Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion, by Christopher M. Driscoll and Monica R. Miller is here, at last. Dr. Monica R. Miller and I have worked on this monograph for the last four years, so we’re thrilled to see it in our hands. And your hands, too. Admittedly, the price is a bit high for students, and well, most scholars, too. But that can quickly be addressed if everyone asks their institutional library to purchase a hard copy of the book now. Then, in about a year’s time, a paperback will be released.
On June 13, 2017, I delivered a bit of new work to the folks at the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (FIPH), where I've been a fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. Below is the abstract for the talk, "On the Occasion of Joseph Conrad's Death: Anti-Heroes and Negative Dialectics in the Western Imagination, Still." The talk turns to some interesting data from Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford (and others) to think about Conrad's life and death as an allegory for contemporary anxieties surrounding the death or collapse of the West. Take a look here at shadesofwhite.org or at the FIPH Vimeo page (which has a lot of material you might find interesting).
“You will ask: Why death? Why not some alternative? Flight or prison? Well: prison would be an unendurable travelling through Time, flight an equally unendurable travelling through Time with Space added. Both these things are familiar: Death alone, in spite of all the experience that humanity has had of Death, is the utterly unfamiliar.” -Joseph Conrad
English Modern writer Joseph Conrad is a spectre, neither living nor dead, but a perpetual haunting for westerners in the form of his literary legacy and the anti-heroic stories he wrote, which force readers into a confrontation with the banality and smugness of western arrogance. By this reading, Conrad also serves as an analogy for western notions of loss, melancholy, and (cultural) death, writ large, today. At once alive yet under seeming threat from an “other” that over time has been rendered as “all” others, westerners – whoever we may be – might find wisdom in lamenting the death of Conrad. This lecture turns to lesser known works of Conrad just before his death (in 1924), along with fellow authors’ thoughts on Conrad’s death, to explore the relationship of anti-heroes, negative identities, and their god of death.
Thanks for taking a look!
Recently, I participated in a brief online debate for Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover, where I am a fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. Along with another fellow, the brilliant scholar of religion Monica R. Miller, we discuss whether or not we have a "right" to hate? Check out the following excerpt below, then hit the link to read more.
Pro und contra: Do We have a Right to Hate?
Contra: Christopher Driscoll
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. – Reinhold Niebuhr[i]
The same holds true of the law, and laws made from, and making, democracy in its varied iterations. Laws must be written and enforced that protect the citizens of a nation from those who would hate particular groups on the basis of belief, biology, geography, or culture. Anti-hate legislation is a powerful step in not only curbing hate-motivated violence, but in organizing the values that hold up any democratic apparatus.
Hatred is not an object in one’s heart, a disposition or ontological viewpoint. It is a verb, a “choice” according to Jean Paul Sartre.[ii] To be a “hater” is to be found “hating.” To be “hateful” is to be prone toward “hating.” Too often, we imagine hate to be a feeling. Even in framing this choice, Sartre, too, overemphasizes hatred as rooted in “passion”[iii] when in fact, expressions of hatred often – as was the case with the routinized Shoah – require a disjuncture between feeling and thinking or feeling and acting. We often fear emotional response will grow violent. However, where hatred is concerned, acute emotional catharsis may be a valve ensuring a community or individual does not succumb to hatred. Nevertheless, Sartre’s suggestion that “hate is a faith,”[iv] a particular kind of bad faith, does well to emphasize the action-basis of hatred but does little to emphasize the ordinariness of bad faith towards any given life. Bad faith is not something limited to the anti-Semite, but is a failure of action all of us (as humans) run risk of perpetuating.
continue reading at philosophie-indebate.de
Savagery is not descending on Europe. To suggest as much would be a misnomer, a white lie. No, it is colonialism that is once again descending onto the continent. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre concludes his 1961 Preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth by suggesting that Europeans have turned into the “native.” From Sartre’s perspective, Fanon helps to explain (to the European) why “it is better to be a ‘native’ in the pit of misery than an erstwhile colonist.’
On this year’s 4th of July holiday, many white Americans are feeling their identity encroached upon and their opinions ignored. Especially in the south, many whites feel that the recent focus on removing the confederate flag from public spaces is an attack on our heritage, our past, and our very identities. Here is the totality of what white southern identity looks like, as some would have us think:
IN 2005, one of today’s most revered American writers, David Foster Wallace (now deceased), delivered a commencement address to graduates of Kenyon College, titled “This Is Water.” The twenty-minute speech is worth a listen or read, freely available on YouTube and in Wallace’s eponymous 2009 collection, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Some of what he says in the address about liberal arts education is applicable to humanism. In particular, his words help to color a brand of humanism I refer to as “uncertain humanism,” a way of privileging human possibilities for flourishing that relies on an embrace of and appreciation for uncertainty—for not knowing, feeling anxious, insecure, and unsettled. Uncertain humanism is not just about how we approach “facts.” It involves how we approach our very identities and who we think we are.
Continue reading at The Humanist Magazine July/August 2015...
Here's a panel discussion on humanism and race from the American Humanist Association's annual conference, held in early May in Denver, CO. The conversation included Dr. Anthony Pinn, Dr. Monica R. Miller, Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, and me, Dr. Christopher Driscoll. Join the ongoing conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ahacon15