Religion, Resistance, and Self-Formation: A Foucauldian Philosophy of Religion
My dissertation offers an analysis, both exegetical and critical, of the narrative role and conceptual function of religion in the work of the French philosopher/historian Michel Foucault. Specifically it explores how religion, in relation to a dominant political order, furnishes a site through which alternative ways of life may be envisioned, while simultaneously regulating possibilities for the self, often in ways that confound liberal notions of moral and political progress. I build my case by drawing attention to the ways in which Foucault’s account of religious practices furnishes a template through which he advances his ethics – understood as a form of transformative self-care. I then link this material to the overarching critical and anti-humanist trajectory of his corpus showing that his ethics must be seen through the lens of critique, and consider the implications of this for critical modes of religious self-understanding, ways of being, and forms of political resistance. This is something I examine in sites as diverse as contemporary political Islam and in 13th-century Franciscan religious iconography.
This project emerges at the confluence of diverse fields of inquiry (philosophical, theological, art historical, post-colonial), which makes it particularly well suited to the disciplinary diversity of the Martin Marty Seminar. I’m grateful for the interdisciplinary environment and collaborative exchange amongst fellows that the seminar supports. I hope it will sharpen my thinking and help me find ways to further explore the public import of my dissertation as I work toward the completion the degree.