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
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
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
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?