Political Demonologies: Race, Gender, and Coloniality in a Postsecular Age
May 15–16, 2020, University College Dublin, Ireland
Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
C. Heike Schotten (University of Massachusetts, Boston)
Selamawit D. Terrefe (Tulane University)
The last decade has seen growing public awareness of right-wing populism and authoritarianism across Europe and the Americas, from Orbán’s Hungary and Putin’s Russia to Trump’s America and Bolsonaro’s Brazil. These nationalist resurgences are not isolated, but often draw on networks and ideas that are distinctly transnational, whether that be the “Eurasianism” of Aleksandr Dugin, or the critical role of conservative charismatic and evangelical Christians in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. Such movements rely upon what have been called “political demonologies”—frameworks of demonization and dehumanization that police borders around “self” and “other,” conjuring folk devils that embody anxieties of societal change and galvanizing adaptive regimes of exclusion that are more or less secularized in places and fully theological and non-secular in others. Religious dimensions of these frameworks are often underexamined despite reactionary discourses often articulating themselves in religious terms or claiming religious justifications, perhaps clearest in invocations of a “Judeo-Christian” civilization besieged from without by an Islamic Other and undermined from within by the presence and accommodation of gender and sexual variance and religious and ethnic difference. Rather than signalling something new, however, the exclusionary systems brought to bear in these invocations depend upon pre-existing systems of epistemic and material violence: colonialism and neocolonialism, slavery and its afterlives, and the structures of racial-sexual ordering these inscribed and maintain, as well as a theopolitical substrate that has long worked to stratify humanity within economies of salvation and damnation, being and non-being.
This conference aims to critically examine how constructions of religion, race, coloniality, gender, secularity, and sexuality operate within the discursive and affective frameworks of contemporary systems of exclusion and erasure. Surges in reactionary violence and the expansion of state regimes of surveillance and security demonstrate that the political demonologies circulating today are not only comorbid but rely on deep-rooted systems and structures, including the global circulations of racial capitalism and the matrix of coloniality. These structures, their genealogies and legacies, are ones that have come under critical and creative engagement in critical theory and cultural studies, notably in the areas of queer dissidence, afro-pessimism, and decolonial critique. However, many critical insights from these fields have not yet been brought into sustained conversation with scholarship in sociology, religious studies, or politics and international relations. Bringing together an international and interdisciplinary body of scholars, the conference will bring these fields into fruitful and timely conversation. In doing so, it will not only chart current reactionary politics but critically excavate the structures they draw upon, exacerbate, and rearticulate—antiblackness, misogyny, queer- and transphobia, settler colonialism, and global coloniality—and how these distinct systems of marginalization are mobilized in ways that both reinforce and deconstruct one another.
Please submit a paper title, abstract of 250–300 words, a short biography, and contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com. We also welcome applications for full panels of 3-4 papers. Please put the phrase ‘Political Demonologies Abstract’ in the subject header.
The deadline for paper and panel proposals is March 1, 2020. We will make decisions on paper and panel submissions on a rolling basis to help facilitate participant’s planning for conference attendance.
Possible topics of discussion include, but are not limited to:
- The racialization of rleigious identities.
- The theological genealogy of contemporary secularised patterns of prejudice.
- Intersections of vectors of prejudice (for example, queer- and trnsphobia, antiblackness, anti-indigeneity, antisemitism, Islamophobia).
- The global material and ideological cross-pollination of reactionary groups.
- Christianity's relationship to "the West" and its ties to secularised discourses of othering.
- Christian demonology (past and present) and its relation to projects of epistemic and material violence.
- Sovereignty and unsovereignty.
- The conscription of non-European subjects into the project of European modernity.
- The intersections of queer- and transphobia with surveillance and security regimes.
- The enduring impact of colonialism on categories of religion, race, gender, and sexuality.
- Social death, antiblackness, and (post)coloniality.
- Ideological, material, and historical dimensions of globalization, and reactions to them.
- Neoliberalism's relation to contemporary religious and secular systems of exclusion.
- Modernity/coloniality and (the crisis of) American Empire.
- Racial capitalism, its development, adaptations, and effects.
- The rise of and cultural work performed by "gender ideology" in contemporary queer- and transphobia.
- The value of critical theory frameworks such as queer dissidence, afro-pessimism, and decolonial critique for thining (through) the current condition.
- Tensions between queer theory, afro-pessimism, and theories of idigenous resistance.
- Information, narrative, and power.
- The influence of conspiracy theories and conspiracist subcultures.
- "Globalism," antisemitism, and the state of Israel.
- The ideology of the "clash of civilizations."
- Cultural constructions of "evil" and theirpolitical mobilization.
- Affective dimensions of reactionary politics and of resistance.
- Intersections of Islamophobia and antiblackness.
- Media representations and their capacity to reinforce and subvert societal structures.
S. Jonathon O'Donnell, PhD
IRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University College Dublin