Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology

Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology
    Book Description:

    Postcolonial theology has recently emerged as a site of intense intellectual and political energy and has taken its place in the interdisciplinary field of postcolonial studies. This volume is animated by the conviction that postcolonial theology is now ready for a second, deeper phase of engagement with postcolonial theory, one that moves beyond the general to the specific. No critic has been more emblematic of the challenging and contested field of postcolonial theory than Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. In this volume, the product of a theological colloquium in which Spivak herself participated, theologians and biblical scholars engage with her thought in order to catalyze a diverse range of original theological and exegetical projects. The volume opens with a topographyof postcolonial theology and also includes other valuable introductory essays. At the center of the collection are transcriptions of two extended public dialogues with Spivak on theology and religion in general. A further dozen essays appropriate Spivak's work for theological and ethical reflection. The volume is also significant for the larger field of postcolonial studies in that it is the first to focus centrally on Spivak's immensely suggestive and vital concept of planetarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4878-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    • A Tentative Topography of Postcolonial Theology
      (pp. 3-14)

      As the crow flies, the Theological School at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, is less than thirty miles from the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York City. In other respects, of course, the distance between these two institutional spaces is absolute: they occupy two parallel discursive dimensions that, left to their own devices, would extend to infinity without ever intersecting. On the afternoon of November 2, 2007, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia’s most distinguished literary scholar, and arguably the most influential literary and cultural critic on the planet (although the term “planet” resists casual...

    • Situating Spivak
      (pp. 15-30)

      When Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak arrived at Drew Theological School on the afternoon of November 2, 2007, she entered a conversation already under way. The immediate conversation had been in progress since the previous evening, the larger conversation for considerably longer. It centered on the challenge of employing Spivak’s thought to think theologically. Why Spivak? The facile answer might have been that postcolonial studies, with postcolonial theory tucked under its wing (sometimes uncomfortably), had recently arrived in theological studies,¹ and Spivak was, after all—was she not?—the preeminent living embodiment, the veritable avatar, of postcolonial studies and, above all, postcolonial...

    • What Has Love to Do with It? Planetarity, Feminism, and Theology
      (pp. 31-45)

      Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is one of those original thinkers whose work is pregnant with generative ideas that others can “work on” and “work with.” Those familiar with my book Discovering theBible in the Non-Biblical World, published in 1995, will know that I have worked with her notion of the native in the master discourse to elucidate the inscription of the Syrophoenician woman in the Christian Gospels of Mark and Matthew.¹ In my 1998 essay “Jesus/The Native,” which marked a breakthrough in my thinking on biblical scholarship, I used her concept of “in other worlds” to debunk Eurocentrism in biblical...

    • The Love We Cannot Not Want: A Response to Kwok Pui-lan
      (pp. 46-52)

      I must begin my response to Kwok Pui-lan’s introduction with some words of gratitude for the clarity with which she navigates Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s work on behalf of theology, an extremely challenging feat, especially for those of us, like Kwok, who take seriously Spivak’s own suspicions of theological motivations and investments in the detritus of colonial sprawl. One of the difficulties for us is that Spivak does not seem to invest herself in her own insights and claims but rather grounds herself in the world that inspires them, and so as the world changes, so her arguments change. She is...


    • Love: A Conversation
      (pp. 55-78)

      Catherine Keller: I had mentioned to Professor Spivak that I would rap just a little bit, warming up to a question, while she is settling into our sanctified environment here in the Theological School. We are very grateful for your courage in joining us today. But really, the courage is all ours. [Laughter.]

      In theCritique of Postcolonial Reason, thinking especially of Bangladesh, you write words that seem to us all the more prophetic now, in the light (the warm light) of global warming. You write that you “have no doubt that we must learn to learn from the original...

    • The Pterodactyl in the Margins: Detranscendentalizing Postcolonial Theology
      (pp. 79-101)

      Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s idea of “planetarity” is a postcolonial topology for ethics in the wake of the demise of identitarian forms of ethics. Moreover, it is the basis of her call to detranscendentalize¹ all forms of radical alterity (mother, nation, god, nature). How can we stage a conversation between “planetarity” and theology? Instead of the arbitrary cultural and imaginary maps for identity-based ethical models, Spivak suggests that the topographical expanse presented by planetarity will affirm the best of our human impulses, which is to be for others. This is an impulse that can be embraced by theology. However, for Spivak,...

    • Lost in Translation? Tracing Linguistic and Economic Transactions in Three Texts
      (pp. 102-117)

      With her suggestion of using the term “planetary,” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak talks about an interdependence beyond postcolonial independence and hence “an undivided ‘natural’ space rather than a differentiated political space.”¹ Part of that interdependence involves, for Spivak, the need to learn another language so that one can read its literature—especially its poetry—to experience the impossible.² In a delightfully ironic way, Spivak also sees language learning as a way to counteract the temptation to accept and abet the neocolonial status quo behind the pretext that transcultural knowledge is plainly and simply impossible.³ She is clear, at the same...

    • Ghostly Encounters: Spirits, Memory, and the Holy Ghost
      (pp. 118-135)

      I confess that my interest in haunting has not always been theological. The trope, if not the sense, of being haunted has for me the distinct traces of writers such as Juan Rulfo, Gabriel Garíca Márquez, and Isabel Allende, to name just a few. Their ghostly narratives exemplify modes of witness in which the past is both ungraspable and unavoidable, haunting the imaginations of subjects who do not neutralize this ambiguity.¹ I think, for instance, of Allende’sOf Love and Shadows—a story set during the days following the coup against Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973 , which bears...

    • Extempore Response to Susan Abraham, Tat-siong Benny Liew, and Mayra Rivera
      (pp. 136-146)

      The papers are very different, all three of them; and, I would bet, also suggest new possibilities for “Can the Subaltern Speak?” The Nicaraguans wrote at a certain point a piece which came out inThe Socialist Reviewcalled “Can the Subaltern Vote?” and, you know, I really felt that they were not taking my little essay in very well. [Laughter.] I was telling Serene [Jones] earlier that I actually sent that paper back to the editors saying, “It’s too long, it’s too confusing, it needs to be cut. I can’t cut it, please help me.” They just published it...


    • Planetary Subjects after the Death of Geography
      (pp. 149-167)

      Ankur Jaiswal, a Bangalore call-center employee whose phone name is “Mike,” regularly claims that he lives in America when questioned by suspicious U.S. callers. “They ask, ‘Where in America?’ I tell them I cannot disclose my location. But they are still suspicious and start asking about the weather.”¹ Like most of his colleagues in South Asia, “Mike” is able to respond with the weather report, recent sports scores, and tidbits of American popular culture that are displayed on a large television screen posted in many call centers to aid employees feign a U.S. location. Why worry about location when the...

    • Love’s Multiplicity: Jeong and Spivak’s Notes toward Planetary Love
      (pp. 168-190)
      W. ANNE JOH

      Because I am an academic with modest intentions, who is driven by desire for theory in a theory-driven context, that I want to write about love conjures up all kinds of images and insecurities. One wonders if it is even possible to write about love without sounding trite, sappy, sentimental, and soft. Does love free us or enslave us? Perhaps it does both? Somehow writing about and on love seems not such an edgy endeavor after all. Residues of both disdain and desperate search for love have left their imprint.¹ Battling with resurgence of disdain if not outright suspicion coupled...

    • Not Quite Not Agents of Oppression: Liberative Praxis for North American White Women
      (pp. 191-208)

      One of the crucial methodological starting places in anti-oppression work is the presentation of strictly oppositional understandings of who is oppressed and who is oppressor. This is an either/or logic in the rawest sense. There is no gray area or third zone: either you are a “target of oppression” or an “agent of oppression.”¹ The language intentionally forces participants to identify as one or the other. The idea is to make clear which way oppression flows, to hold the dominant class in the hot seat. The language of agency is key to this framing; it highlights the idea that there...

    • Planetary Sightings? Negotiating Sexual Differences in Globalization’s Shadow
      (pp. 209-224)

      InThe Death of a Discipline, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak critically evaluates her discipline, comparative literature, exposing through the mundane (the book opens with a set of academic memos) and the sublime (Spivak’s usual combination of literary analysis and theoretical counterpunch) this discipline’s imbrication in not only academic but global politics. Born in response to an emergent postcolonial sensibility and emblematic of that movement’s own political aims of attending to “the other” on “the other’s” own terms, it nonetheless finds itself caught in the gravitational pull of nationalisms evident in its mapping of literary traditions according to nation-states and in its...

    • “Effects of Grace”: Detranscendentalizing
      (pp. 225-237)

      Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s writing is nothing if not challenging. Somewhat daunted, I console myself with the fact that every reading is necessarily, and sometimes deliberately, a misreading, and proceed on those grounds. Perhaps the most important thing to grasp when reading Spivak on religion is her insistence on detranscen dentalizing. She insists on it as the secular work of the humanities. I would like to explore this insistence on detranscen dentalizing, as it relates to a much larger theme in her work: that is, ethical singularity. In other terms, the theory compressed into the phrasedetranscen dentalizing alterityhelps us...

    • Comparative Theology after “Religion”
      (pp. 238-257)

      Christian reflection has, from its inception, been situated in a world of difference. Indeed, it would be possible to craft a history of Christian thought and practice written as a series of interactions with and transmutations of movements and traditions that Christians have come to demarcate as non-Christian. Such a history would demonstrate not only that many of the central categories, practices, and symbols of Christian life are borrowed from Hellenistic philosophical schools, mystery religions, and, of course, most vitally from what we now call “Judaism,” but that for long stretches of history, no clearly defined and rigid boundaries existed...

    • Toward a Cosmopolitan Theology: Constructing Public Theology from the Future
      (pp. 258-280)

      The question of who one is, the question of one’s identity, has been a contested and recurring issue in various discourses and movements. The “who-am-I” question was once for me only an existential question, meaning that I was not fully aware of my multiple locationality in the world. The exclusively existential nature of my “who-am-I” question began to take a new form after feminism touched my life. The awareness of my gender and race in a white dominant culture extended the “who-am-I question from a mere existential question to a social, cultural, and geopolitical one. In contemporary identity politics, identity...

    • Pax Terra and Other Utopias? Planetarity, Cosmopolitanism, and the Kingdom of God
      (pp. 281-302)

      Mapped, divided into spheres of influence, and navigated by a wireless “net” accessed through palm-cradled devices, our micromanaged globe appears sufficiently contained.¹ “The globe” thus compacted, notes Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “allows us to think that we can aim to control it.”² Efforts to control, however, inevitably stumble on the unexpected or unconquered. Cartographers of old warned that at the limits of the known globe and in the mists of unchartered waters, “here be monsters.” The warning stands inscribed. Difference, or that which eludes categorization, bears the scar of the monstrous or foreign, so marked by the forces of hegemony. Orbiting...

    • Crip/tography: Of Karma and Cosmopolis
      (pp. 303-330)

      We, knowing we would soon be moving to the other edge of the continent, wanted her to have the enchanted memory of skating at night under the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. After waiting in line for two and a half hours, my daughter Sarah, along with her friend and my partner, Jeff, take to the skating rink. I make my way to a glass concourse at rink level that should allow me to build my own memory—that of watching my daughter set against the jeweled night lights of the city, dusted with the twinkle of snowflake, enfolded in...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 331-410)
  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 411-414)
    (pp. 415-426)