Absolute Disruption: The Future of Theory after Postmodernism
By Jason Ānanda Josephson
Work in Progress.
This monograph in progress is the culmination of my research on the genealogy of religion, or, we might say, my metatheoretical consideration of the religion as a scholarly category. Having written a book that in effect deconstructs “religion,” this project is the next step. It is an attempt to start with our object of study as an already deconstructed category and see where that gets us. My intuition is that this will provide keys (or methods forward) that will be of use not just to religious studies as a field, but to the social sciences more broadly.
More concretely, “Absolute Disruption” is an attempt to extend the insights of the Hegelian tradition (particularly as articulated by the Frankfurt school) to one of the central impasses of the discipline of religious studies—the disintegration of its central term. It presents the following argument:
Religious studies used to be able to presuppose its object. Our methodological pluralism and global coverage were underwritten by postulating the existence of “religion” as a universal aspect of human experience found in all cultures. About fifty years ago everything changed. With increasing alacrity, a host of scholars have since called into question the universality of religion and its utility as an analytic category. It now seems naïve to presume “religion.” Other disciplines in the postmodern process of liquidating their objects have often fallen back on their methodologies, mediating languages, and/or retreated from critical reflection and renounced the possibility of abstraction. This is not possible for religious studies. We have no distinctive method. We have no common language. We have no clearly delimited geography. To renounce abstraction, as many seem to be doing, is to abandon communication and to fall into fragmentation. Fortunately, the Hegelian tradition hints at another approach that is neither deconstruction nor restoration — as a substitute, we need to find the negation of the negation. In effect, instead of rejecting the critique we need to radicalize it. Put simply, I argue that religious studies cannot continue to hold onto the universality of “religion.” If our discipline wants to move forward, it needs to be organized around an absence rather than a presence. I spend the majority of the book tracing out what this kind of absence means and the positive benefit this radical negativity can have for the future of the discipline.
Email me if you’d like more information about the book. I am about 1/2 way through writing the first draft at this point.