Holy Wars - The political theology of enmity

Conference concept and organization:

Dr. Eva Horn (Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften, University of Frankfurt/Oder)
Graduiertenkolleg Repräsentation - Rhetorik - Wissen (Frankfurt/Oder)
PD Dr. Erhard Schüttpelz (University of Konstanz)
Forschungsstelle Kulturtheorie und Theorie des politischen Imaginären (Konstanz)

Time and Place: 11.-14. November 2004, Berlin

The Political and its Theological Unconscious

It has recently become customary to present conflicts and wars in terms of cultural and religious differences, as in the language of a „clash of civilization“ or an „attack on the entire civilized world“. It can be asked not only in whose interest this 'fundamentalization' of enmity and conflict is promoted but also whether it is not a symptom of a deeper structure of the modern political. Is there a theological unconscious in times where politics does everything to appear entirely secularized; could wars and conflicts be the area in which this unconscious most directly manifests itself?
It is common to distinguish, in the discourse on violence and war, between a semantic level whose function is legitimization and the 'reality of the events', between a 'symbolic' dimension on the one hand and a 'real' one on the other. Yet, it is to ask whether war, the holy, the archaic, the 'undefilable', i.e. sovereignty insofar as it is put forth in these concepts, do not make up a symbolic order which brings about its own effects in the real. Is it correct to call the labeling of war as "holy" or "just" a secondary process, as if just some additional semantic layer were added to something essentially secular? Could it be true that war belongs to a deep structure of civilization where the real cannot be separated from the symbolic?

Holiness and Warfare

The particular historical manifestations of the various links between religion and warfare – e.g. the "Holy Crusades" and the "Djihad" – have to be recognized and analyzed in view of a more general problematic. Can theses manifestations be understood in the context of a genealogy of modern war? Which traditions of the association but also the dissociation of war and the religious existing in other cultural contexts (Greek Antiquity, the Roman Empire, Judaism, cultures outside Europe) would have to be taken into account in such a genealogy? What is the role of limitation and delimitation of war in these traditions? What are the types of enmity associated with different types of war? What are the ways and modes in which enmity, when linked to a religious dimension, is formulated, propagated and imposed?
What are the specific types of warrior that are linked to this association of holiness and warfare, what kind of self-understanding come with it? Does this association create specific tactics and modes of conduct of war? What are those?

Secularized Sovereignty or Political Theology

If sovereign is "who decides about the state of exception" then this means also that nothing can be thought 'beyond' the sovereign. This is why the enemy, in the logic of sovereignty, has to appear as attacking the holiness and the character of 'indefilability' necessarily attributed to sovereignty in this logic; war is thus the proper form of the sovereign's manifestation. Has this connection of sovereignty, holiness and enmity been overcome in modernity or is it still at work? In what way are human rights and international laws a limitation or continuation of this structure?
Sovereignty seems no longer be localized territorially, but it appears in the era of what is called globalization as an eco-technological police force. What philosophical and political concepts exist to think this new type of sovereignty? And what are the forms of warfare – and is it "war" in a traditional sense – that have to be seen as being necessarily linked to this delimitation or dissolution of sovereignty? What is the role played by the so called "return of the religious", as a means to distinguish friend from enemy, in this scenario?
The current deterritorialization or dissolution of sovereignty has historically been preceded by certain forms of counter-sovereignty, whose relation to the "old" sovereignty was partly subversive and revolutionary, partly hyperbolic and fulfilling; these forms were explicitly or implicitly informed by eschatological patterns (as, e.g., the communist world revolution, or the concepts of the 'final battle' etc.). What is the role that can actually been attributed, within the context of historical and current conflicts, to such eschatological concepts of history?