Implicate and Transgress: Marcella Althaus-Reid, Writing, and a Transformation of Theological Knowledge
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CitationHofheinz, Hannah L. 2015. Implicate and Transgress: Marcella Althaus-Reid, Writing, and a Transformation of Theological Knowledge. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Divinity School.
AbstractMarcella Althaus-Reid sought wherever language or meaning might shift or exceed their possibilities. To do so, she pushed theology from the light into the dark. In the spaces of political, economic, and sexual struggle, she proposed that we encounter the transformative embraces of God’s indecent love. The intimacies of bodies matter in the illicit encounters of dark alleys. Caresses of flesh undress illusions; desires imagine alternatives; and bodies hunger for the unthinkable. Put differently: love and desire disregard boundaries, including the boundaries of knowledge, law, economy, and self. To write of God’s love and our love—to write of God, humanity, and world—we must recognize, refute, and resist the ideological dependencies in dominant modes of doing and communicating theology, because these dependencies constrain the possibilities of bodies in love. We must interrupt academic complacency with (what she called) “Totalitarian” theological languages. We must transform the doing of theology itself.
This dissertation offers five studies of theological writing arising from Althaus-Reid’s experiments with indecency. Each considers one of her provocations in conversation with her interlocutors, paying careful attention to both the substance and performance. Study one engages with Paul Ricoeur, Jorge Luis Borges, and Umberto Eco to imagine writing in the shape of a hermeneutical labyrinth. The second questions the temporality of theological writing in conversation with Gustavo Gutiérrez, José María Arguedas, and Michel Foucault. The third examines how Althaus-Reid holds Jean Paul Sartre’s concept of obscenity together with Jean Baudrillard’s idea of reversibility, in order to press against illusions of writing that veil the materiality of lives lived in written pages. The fourth pursues the possibilities of writing bodies with Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida, Kathy Acker, and Lisa Isherwood. The fifth study extends Althaus-Reid’s reading of Pierre Klossowski’s meditation on radical hospitality as imperative for kenotic theological writing. Individually, the studies expand our imagination of what theological writing can or ought to be. Taken together, the studies provide a chronologically ordered view on Althaus-Reid’s complex engagement with liberationist, feminist, and queer theoretical and theological traditions in the context of her ongoing dialogue with continental philosophy.
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