New Orientalists, The: Postmodern Representations of Islam from Foucault to Baudrillard
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All Rights Reserved. Cancel Submit. How was your experience with this page? In sum, contemporary Western posthumanists can find corroboration in Zhuangzi and Buddhism for the critique of anthropocentric notions of humanity and subjectivity. We can isolate the second point of corroboration on the topic of flourishing. As Irigaray emphasizes, cultural symbols are mere idols if they do not support natural growth and becoming Irigaray , pp.
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This is not a progression toward some transcendent state of perfection, but an ever-renewing blossoming. Nature is usually treated as that which grows by itself, while culture is treated as where we make things Irigaray , pp. Politically, this involves resistance against nationalism, xenophobia, and racism, which produce stagnant sedimentation Braidotti , p. Braidotti welcomes such displacements of norms with glee p.
I want to note three parallels here in Zhuangzi. Wu wei involves resisting exertion or contrived control, where we can be at ease in our following things through or following along with things Wenzel , p. The dao is often represented as a river, inclusive of the natural tendencies of things Slingerland , p. The consummate human being entrusts each individual thing to its own course, seeing all as fitting. When forced fitting is forgotten, there is a perfect fit Zhuangzi , p.
In such an ethic, one refrains from imposing artificial ideals on others, respecting others by letting them be Huang Second, Zhuangzi promotes a radical commitment to transformation. What Ziyu symbolizes is a radical acceptance of any and all transformations. Third, Zhuangzi relishes playful creativity with words.
Polemical debates are just the sound of wind, for Zhuangzi Zhuangzi , p.
Zhuangzi does not promote nihilistic jibber jabber, but a mode of discourse structured by wu wei, a purposeless discourse like spontaneous dialogues Zhuangzi , p. This brings us to the political payoff of Zhuangzi in challenging the ruthless profiteering of advanced capitalism. Zhuangzi advances a position of resistance to any and all forms of utilitarian value. The carpenters perceive the knotted tree as worthless, whereas other trees face the trouble of axes and saws from being worth something.
Zhuangzi affirms the usefulness of uselessness, something which neoliberal advanced capitalism cannot even conceive. I have been deliberately emphasizing human-centered parables and imagery from Zhuangzi. However, consider this non-anthropocentric image that foregoes reference to humans. The character Prince Mou relays a story about a frog conversing with a sea turtle about its liberty and fulfillment in a well, with the frog inviting the turtle into its well to get the same fulfillment.
As the turtle tried to enter, its foot got stuck in the opening, and shared with the frog the vastness and fulfillment it finds in the ocean pp. Perhaps an even more radical affirmation of linguistic creativity is classical Chan encounter dialogues and the Zen ethic of adaptive responsiveness stemming from them see Hershock These encounter episodes illustrate masters responding to student questions with counterquestions, dismissals, puns, and even strikes and blows.
Awakening in this framework is not a transcendent subjective experience, but a cultivated state of interactive genius and spontaneous improvisation. The radical character of Chan should not be overlooked. Whatever you encounter, either within or without, slay it at once. On meeting a buddha slay the buddha, on meeting a patriarch slay the patriarch, on meeting an arhat slay the arhat, on meeting your parents slay your parents, on meeting your kinsman slay your kinsman, and you attain emancipation. Given constraints, however, I will leave it at this brief mention and turn instead to note what appears to be covert orientalism and methodological narrowness in posthumanist theory as developed so far.
The critique of orientalism is now methodologically definitive for Religious Studies. Thus, becoming more self-aware about areas of dismissal or caricature of the other is a benefit of the academic study of religion. By turning to Zhuangzi, I am attempting to shift the conversation in such a way that it does not start or end with identifying the weaknesses of Western humanisms see Wenning , p. It is not that posthumanists mischaracterize Asian philosophical and religious resources, but rather posthumanists—in my reading of them so far—do not show explicit recognition of these resources as corroborating resources.
What about Buddhist process metaphysics see Ronkin , p.
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Is such absence in posthumanism merely objectionable marginalia, or does it reflect an unspoken center? At this point, rather than be trigger-happy with accusations of orientalism, I merely want to encourage posthumanists and poststructuralists to seek out corroboration with Asian, Islamic, and Indigenous religious thought in further work. I think such corroboration is a clue to perhaps being on the right track.
And I want my contribution to be a step in this direction. The problem of orientalism is but one among the many benefits of engagement in the academic study of religions. A greater point of contention I have with posthumanism as developed so far is a remarkable absence of reference to Religious Studies as exemplary of posthumanist Humanities in higher education.
Braidotti celebrates the proliferation of postanthropocentric and interdisciplinary Humanities such as with Animal Studies and Ecocriticism, but isolates Disability Studies Braidotti , p. My aim is not to deny the exemplary character of these and other interdisciplinary fields. It is merely to indicate that the absence of Religious Studies among them is lamentable for a couple of reasons.
First, it perpetuates institutional misrecognition of what Religious Studies can do and is—where some fellow academics seem to believe the field should not exist at all due to its purported covert evangelism see Masuzawa or where some administrators believe it exists for the sake of producing Christian ministers see Dickman What Pamela Sue Anderson has said of feminist philosophers applies here to posthumanists as well. Inasmuch as religions have proven to be sexist institutions, to engage them rather than reject them wholesale may make one susceptible to complicity with oppression.
Western European feminists, especially of the first and second waves, generally display a suspicion of religion. Second, this missed opportunity occludes that Religious Studies was interdisciplinary before interdisciplinarity was cool; that Religious Studies critiqued Eurocentrism and anthropocentrism before doing so was cool.
Thomas J. I think that such a construal of Religious Studies can help us shed light on further corroboration and collaboration between the academic studies of religion and posthumanist Humanities, priming them for a coalitional interdisciplinary politic.
The New Orientalists: Postmodern Representations of Islam from Foucault to Baudrillard
Religious Studies is the fruitful locus of this multidisciplinary grafting because, as a critical field, it recognizes idolatry as idolatry, even if that idolatry is worded in entrenched Western vocabularies. That is, without the frameworks available in Religious Studies, posthumanists might misrecognize their inadvertent propping up of a new religion or metaphysics see Bell I hope my contribution here has indicated two ways to graft or suture posthumanist criticism in the study of religion: on the one hand, seeing theoretical corroboration in Zhuangzi, and, on the other hand seeing the posthumanist exemplariness of Religious Studies.
Funding This research received no external funding. I want to thank panelists and attendees at the joint session on Philosophies of Flourishing and Constructing Post-human Futures , cosponsored by the Philosophy of Religion and the Religion and Ecology sections of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion, March I also want to thank two anonymous reviewers, as well as Christoffer Lammer-Heindel, Brian Kanouse, Andie Brynn Weaver, Anderson Moss, and Kendall Marchman for critical and constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.