RUCPT Projects and Collaborations

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Read about some of the recent and ongoing research projects and seminar themes in the Research Unit in Contemporary Political Theory.

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Political Theologies

In 2020-21 RUCPT will be hosting a seminar series around the theme of political theology with the title: ‘Political Theologies: new reflections on the sacred in contemporary politics’.

Political theology is a broad and diverse series of investigations into the relationship between theology and politics, particularly the way that theological categories continue to underpin and inform, in oblique ways, modern secular political concepts, discourses, practices and institutions, such as sovereignty, the nation state and democracy.

Political theology is fundamentally concerned with the problem of legitimacy and it refers to the absent place of the sacred in modern secular societies. As a mode of enquiry, it gives us an alternative framework and language in which to understand forms of political experience that cannot be adequately grasped by conventional political theory. Debates in political theology have been heavily influenced by the thought of Carl Schmitt, particularly his theory of the sovereign state of exception and the secularisation of theological categories into modern political and juridical concepts.

However, new approaches to  political theology have sought to move beyond Schmitt’s conservative sovereign-centric paradigm, developing new ways of thinking about the economy, environmental concerns, social and racial justice struggles, and the role of religion and church organisations in public life, as well as drawing on other religious traditions such as Judaism and Islam.

The question of the sacred and what it means today may also allow us to understand contemporary political phenomena, such as the rise of populism, post-secularism and the ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, the significance of symbols in new forms of protest, the flourishing of conspiracy theories, and the new states of exception in the era of Covid-19.

This seminar series brings together a series of experts from different fields – political theory, continental philosophy, law and theology – to explore the intersections between the theological and the political.

Speakers to include:

  • Professor Vincent Lloyd, Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University; co-editor of the journal Political Theology (11 November 2020, 6-7:30pm)
  • Professor Tina Beattie, Catholic Studies, University of Roehampton (1 January 2021, 6-7:30pm)
  • Dr Peter Langford, Law, Edge Hill University (11 February 2021, 6-7:30pm)
  • Professor Elettra Stimilli, Theoretical Philosophy, Sapienza Universita di Roma (4 March 2021, 6-7:30pm)
  • Dr Eskander Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, Politics and IR, Goldsmiths University of London (6 May 2021, 6-7:30pm)
  • Dr Michael Kirwan, Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin (27 May 2021, 6-7:30pm)
  • Dr Jeremy Kidwell, Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham (10 June 2021, 6-7:30pm

Seminars will be held online via MS Teams. Virtual attendance open to all. Contact seminar convener and Director, Professor Saul Newman, for details on how to join: s.newman (@gold.ac.uk).

Politics & Ontology

Politics & Ontology

In June 2018 we collaborated with the Centre for Critical Thought at the University of Kent to hold a one-day workshop for doctoral researchers working on the relation between politics and ontology. We discussed the methodological difficulties of thinking ontologically and explored the ways in which ontological thinking could illuminate the terrain of politics and political theory. Papers from researchers at both institutions were delivered on ‘What is a Political Problem?’, ‘Making Political Ontology Political’, ‘Hegemony and the Logics of the Kurdish Conflicts in Turkey’, and ‘The Spirit of Citizenship’.