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Theology beyond Representation: Foucault, Deleuze and the Phantasms of Theological Thinking
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Theology beyond Representation explores the theological opportunities embedded in Michel Foucault’s and Gilles Deleuze’s critique of Christian thinking and of what they regard as a Christian and oppressive logic of representation. Foucault’s and Deleuze’s thoughts on representation are currently discussed in many fields neighbouring theology (e.g. by feminist Karen Barad, Literary theorist Claire Colebrook), but despite the fact that Foucault and Deleuze address some of the most frequently debated issues in contemporary theology, their thoughts on representation have not yet been fully examined in theology.

This study offers such an exploration by searching out what new perspectives, forces and notions are brought to light when the critique of representation and the post-representational perspectives in Foucault and Deleuze are allowed to work within theology. It enacts encounters, for example, with the theological contributions of British Radical Orthodox theologian Graham Ward and North American radical theologian Thomas Altizer.

The book finally suggests that contemporary theology should perhaps not leave its metaphysics behind but understand its task differently. From a post-representational perspective, the Christian God and inherited Christian dogma may be considered actual, affecting our world in reality – our account of meaning as well as our bodies, actions and politics – yet they are actual and real because they are repeated as such and used as such. The Christian truths are, in short, regarded as phantasms. In consequence, a “post-representational theology” would note the force of form, dogma, truths, authorities, eternal gestures and church buildings, but it would not believe in their final power. It would believe in representation, in its effects and its force, but it would also believe in the possibility of moving beyond its expressions, while also believing that expression already moves beyond representation.

Such a perspective, the book argues, could open up a playful yet serious form of post-Christian resistance: To repeat, parody and play with whatever comes to the fore as eternal, or as the truth of concrete experience – both when reading and when doing theology – in order to make room negatively for those realities, actual but unknown, unthinkable yet possible, that no language could ever capture.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012. , 173 p.
Uppsala Studies in Systematic Theology and Worldviews, 1
Keyword [en]
Theology, Representation, Representation critique, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Thomas J.J. Altizer, Graham Ward, Emilia Fogelklou, Death of God theology, Radical Orthodoxy
National Category
Research subject
Systematic Theology and Studies in Worldviews
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-182365ISBN: 978-91-554-8493-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-182365DiVA: diva2:559876
Public defence
2012-11-23, Gustavianum, Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2012-11-02 Created: 2012-10-09 Last updated: 2015-02-02Bibliographically approved

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