Absolute Disruption is a Professional Blog by Jason Ānanda Josephson-Storm.*
The Name of the Blog?
“Absolute Disruption” is the tentative title for a monograph I am working on about the future of the Human Sciences after Postmodernism (more can be found here LINK).
The title is inspired by a quote from Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit: “[Spirit] obtains its truth only when, in its absolute disruption (absoluten Zerrissenheit), it finds itself.”
The blog, however, is less about the material covered in that book (which is more rigorous and academic in its argumentation). The blog is mostly an excuse for me to write stuff that I think is fun and perhaps more accessible.
I have at one time or another: worked for a private investigator, been a Buddhist monk, been shot at, hiked a volcano off the coast of Africa, dined with a British lord, been jumped by a gang in Amsterdam, snowboarded in the Pyrenees, piloted a boat down the canals of Bourgogne, played bass guitar in a punk band, and once I almost died from scarlet fever.
Along the way I have lived and studied in five countries (England, France, Germany, Japan & the USA), and attended some of the most pretentious universities in the world (Oxford, Harvard, Stanford) all, I hope, without losing my sense of perspective.
I am a faculty member at Williams College. I am currently Professor of Religion, Chair of Religion, and Chair of Science & Technology Studies.
You can find my official departmental webpage here. Contact info is there as well.
A few stray papers and whatnot can be found on my academia.edu page here.
I teach about half my courses on East Asian religions/philosophy and the other half on “theory” (including courses on theories and methods in religious studies, francophone cultural theory, Nietzsche, Max Weber, Critical theory, the dialectical tradition culminating in the Frankfurt School, and new materialism/realism). I’ve also begun teaching more recently about the history of magic.
Also, as a former rocker, I’m obsessed with music. So perhaps expect some posts on that as well.
The first phase of my scholarship concentrated dominantly on Japan in the Edo-Meiji Era (1600-1912), treating it as a central node in a series of semi-overlapping transnational networks. Drawing largely on sources written in Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch, I worked on the importation of the Euro-American concepts of “religion,” “science,” and “secularism” into Japan and traced the sweeping changes—intellectual, legal, and cultural—that followed. This all culminated in my award-winning first book, The Invention of Religion in Japan, published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2012.
A secondary area of research is European intellectual history (esp. English, French, German) from 1600 to the present with particular attention to the cultural context of the formation of the Human Sciences and the construction of “religion” as an object of humanistic inquiry. This research has resulted in The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences (University of Chicago Press, 2017) which challenges the most widely held account of modernity and its rupture from the pre-modern past. It shows how the thesis that belief in spirits and magic was a necessary victim of modernity (what Max Weber called “the disenchantment of the world,”) was ironically articulated in the shared terrain between spiritualists, sorcerers, and scholars during the very period in which Britain, France, and Germany were in the midst of occult revivals
A full list of publications can be found on my departmental webpage.
From the beginning, however, my reason for studying Japanese religions and European intellectual history (in addition to grappling with my family’s religious background) was to intervene in the conversation in the humanities/social sciences in general. Having completed two works targeted toward religious studies, I am now attempting just that. (see the absolute disruption book project for details). Wish me luck.
For a long time, I have become completely obsessed with that nebulous genre we call “Theory.” I started reading continental philosophy in middle school (seriously I was a geek). Starting in graduate school both at Stanford and during my time in Paris at the École Française d’Extrême-Orient, I have had the opportunity to study with significant theorists such as Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Bernard Faure, Thomas Sheehan, as well as to attend lectures by such luminaries as Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Richard Rorty, Rene Girard, and Slavoj Žižek among others. All of this gave me a grounding in French cultural theory, continental cognitive science, and Japanese phenomenology. During the dissertation, however, this interest became partially submerged under the demands of philological rigor and archival research in Japan. When I took the job at Williams one of the things that particularly excited me about the position was the Religion department’s reputation as a theory powerhouse. I have not been disappointed in this regard; and I have gotten as much from those outside the department as within. As my scholarship has begun to attract an international reputation, this circle has widened further. A leave semester at Ruhr University in Germany hashing it out with Hegelians, Luhmannians, and scholars of Begriffsgeschichte further intensified this interest. In the humanities at large, lacking as we do common areas of analysis, it seems it is in this imprecise terrain of abstractions that we have our most productive conversations with each other.
I’ve decided to try blogging because I have a tendency to re-write forever, e.g. the years it took me to turn my dissertation into a book and the fact that the book only preserves one of the dissertation’s original chapters.
I am fantasizing that I can use blogging to shortcut perfectionism and to write things for a broader audience.
It is going to be hard for me but I am basically going to just post whatever ideas are sparked as I work on manuscript projects on the past and future of the human sciences respectively [update: the first of those is finished and now out]. My hope is that it’ll let people react to my thoughts in embryonic form. I know I’ll benefit from feedback and hope I’ll inspire some interesting conversations elsewhere.
Hopefully too this will have faster turnaround time than articles or books, which often take forever to see the light of day.
* [Update]A note about my name change (from “Josephson” to “Josephson-Storm”). I got married in August 2016. I will be hyphenating my professional surname with my wife’s surname (Storm) going forward (although my larger plan is probably to eventually adopt “Storm” as a professional last name). Pre-2017 publications are under birth-name Jason Ānanda Josephson, later publications will appear under Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm, maybe distantly I’ll publish under “Jason Storm” or “Jason Ānanda Storm” .