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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Carter's RACE 2: The Racialized Jew

With apologies once again to Dr. Carter if I have misunderstood his argument, I am attempting to articulate some of what I am learning and thinking about as I read his new book.

In his critique of Cornel West and analysis of Michel Foucault (in Race: A Theological Account), J. Kameron Carter raises a matter of particular concern for professional theologians. There is a tendency in the profession of theology to be overly confident of the power of language. Thus, the critique of modernity, and if Carter is right, the critique of racialized understandings and structuring of bodies (politic), can emphasize the discursive structures of racial reasoning without adequate attention to the nondiscursive structuring, the production and reproduction of racialized bodies (politic), the “dynamics of relationships of force” (48).

This problem, it would seem to me, shines a light on the difficulty for white theologians to identify the effects of whiteness on theological theory and practice. Thus we find ongoing attempts at therapy through language to eliminate racism and racialized thinking. The most naïve form would attempt to create terminology to substitute for racialized language in a kind of idealistic method of changing the reality by changing its name. While this has some therapeutic value, it cannot in and of itself uproot and dismantle the power relations and structures of production which are the inherent logic and grammar of a racialized theopolitics. Next, Carter will interrogate Foucault’s concept of biopower and biopolitics as a more material analysis than West offered.

West, it would seem, probes the emergence of a discourse of biblical interpretation and other intellectual productions which deployed elements of the new scientific vision, Cartesian philosophy of mastery, and the normative gaze of classical aesthetics. The discursive structures “circumscribe how people of African descent come to be situated in the modern imagination” (49). The shortcoming of West’s excellent work, according to Carter, is that it can provide explanation for the conditions of the possibility of the emergence of white supremacy, but it does not explain why white supremacy was the actual result. He implies a level of contingency, which he then fails to name; thus, a hint of inevitability or necessity hangs in the air. Foucault goes on to recognize the moment of anxiety over the racialized Jew in modern Europe which elicits a pseudotheological articulation of a notion of the white nation around which an entire hierarchical construction of race comes into being. The biopolitics of the nation appears in the dialectical relationship of decentralized individualism with centralized administration and surveillance, such that the people themselves police nationhood in their own racialized, individualized, modernized, pseudotheologized bodies.

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