. Or grains. And every grain of sand if you blow it up 250 times is unique: a stunning, yes, colourful diversity appears. In the Bible (the literature I can share) the phrase ‘as the sand in the ocean’ is the primary locution with which to express an unfathomable but material multiplicity—as of old Abraham and Sarah’s progeny: ‘and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore’ (Gen. 22). It also works as epistemology: ‘Now God gave Solomon … great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore’ (1 Kings 4:29). The interdisciplinary mind? But what turns a line in the sandy manifold into a hard line? Is it what reduces difference to division? Alfred North Whitehead called the reducer ‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness’2—the confusion of an abstraction for the concrete actuality. Taking a category, like a mathematical line or point, or quantifier of economic growth, or racial image—for the particular becoming reality. Categorisation seems often to enable antagonism. Intriguingly the Greek word kategorizein captures this ambiguity: its root meaning is ‘to accuse’. We might say then that the shift from a concrete difference to a categorical division may be said to trigger the friend/foe dynamism. That opens the first line of enquiry. The friend/foe opposition is what, according to the political theology of Schmitt defines politics itself: it poses the emergency to which sovereignty is the answer. ‘Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception’, that is, the strong leader in the state of emergency—an exceptional power equal to exceptional crisis. Schmitt traces the charisma of the sovereign to the omnipotence of the sovereign God.3 And he disarmingly links his emergency power to make law and suspend it with the freshness of one who does not play by the rules, who breaks through the torpid crust of life, indeed with Kierkegaard’s anti-Hegelianism. The New York Times recently ran a helpful editorial relating Trump to Schmitt and his hard line between friend and foe. ‘By heaping hatred on foreign elements within America’s borders, he [Trump] seeks to thicken the meaning of the nation as a category.’4 In a way resembling Schmitt’s thought on sovereignty, he imagines the nation as an organic entity whose will is expressed through him. Or, put differently, he seeks to restore the racial and familial implications always at play in its Latin root, nationem, from nascor, ‘to be born’. In this nascent nationalism, blood lines unite by dividing; what queer theory calls reproductive chrononormativity pumps up flagging pride in the face of straight white male working class anxiety—and so it invigorates the racialised exceptionalism. Schmitt’s political theology is driven by disdain for liberal democracy, seen as indecisive in the face of emergency, weakened by faith in endless conversation. But despite its anti-democratic animus, it is not a huge leap to trace a connection to US exceptionalism. Jefferson’s ‘empire of liberty’, Roosevelt’s ‘arsenal of democracy’, Reagan’s repetition of the ur-theological Puritan ‘shining city upon a hill’. Obama when asked tried this: ‘I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.’ That should make exceptionalism unexceptional. If only his irony worked. As to British exceptionalism, well, the vote is in. It reminds us of the etymology of except: from ex-cipere, to take out. Indeed the anti-immigrant racialisation of the nation connects our states rather eerily to the conditions under which Britain’s empire first arose. I refer here to the phenomenon of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism of which womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas offers a succinct geneology. It begins in England’s post-Reformation crisis. ‘In an effort to establish the antiquity of the Church of England and to justify the 1559 Elizabethan Settlement, Archbishop Matthew Parker encouraged research into the culture, history, and politics of Anglo Saxons.’5 For two centuries this research centred in a reading of Tacitus, On the Manners of the Germans, describing the blue-eyed tribes which the English claimed as their Anglo-Saxon ancestors. It supported ‘cleansing the English church and society of Norman contaminations’, and so sharpens the break from the Latin church (really?). But my narrative cannot draw here its own hard line. In its early form this ethnic retrieval also nourished more participatory governance.6 ‘The Anglo-Saxon myth came to America through three radical English reformers. The Pilgrims and Puritans fled from the Church of England to build a religious institution more befitting Anglo-Saxon virtue and freedom. They considered themselves the Anglo-Saxon remnant that was continuing a divine mission … traced beyond the woods of Germany to the Bible.’7 So a myth of bloodlines mingles with ancient prophetic eschatology, with the liberation exodus, which moves in all the radical movements of west, the politics of the New polis, the new Jerusalem. Jefferson’s reverence for Tacitus and all things Anglo-Saxon, above all the roots of language and self-governance then fed the ‘belief in the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon peoples’. Benjamin Franklin would write that all peoples are black or tawny, even the Germans, ‘the Saxons only excepted, who with the English make the principle body of white people on the face of the earth … I could wish their numbers were increased. And while we are … scouring our planet, by clearing America of woods, and so making this side of our globe reflect a brighter light to the eyes of inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the sight of superior beings, darken its people? Why increase the sons of Africa, by planting them in America.’8 So we see with Franklin’s witty and secularised American exceptionalism, Anglo-Saxon race supremacism is not restricted to one side on the issue of slavery! But the problem became the multiplicity of other immigrant stocks that the Anglo-Saxons did need to incorporate into national unity. The challenge rose to emergency by the late nineteenth century: ‘President Theodore Roosevelt became so obsessed with the number of new stock immigrants compared to the low birth rate of old stock Anglo-Saxons that he feared “race suicide”.’ Suffice for now to say that it was the construction of whiteness that worked ‘to resolve the contradiction between America’s Anglo-Saxon and immigrant identity. Whiteness signified that the immigrants were Anglo-Saxon enough’.9 The abstract category of whiteness provided the misplaced concreteness for a line, not in the sand, but truly in concrete. As illustrated, for example, by the literally concrete walls of the shameful US prison industrial complex. So a complex Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism simplified itself into the white supremacism that this election season—along with the Black Lives Matter movement—has again exposed. If we add to Douglas’ account that of J. Kameron Carter’s,10 in which it is first the earlier European racialisation of the Jew that reorganises the human in terms of race, we recognise the operation of a versatile historical politics of race in the secular galvanisations of a we versus a they, a we taken out, unitary, purified of the dark taint of the multiplicity. The mottled mix of the inferior immigrant stock, the unwhite, flexibly shifts depending upon the crisis to target the Mexican irreligiously, or the Muslim Islamophobically. But the race machine is, from the start, a secularisation of the Christian supersessionism that takes something called Christianity out of its Judaism, something called Christ out of its messianicity, something called God out of its cosmos. Cut down the dark woods, take out the dark aliens, scour the planet—and the way is cleared for the transmogrification of the creation into capital. Here would run our second line of enquiry: how is it that hard lines between human collectives converge at the boundary drawn around the human itself. We may call it anthropic exceptionalism. Of course, like the city on the hill, it has its political theology, it operates from a normalised version of Christianity, a familiar reading of Genesis. After all is not the creation of the human in imago dei in Gen. 1 [26–29]—and, with dominion, sovereignty, over the rest—a clear signal that the human is the exception amidst the creation, however good it is all declared? Sure, as long as you rip the text out of its context of resistance to Babylonian imperialism; and ignore the next three verses, so rarely cited, in which the narrator spells out the content of this honour. See, you get to eat every planet yielding seed … you get to be vegans, just like everything that breathes. The human is climactically no exception from the animal condition. No doubt a special calling, for a hypertalented and aggressive creature, to exercise power responsibly. Dominion, not domination. In context, anyway. To be distinct, different, extraordinary and conscious of it is not the same as to be excepted, excipere, taken out of animality, to be circled by a wall of reason or language. But does our animality then erase the line between us and the other animals? Derrida, in Cet Animal Que Donc Je Suis, arrives just in time to comment. The line, as limit between nonhuman and human, does not vanish. Au contraire, he coins the term ‘Limitrophy’—the growth of the limit—to complicate this very borderline. ‘Not just because it will concern what sprouts or grows at the limit, around the limit, by maintaining the limit, but also what feeds the limit, generates it, raises, and complicates it.’11 Derrida’s language bends here toward the Deleuzian ‘folding and multiplying’. The limit gets ‘thickened, delinearized’.12 A delinearised line sounds sandy to me—so not an ontological wall of misplaced concreteness—but a multiplying, molecular, shifting relation of difference. In the cosmology of the cloud of the impossible this is called entangled difference.13 Interestingly, Derrida could not make the move to the nonhuman animal without a strong move through Genesis to the other side of the nonhuman, the theological, so he coined the word divinanimality to trouble this formative hard line.14 We might then say that as theology lurks behind the politics of anthropic sovereignty, so a divergent theology nourishes an alternative: the responsibility of our breathy humanity. Derrida is tuned to the discursive politics, particularly regarding the economy of factory farming, which, of course, is a significant driver of the ultimate symptom of anthropic exceptionalism, global warming. What of the friend/foe version of the hard line? Its politics may not seem to obtain as much as does a relation of supremacy and commodification. As long as the nonhuman earth and all of the earthlings remain submissive to our dominance—not the same (I repeat) as the anti-imperial Genesis dominion—we continue, unimpeded, our neoimperial capitalisation of the earth. But there are other ancient stories where civilisational violence takes already the form of an anthropic exceptionalism, rendering Gaia and her children the enemy. So, in the face of climate catastrophe James Lovelock, who developed the Gaia Hypothesis—the metaphor of the earth as a complex homeostasis—would write eight Gaia books; the sixth is The Revenge of Gaia.15 Our enmity creates its feedback loop: the earth is running a fever and we earthlings are in serious danger. It may, however, be more propitious to granulate the hard line between us and this so-called her; to shift discourse from the zero-sum game of enmity to the perils of entanglement. Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures presented his political theology of Gaia. I quote from it his counter-exceptionalist language: At such a juncture, what would be needed is a multiplicity of engagements and a proliferation of manners to behave as humans on Earth. This would be the only way to cope with what the multiple loops traced by the instruments of science reveal of the narrative complexity and entanglement of Gaia.16 The metaphor of entanglement had long before captured me as a metonym of connectivity. Entanglement wraps earth in a cosmos of innumerability, as it comes aligned with quantum entanglement—in which two infinitesimally small points remain in instantaneous communication even across galaxies. It also evokes a microcosmic granularity, the quantum electronic character of the cosmos—where lines of energy and grains of particle cannot be separated. Indeed, as Einstein’s spooky action at a distance, entanglement haunts physics with an unrealised mystical past: that of a cosmology of enfolded multiplicity. The science and the politics of such multiplicity suggest a way not taken by modernity. A theological way. This is also a way to our third line of enquiry, the theological, which was tangled in the other two all along. The name of my Cloud of the Impossible is taken from the fifteenth century Nicholas of Cusa—from whom the divine infinite as enfolded one cannot be opposed to the unfolding multiplicity—with emphasis on that pli, that fold—of the universe. Every creature exemplifies, unfolds, its whole radically interrelated universe, it contracts in on itself. But so does what is called God. The mystical theocosm survived mainly on the margins, coming out in poetry: here we must have in mind William Blake’s universe in a grain of sand. I think also of the emergence of a radical relationalism in process thought, in which God is entangled in the becomings of the moment by moment, particle by particle, grain by grain world, makes explicit the non-exceptionalism. As Whitehead nails it, God is not the great exception to our metaphysical categories, invoked to prevent their collapse, but rather the supreme exemplification—of the cosmology of interdependent becoming. This does not make God like anything else; it implicates God in everything else. God is not taken out, ex-cepted ontologically, of the process of interdependent becoming. S/he/it is all in! Ultimately all in all. These are clues to another kind of political theology, beyond sovereign exceptionalism, but not lacking in grandeur, empowerment and solidarity in difference. In Whitehead it directly confronts the conversion of Christianity to empire: ‘the church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar’.17 Already in the fourth century swerve to a hierarchy of embedded sovereignties was sharp: the one God, the one emperor presiding over the unified empire, centred in the one true religion. Bishop Eusebius, Constantine’s contemporary, celebrates it succinctly: ‘By the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men.’ ‘Our saviour’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods.’ Eusebius did not need Schmitt to consolidate that political theology of the one sovereignty, basileia, thus: ‘And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government; for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be descried as anarchy and disorder.’18 But what does this collation of divine and political mono-power have to do with the second line of enquiry—into earth? Everything. Listen to the same passage in Eusebius: ‘Invested as [the emperor] is with a semblance (eikon) of heavenly soverignty (basileia), he … frames his earthly government according to the pattern of that divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God. And this conformity is granted by the universal sovereign—wait for it—to man alone of the creatures of this earth; for he—the “royal creature”[?] only is the author of sovereign power who decrees that all should be subject to the rule of one’ [All meaning all creatures].19 The whole chain of sovereign exceptionalisms, running down from the deity through the politics of nation and race, lands and sticks in ‘man alone’, in the grounding anthropocentrism, needless to say gendered and sexed in one way alone. If Schmitt is right, this dominant theological tradition of the omnipotent divine sovereign has not just been humiliated by secularism; it has concurrently been secularised as the basis for modern politics, including democratic sovereignty. And now? I do not think we pretend we can take out sovereignty. But we can relativise it by surfacing its hidden theology. And that makes it possible to stir up old and new theological alternatives that feed better secularisations. Not secularism, which is its own supersessionism. So here we have a crucial conversation, in which the line between theology and secular disciplines turns sandy. It will allow us to work in our multiple contexts, with divergent proportions of actual religious discourse. In the churchier reaches of my US context, it is often liberal threats to the ontologically exceptional status of Jesus that raise temperatures—threats to the singular incarnation of God in Jesus as the Christ. So I do not dispute its uniqueness—every grain of sand is unique—only its exceptionalism. Beginning with the ontological line drawn between the Son of God and his tawny Jewish body. I ask your indulgence in conclusion for a return to the second testament, to John 8:4. To what we may call ‘the life or death doodle’. We touch down here on the Mount of Olives. The homeless itinerant rabbi is teaching on the temple grounds. The woman caught in adultery is brought before him, the trick question about capital punishment is posed. He stoops, or squats, he draws lines in the ground. It is pretty sandy. But Google the passage and many commentators who pop up online emphasise the hard line between those who follow Jesus and those who do not. If you are not for him you are against him. He is said to be writing accusations against his would-be accusers; or, to be following the tradition of writing the names of the accusers in the ground. Verse 6 actually just reads: ‘They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him [be able to accuse him]. Jesus bent down and drew with his finger on the ground.’ The verb for accuse is—as noted earlier—kategorizein. And with indubitable poetics it is juxtaposed to the verb kategraphein. It means not to write but to draw. So the drawing of the line which accuses, which categorises and condemns, takes place in precise juxtaposition to Jesus’ line drawing—which enacts the deconstruction of a condemnation, but not through another condemnation (of the right wing Pharisees, his opponents) but a subversive line of relation. But what is he actually drawing? My guess is that this is a nonrepresentational drawing. The pause during which he doodles lets his public and himself calm; and lets the luminous one-liner to come to him. Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone. Which is not saying, let us make an exception to the law, let me supersede Moses. Rather than excepting anyone, he draws everyone in. No one is taken out. This is not the exception to torah—but the inception of its limitrophic possibility: her sin is still called sin, she is requested not to repeat it. Differences between us and her, him, them, the gathered multitude, even the difference between her in the past and her now, are not erased but entangled. But there is an old tradition, not exegetically credible, but meaningful. The tenth-century illuminated manuscript the Codex Egberti scribe depicts Jesus bending down and inscribing ‘earth accuses earth’. It is the artist who has drawn the illustration who adds this text, of Jesus writing terra terram accusat: the accusers and the accused are alike frail flesh. Earthlings categorising earthlings. With our enmity we make war on ourselves. We might anachronise this codex as an unintended ecomidrash—for a political theology in this new saeculum of planetary catastrophe. Not for another sovereign exception but for a messianic inception. Whereas the Black church puts it, a way is made where there was no way. A kingdom turns into kindom. We are in this together, earthlings—dust to dust, sand blowing in the wind. In our innumerable, assymmetrical, often tragic, sometimes luminous differences. Perhaps the catastrophes we are fomenting as a civilisation will catalyse a new solidarity—none too solid—of tawny sand. With a hint of the epistemology of the Solomonic sands, perhaps a bit more life or death doodling we might stir up? Another political theology into our saeculum, the path not taken, the way out of no way, where kingdom turns into kindom, where the messianic inception resists the sovereign exception; where the mystical hospitality in which the variegated multitudes, religious and irreligious, indeed the many too many creatures of the earth are welcome together, to gather—into fresh forms of political self-organisation at the edge of crisis? The crisis is at hand—at the edge of the human, in the limitrophy of interhuman, interspecies, interelemental entanglement. Edge is eschatos, eschatology—not endthings but edgy times. Of course we can slide into depression and distraction. Or we may stay spiritually and politically tuned to the grains of unexpected possibility that turn up right in our own contexts. The lines of our lives will break up into their sandy multiplicities, no matter what. They sooner or later dissolve in erasure, death, the granular decomposition of the human. In the meantime we might not thicken and multiply the lifelines that entangle us all, all too limited, all too many, together. But we just might. REFERENCES Footnotes 1 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998). 2 Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), p. 64. 3 Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George D. Schwab (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 1985. Original publication: 1922). 4 Feisal G. Mohamed, ‘Arendt, Schmitt and Trump’s Politics of “Nation”’, New York Times, 22 July 2016. Online: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/23/opinion/trumps-perilous-nation.html. 5 Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015), p. 7. 6 ‘According to Tacitus, within the various tribes “the whole tribe” deliberated upon all important matters, and most final “decisions” rest with the people.’ Ibid., p. 8. The description of this protodemocratic form of self-organisation indeed stimulated more radical experiments, like the seventeenth-century Levellers. 7Ibid. 8 Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. (1751). Online: http://www.columbia.edu/∼lmg21/ash3002y/earlyac99/documents/observations.html. 9 Douglas, Stand Your Ground, p. 17. 10 J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 11 Jacques Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I Am, trans. David Wills (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), pp. 29–30. 12Ibid., emphasis mine. 13 Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 14 The book Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology, edited by Stephen D. Moore (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014) includes the conference proceedings of a Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium at my own institution, Drew University. 15 James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity (London: Penguin, 2007). 16 Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, trans. by Cathy Porter (Oxford: Polity Press, 2017). 17 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–28 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), p. 343. 18 Eusebius of Caesaria, ‘From a Speech for the Thirtieth Anniversary of Constantine’s Accession’, in Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan (eds), From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1999), p. 60. See also Eusebius, ‘From a Speech on the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre Church’, From Irenaeus to Grotius, p. 60: ‘And thus by the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men. For before this time the various countries of the world, as Syria, Asia, Macedonia, Egypt and Arabia, had been severally subject to different rules. The Jewish people, again, had established their dominion the land of Palestine. And these nations, in every village, city and district, actuated by the same insane spirit, were emerged in incessant and murderous war and conflict. But two mighty powers starting from the same point, the Roman empire which henceforth was swayed by a single sovereign, and the Christian religion, subdued and reconciled these contending elements. Our Savior’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods of the powers of darkness, and proclaimed to all men, both rude and civilized, to the extremities of the earth, the sole sovereignty of God himself.’ 19Ibid. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press 2018; all rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Literature and Theology Oxford University Press

Lines in the Innumerable: Enmity, Exceptionalism and Entanglement

Literature and Theology , Volume Advance Article (2) – Jan 22, 2018

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/lines-in-the-innumerable-enmity-exceptionalism-and-entanglement-fcCCTzaZum
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press 2018; all rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0269-1205
eISSN
1477-4623
D.O.I.
10.1093/litthe/frx035
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract This article originated from the Literature and Theology Annual Lecture, as the keynote address of the 18th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, held at the University of Glasgow, 9–11 September 2016. The lecture speaks both to the theme of the conference—‘Lines in Sand: Borders, Conflicts and Transitions’—and to the (theo)political moment of the time of its delivery: the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, the 2016 US presidential campaign, and the North Dakota pipeline protests. The piece considers how the ‘line in the sand’ marks difference, even ethical demarcation, but it retains its granular multiplicity; when it hardens it into the borderline between us and them, ‘friend vs. foe’, a recognisable politics is in play, indeed a political theology of hardline power. How does a democratizing multiplicity morph into the Schmittian sovereignty of the exception? Do US and white exceptionalisms work in tandem with a theology of human, and indeed Christian, exceptionalism? How in a perilous time might a theology of entangled difference resist the political theology of the hard line? ‘Lines in Sand’: what a prescient title chosen for this event already several years ago—long before this political moment: this year of some shockingly hard lines, of lines drawn with rising popular vehemence, lines to separate a nationalised, racialised us from those others, those migrant multitudes, those tawny too many. ‘Boundaries, conflicts and transitions’ indeed. Odd, how Europe and the US are particularly entangled in this struggle. I feel in Scotland like I am tossing sand in a wound just to say Brexit. And likewise it hurts to mention the American whose mother emigrated from Scotland, who announced this spring that Scotland would help him win the presidency, and flew to tout his golf course in Balmedie as a great success. He sold his popular hard line, the line separating the true us, spelled US, from the impinging, infiltrating, innumerable tawny immigrants, Muslim or Latin American: and the line becomes the wall, in the desert sand between the US and Mexico. ‘Build the wall,’ his crowds roar: ‘and make them pay.’ Actually, when I first heard it, the conference title had undergone some unintended electronic transatlantic distortion. Lines arrived spelled with o-umlaut before it—‘Oelines’—so I thought this was some playful Saxonism for oil-lines through desert sand. Hard lines indeed of the global economy and our deteriorating climate. And as we gather we may hear the drums of the gathering going on simultaneously—an unprecedented gathering of a hundred American tribal nations blocking the building of the North Dakota oil pipeline through their sacred land while threatening the water supply of eight million downstream. They are drawing their own line in the sand. Against the oil pipelines prophesied by Black Elk as the black zuzeca serpent that would threaten the world. So then we must ask: what metamorphosis makes a line in the sand harden into a wall or a pipeline? First of all, surely, it ceases to be a sandy line—a line of sand. How will we draw our line between a sand line and a hard line? As the multiple sessions of this conference brilliantly demonstrated, we have to deal not with one line but an abundance of them. First of all, here, that means the lines between multiple disciplines. The conversation of this extraordinary society [International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture] seems to move between religion and literature by way of the sandy zone of culture and so between multiple disciplines. But then these lines between trace not division but affiliation; they are not lines of separation but of relation. And because they multiply they cease to be imaginable as hard lines, they bend and twist, they bifurcate and intersect, they mesh, they tangle. There is nothing politically innocent about such interdisciplinarity. When academics draw hard lines between our disciplines we are kept disciplined indeed: divided and conquered—convenient to the regnant political order, as interdisciplinarities far more readily foment protest (think of the function starting in the 1970s of women’s studies, Black studies, peace or environmental studies programmes, and then queer theory, the new materialism …). It is no coincidence that economics is the most specialised of academic disciplines. And there is a special political intensity around an interdisciplinarity that includes religion, indeed religious multiplicity—given for instance the surging politics of Islamophobia, given the echoes of twentieth century anti-semitic fascism. The political potentiality is heightened when you draw religion into the mix, as entangled in the other disciplines, and even Christian theology, as entangled in the other religions. For, as I hope will become apparent, then what is called political theology can be exposed and engaged—that is, we can surface the theological lines that operate in secularised form across the political spectrum. And so align ourselves most responsibly. Indeed the very notion of political theology that has arisen forcefully in the twenty-first century less within theology than within the interdisciplinarity of political theorists (such as Giorgio Agamben1), provoked by the work of Carl Schmitt, with its fascist taint, and re-engaged by a few theologians. This peculiar interdisciplinarium has been demanding my attention recently, as I seek the transdisciplinary lines of force that may move through versions of eco-social justice theology into the saeculum—the age—of refugee and climate crisis. So if I may sketch a sandy outline: we will notice something peculiar about the metaphor of the line in the sand—a sense in which it deconstructs itself. And in so doing (or undoing) it may help us think through how the political hard lines of us versus them, of friends versus foes, get produced out of prior categories, out of the very act of categorising. And how this act justifies a kind of exceptionalism, forged in a state of emergency and justified by a particular form of political theology—the brand of sovereignty. We then pursue three lines of enquiry into that hard line exceptionalism: as political, as anthropic and as religious. The tangling of these lines may then yield a flashback to an ancient line in the sand. It may serve as parable for a counterexceptionalist entanglement in the political ecology of current crisis. Something quiet, almost imperceptible is going on with a line in actual sand. Unlike a hard line, a pipeline, or a wall—it cannot establish itself as the one over and against the other, the not-one; the straight line us against the chaotic colours of the not-us. It cannot hold the line against multiplicity because it is multiplicity. For it is drawn in and of the granular manifold of sand. In an innumerable crowd of tiny beings responsive to the least air or ocean current, constantly flowing and shifting, molecular and not molar in the Deleuzian sense. A line in the sand is a deterritorialisation of what will be territorialised in its name, an autodeconstruction of what will be constructed on its unstable grounds. Or grains. And every grain of sand if you blow it up 250 times is unique: a stunning, yes, colourful diversity appears. In the Bible (the literature I can share) the phrase ‘as the sand in the ocean’ is the primary locution with which to express an unfathomable but material multiplicity—as of old Abraham and Sarah’s progeny: ‘and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore’ (Gen. 22). It also works as epistemology: ‘Now God gave Solomon … great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore’ (1 Kings 4:29). The interdisciplinary mind? But what turns a line in the sandy manifold into a hard line? Is it what reduces difference to division? Alfred North Whitehead called the reducer ‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness’2—the confusion of an abstraction for the concrete actuality. Taking a category, like a mathematical line or point, or quantifier of economic growth, or racial image—for the particular becoming reality. Categorisation seems often to enable antagonism. Intriguingly the Greek word kategorizein captures this ambiguity: its root meaning is ‘to accuse’. We might say then that the shift from a concrete difference to a categorical division may be said to trigger the friend/foe dynamism. That opens the first line of enquiry. The friend/foe opposition is what, according to the political theology of Schmitt defines politics itself: it poses the emergency to which sovereignty is the answer. ‘Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception’, that is, the strong leader in the state of emergency—an exceptional power equal to exceptional crisis. Schmitt traces the charisma of the sovereign to the omnipotence of the sovereign God.3 And he disarmingly links his emergency power to make law and suspend it with the freshness of one who does not play by the rules, who breaks through the torpid crust of life, indeed with Kierkegaard’s anti-Hegelianism. The New York Times recently ran a helpful editorial relating Trump to Schmitt and his hard line between friend and foe. ‘By heaping hatred on foreign elements within America’s borders, he [Trump] seeks to thicken the meaning of the nation as a category.’4 In a way resembling Schmitt’s thought on sovereignty, he imagines the nation as an organic entity whose will is expressed through him. Or, put differently, he seeks to restore the racial and familial implications always at play in its Latin root, nationem, from nascor, ‘to be born’. In this nascent nationalism, blood lines unite by dividing; what queer theory calls reproductive chrononormativity pumps up flagging pride in the face of straight white male working class anxiety—and so it invigorates the racialised exceptionalism. Schmitt’s political theology is driven by disdain for liberal democracy, seen as indecisive in the face of emergency, weakened by faith in endless conversation. But despite its anti-democratic animus, it is not a huge leap to trace a connection to US exceptionalism. Jefferson’s ‘empire of liberty’, Roosevelt’s ‘arsenal of democracy’, Reagan’s repetition of the ur-theological Puritan ‘shining city upon a hill’. Obama when asked tried this: ‘I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.’ That should make exceptionalism unexceptional. If only his irony worked. As to British exceptionalism, well, the vote is in. It reminds us of the etymology of except: from ex-cipere, to take out. Indeed the anti-immigrant racialisation of the nation connects our states rather eerily to the conditions under which Britain’s empire first arose. I refer here to the phenomenon of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism of which womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas offers a succinct geneology. It begins in England’s post-Reformation crisis. ‘In an effort to establish the antiquity of the Church of England and to justify the 1559 Elizabethan Settlement, Archbishop Matthew Parker encouraged research into the culture, history, and politics of Anglo Saxons.’5 For two centuries this research centred in a reading of Tacitus, On the Manners of the Germans, describing the blue-eyed tribes which the English claimed as their Anglo-Saxon ancestors. It supported ‘cleansing the English church and society of Norman contaminations’, and so sharpens the break from the Latin church (really?). But my narrative cannot draw here its own hard line. In its early form this ethnic retrieval also nourished more participatory governance.6 ‘The Anglo-Saxon myth came to America through three radical English reformers. The Pilgrims and Puritans fled from the Church of England to build a religious institution more befitting Anglo-Saxon virtue and freedom. They considered themselves the Anglo-Saxon remnant that was continuing a divine mission … traced beyond the woods of Germany to the Bible.’7 So a myth of bloodlines mingles with ancient prophetic eschatology, with the liberation exodus, which moves in all the radical movements of west, the politics of the New polis, the new Jerusalem. Jefferson’s reverence for Tacitus and all things Anglo-Saxon, above all the roots of language and self-governance then fed the ‘belief in the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon peoples’. Benjamin Franklin would write that all peoples are black or tawny, even the Germans, ‘the Saxons only excepted, who with the English make the principle body of white people on the face of the earth … I could wish their numbers were increased. And while we are … scouring our planet, by clearing America of woods, and so making this side of our globe reflect a brighter light to the eyes of inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the sight of superior beings, darken its people? Why increase the sons of Africa, by planting them in America.’8 So we see with Franklin’s witty and secularised American exceptionalism, Anglo-Saxon race supremacism is not restricted to one side on the issue of slavery! But the problem became the multiplicity of other immigrant stocks that the Anglo-Saxons did need to incorporate into national unity. The challenge rose to emergency by the late nineteenth century: ‘President Theodore Roosevelt became so obsessed with the number of new stock immigrants compared to the low birth rate of old stock Anglo-Saxons that he feared “race suicide”.’ Suffice for now to say that it was the construction of whiteness that worked ‘to resolve the contradiction between America’s Anglo-Saxon and immigrant identity. Whiteness signified that the immigrants were Anglo-Saxon enough’.9 The abstract category of whiteness provided the misplaced concreteness for a line, not in the sand, but truly in concrete. As illustrated, for example, by the literally concrete walls of the shameful US prison industrial complex. So a complex Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism simplified itself into the white supremacism that this election season—along with the Black Lives Matter movement—has again exposed. If we add to Douglas’ account that of J. Kameron Carter’s,10 in which it is first the earlier European racialisation of the Jew that reorganises the human in terms of race, we recognise the operation of a versatile historical politics of race in the secular galvanisations of a we versus a they, a we taken out, unitary, purified of the dark taint of the multiplicity. The mottled mix of the inferior immigrant stock, the unwhite, flexibly shifts depending upon the crisis to target the Mexican irreligiously, or the Muslim Islamophobically. But the race machine is, from the start, a secularisation of the Christian supersessionism that takes something called Christianity out of its Judaism, something called Christ out of its messianicity, something called God out of its cosmos. Cut down the dark woods, take out the dark aliens, scour the planet—and the way is cleared for the transmogrification of the creation into capital. Here would run our second line of enquiry: how is it that hard lines between human collectives converge at the boundary drawn around the human itself. We may call it anthropic exceptionalism. Of course, like the city on the hill, it has its political theology, it operates from a normalised version of Christianity, a familiar reading of Genesis. After all is not the creation of the human in imago dei in Gen. 1 [26–29]—and, with dominion, sovereignty, over the rest—a clear signal that the human is the exception amidst the creation, however good it is all declared? Sure, as long as you rip the text out of its context of resistance to Babylonian imperialism; and ignore the next three verses, so rarely cited, in which the narrator spells out the content of this honour. See, you get to eat every planet yielding seed … you get to be vegans, just like everything that breathes. The human is climactically no exception from the animal condition. No doubt a special calling, for a hypertalented and aggressive creature, to exercise power responsibly. Dominion, not domination. In context, anyway. To be distinct, different, extraordinary and conscious of it is not the same as to be excepted, excipere, taken out of animality, to be circled by a wall of reason or language. But does our animality then erase the line between us and the other animals? Derrida, in Cet Animal Que Donc Je Suis, arrives just in time to comment. The line, as limit between nonhuman and human, does not vanish. Au contraire, he coins the term ‘Limitrophy’—the growth of the limit—to complicate this very borderline. ‘Not just because it will concern what sprouts or grows at the limit, around the limit, by maintaining the limit, but also what feeds the limit, generates it, raises, and complicates it.’11 Derrida’s language bends here toward the Deleuzian ‘folding and multiplying’. The limit gets ‘thickened, delinearized’.12 A delinearised line sounds sandy to me—so not an ontological wall of misplaced concreteness—but a multiplying, molecular, shifting relation of difference. In the cosmology of the cloud of the impossible this is called entangled difference.13 Interestingly, Derrida could not make the move to the nonhuman animal without a strong move through Genesis to the other side of the nonhuman, the theological, so he coined the word divinanimality to trouble this formative hard line.14 We might then say that as theology lurks behind the politics of anthropic sovereignty, so a divergent theology nourishes an alternative: the responsibility of our breathy humanity. Derrida is tuned to the discursive politics, particularly regarding the economy of factory farming, which, of course, is a significant driver of the ultimate symptom of anthropic exceptionalism, global warming. What of the friend/foe version of the hard line? Its politics may not seem to obtain as much as does a relation of supremacy and commodification. As long as the nonhuman earth and all of the earthlings remain submissive to our dominance—not the same (I repeat) as the anti-imperial Genesis dominion—we continue, unimpeded, our neoimperial capitalisation of the earth. But there are other ancient stories where civilisational violence takes already the form of an anthropic exceptionalism, rendering Gaia and her children the enemy. So, in the face of climate catastrophe James Lovelock, who developed the Gaia Hypothesis—the metaphor of the earth as a complex homeostasis—would write eight Gaia books; the sixth is The Revenge of Gaia.15 Our enmity creates its feedback loop: the earth is running a fever and we earthlings are in serious danger. It may, however, be more propitious to granulate the hard line between us and this so-called her; to shift discourse from the zero-sum game of enmity to the perils of entanglement. Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures presented his political theology of Gaia. I quote from it his counter-exceptionalist language: At such a juncture, what would be needed is a multiplicity of engagements and a proliferation of manners to behave as humans on Earth. This would be the only way to cope with what the multiple loops traced by the instruments of science reveal of the narrative complexity and entanglement of Gaia.16 The metaphor of entanglement had long before captured me as a metonym of connectivity. Entanglement wraps earth in a cosmos of innumerability, as it comes aligned with quantum entanglement—in which two infinitesimally small points remain in instantaneous communication even across galaxies. It also evokes a microcosmic granularity, the quantum electronic character of the cosmos—where lines of energy and grains of particle cannot be separated. Indeed, as Einstein’s spooky action at a distance, entanglement haunts physics with an unrealised mystical past: that of a cosmology of enfolded multiplicity. The science and the politics of such multiplicity suggest a way not taken by modernity. A theological way. This is also a way to our third line of enquiry, the theological, which was tangled in the other two all along. The name of my Cloud of the Impossible is taken from the fifteenth century Nicholas of Cusa—from whom the divine infinite as enfolded one cannot be opposed to the unfolding multiplicity—with emphasis on that pli, that fold—of the universe. Every creature exemplifies, unfolds, its whole radically interrelated universe, it contracts in on itself. But so does what is called God. The mystical theocosm survived mainly on the margins, coming out in poetry: here we must have in mind William Blake’s universe in a grain of sand. I think also of the emergence of a radical relationalism in process thought, in which God is entangled in the becomings of the moment by moment, particle by particle, grain by grain world, makes explicit the non-exceptionalism. As Whitehead nails it, God is not the great exception to our metaphysical categories, invoked to prevent their collapse, but rather the supreme exemplification—of the cosmology of interdependent becoming. This does not make God like anything else; it implicates God in everything else. God is not taken out, ex-cepted ontologically, of the process of interdependent becoming. S/he/it is all in! Ultimately all in all. These are clues to another kind of political theology, beyond sovereign exceptionalism, but not lacking in grandeur, empowerment and solidarity in difference. In Whitehead it directly confronts the conversion of Christianity to empire: ‘the church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar’.17 Already in the fourth century swerve to a hierarchy of embedded sovereignties was sharp: the one God, the one emperor presiding over the unified empire, centred in the one true religion. Bishop Eusebius, Constantine’s contemporary, celebrates it succinctly: ‘By the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men.’ ‘Our saviour’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods.’ Eusebius did not need Schmitt to consolidate that political theology of the one sovereignty, basileia, thus: ‘And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government; for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be descried as anarchy and disorder.’18 But what does this collation of divine and political mono-power have to do with the second line of enquiry—into earth? Everything. Listen to the same passage in Eusebius: ‘Invested as [the emperor] is with a semblance (eikon) of heavenly soverignty (basileia), he … frames his earthly government according to the pattern of that divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God. And this conformity is granted by the universal sovereign—wait for it—to man alone of the creatures of this earth; for he—the “royal creature”[?] only is the author of sovereign power who decrees that all should be subject to the rule of one’ [All meaning all creatures].19 The whole chain of sovereign exceptionalisms, running down from the deity through the politics of nation and race, lands and sticks in ‘man alone’, in the grounding anthropocentrism, needless to say gendered and sexed in one way alone. If Schmitt is right, this dominant theological tradition of the omnipotent divine sovereign has not just been humiliated by secularism; it has concurrently been secularised as the basis for modern politics, including democratic sovereignty. And now? I do not think we pretend we can take out sovereignty. But we can relativise it by surfacing its hidden theology. And that makes it possible to stir up old and new theological alternatives that feed better secularisations. Not secularism, which is its own supersessionism. So here we have a crucial conversation, in which the line between theology and secular disciplines turns sandy. It will allow us to work in our multiple contexts, with divergent proportions of actual religious discourse. In the churchier reaches of my US context, it is often liberal threats to the ontologically exceptional status of Jesus that raise temperatures—threats to the singular incarnation of God in Jesus as the Christ. So I do not dispute its uniqueness—every grain of sand is unique—only its exceptionalism. Beginning with the ontological line drawn between the Son of God and his tawny Jewish body. I ask your indulgence in conclusion for a return to the second testament, to John 8:4. To what we may call ‘the life or death doodle’. We touch down here on the Mount of Olives. The homeless itinerant rabbi is teaching on the temple grounds. The woman caught in adultery is brought before him, the trick question about capital punishment is posed. He stoops, or squats, he draws lines in the ground. It is pretty sandy. But Google the passage and many commentators who pop up online emphasise the hard line between those who follow Jesus and those who do not. If you are not for him you are against him. He is said to be writing accusations against his would-be accusers; or, to be following the tradition of writing the names of the accusers in the ground. Verse 6 actually just reads: ‘They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him [be able to accuse him]. Jesus bent down and drew with his finger on the ground.’ The verb for accuse is—as noted earlier—kategorizein. And with indubitable poetics it is juxtaposed to the verb kategraphein. It means not to write but to draw. So the drawing of the line which accuses, which categorises and condemns, takes place in precise juxtaposition to Jesus’ line drawing—which enacts the deconstruction of a condemnation, but not through another condemnation (of the right wing Pharisees, his opponents) but a subversive line of relation. But what is he actually drawing? My guess is that this is a nonrepresentational drawing. The pause during which he doodles lets his public and himself calm; and lets the luminous one-liner to come to him. Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone. Which is not saying, let us make an exception to the law, let me supersede Moses. Rather than excepting anyone, he draws everyone in. No one is taken out. This is not the exception to torah—but the inception of its limitrophic possibility: her sin is still called sin, she is requested not to repeat it. Differences between us and her, him, them, the gathered multitude, even the difference between her in the past and her now, are not erased but entangled. But there is an old tradition, not exegetically credible, but meaningful. The tenth-century illuminated manuscript the Codex Egberti scribe depicts Jesus bending down and inscribing ‘earth accuses earth’. It is the artist who has drawn the illustration who adds this text, of Jesus writing terra terram accusat: the accusers and the accused are alike frail flesh. Earthlings categorising earthlings. With our enmity we make war on ourselves. We might anachronise this codex as an unintended ecomidrash—for a political theology in this new saeculum of planetary catastrophe. Not for another sovereign exception but for a messianic inception. Whereas the Black church puts it, a way is made where there was no way. A kingdom turns into kindom. We are in this together, earthlings—dust to dust, sand blowing in the wind. In our innumerable, assymmetrical, often tragic, sometimes luminous differences. Perhaps the catastrophes we are fomenting as a civilisation will catalyse a new solidarity—none too solid—of tawny sand. With a hint of the epistemology of the Solomonic sands, perhaps a bit more life or death doodling we might stir up? Another political theology into our saeculum, the path not taken, the way out of no way, where kingdom turns into kindom, where the messianic inception resists the sovereign exception; where the mystical hospitality in which the variegated multitudes, religious and irreligious, indeed the many too many creatures of the earth are welcome together, to gather—into fresh forms of political self-organisation at the edge of crisis? The crisis is at hand—at the edge of the human, in the limitrophy of interhuman, interspecies, interelemental entanglement. Edge is eschatos, eschatology—not endthings but edgy times. Of course we can slide into depression and distraction. Or we may stay spiritually and politically tuned to the grains of unexpected possibility that turn up right in our own contexts. The lines of our lives will break up into their sandy multiplicities, no matter what. They sooner or later dissolve in erasure, death, the granular decomposition of the human. In the meantime we might not thicken and multiply the lifelines that entangle us all, all too limited, all too many, together. But we just might. REFERENCES Footnotes 1 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998). 2 Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), p. 64. 3 Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George D. Schwab (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 1985. Original publication: 1922). 4 Feisal G. Mohamed, ‘Arendt, Schmitt and Trump’s Politics of “Nation”’, New York Times, 22 July 2016. Online: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/23/opinion/trumps-perilous-nation.html. 5 Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015), p. 7. 6 ‘According to Tacitus, within the various tribes “the whole tribe” deliberated upon all important matters, and most final “decisions” rest with the people.’ Ibid., p. 8. The description of this protodemocratic form of self-organisation indeed stimulated more radical experiments, like the seventeenth-century Levellers. 7Ibid. 8 Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. (1751). Online: http://www.columbia.edu/∼lmg21/ash3002y/earlyac99/documents/observations.html. 9 Douglas, Stand Your Ground, p. 17. 10 J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 11 Jacques Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I Am, trans. David Wills (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), pp. 29–30. 12Ibid., emphasis mine. 13 Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 14 The book Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology, edited by Stephen D. Moore (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014) includes the conference proceedings of a Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium at my own institution, Drew University. 15 James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity (London: Penguin, 2007). 16 Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, trans. by Cathy Porter (Oxford: Polity Press, 2017). 17 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–28 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), p. 343. 18 Eusebius of Caesaria, ‘From a Speech for the Thirtieth Anniversary of Constantine’s Accession’, in Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan (eds), From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1999), p. 60. See also Eusebius, ‘From a Speech on the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre Church’, From Irenaeus to Grotius, p. 60: ‘And thus by the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men. For before this time the various countries of the world, as Syria, Asia, Macedonia, Egypt and Arabia, had been severally subject to different rules. The Jewish people, again, had established their dominion the land of Palestine. And these nations, in every village, city and district, actuated by the same insane spirit, were emerged in incessant and murderous war and conflict. But two mighty powers starting from the same point, the Roman empire which henceforth was swayed by a single sovereign, and the Christian religion, subdued and reconciled these contending elements. Our Savior’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods of the powers of darkness, and proclaimed to all men, both rude and civilized, to the extremities of the earth, the sole sovereignty of God himself.’ 19Ibid. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press 2018; all rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Literature and TheologyOxford University Press

Published: Jan 22, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off