Category: Materialist Theology

Workshop “The Tradition of the Oppressed”

Drawing on Benjamin’s reflections on the “problem of tradition,” this workshop seeks to challenge our notions of heritage, political legacy, and historical consciousness. How can the experience and tradition of the oppressed be narrated without relying on narratives? What is the fragmentary medium of this transmittability and how can we rethink the concept of heritage if the latter is not limited to official historiography of those who have been and are in power? Who are the oppressed today? Is there a non-space, a utopos, which can articulate the discontinuous tradition of the oppressed?

International Workshop “Aktualität | Actuality in Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy” Sept. 26-27, 2014

This international workshop takes its cue from the (un)translatability of the German word Aktualität and proposes a shift of perspective from Benjamin’s contemporaneity, which has been widely discussed already, to the non-contemporaneity of his concept. Benjamin’s concept of Aktualität belongs...

Schweigen, Streiken, Vergessen. Mit Walter Benjamin für eine Dialektik der Aktivierung durch Passivierung

“Die grössten Ereignisse – das sind nicht unsre lautesten, sondern unsre stillsten Stunden.” – Friedrich Nietzsche “durch Passivsein zu siegen. Durch Erleiden Macht zu bekommen.” – Bertolt Brecht   Als man Kierkegaard 1843 den Zug zeigte, der ihn nach Berlin...

Derrida & Sons: Marx, Benjamin, and the Specter of the Messianic

Taking its cue from Derrida’s late figure of a messianicité sans messianisme, a messianic without messianism, a structural messianism without religion, this article is concerned with a  materialist – if not atheist – reading of the messianic. It is in Derrida where we can grasp the paradoxical structure of a messianic promise that can not be reduced to Judeo-Christian theology proper or, as others have argued, a theological turn of deconstructivism. Although messianic thought has its origins in the Jewish tradition, especially in the trends of Jewish mysticism, Derrida’s point of reference is of different nature. It was Walter Benjamin’s peculiar sort of Marxism who enlisted the services of messianic theology undermining – if not suspending – the instrumental logic of master and servant or, as his famous allegory of the chess automaton has it, puppet and dwarf.

Nihilism, Destruction, Negativity. Walter Benjamin and the ‘Organization of Pessimism’

Equally repudiated by today’s neo-liberal, left-liberal, and neo-conservative ideologies, the legacy of nihilism takes the position of an “accursed share” (Georges Bataille). Although nihilism as a political, philosophical, and ethical concept can be traced back to the most influential strands of post-Nietzschean thought and modern continental philosophy, it retains a bad name. Contemporary philosophies of agency, creativity, and communitarianism all agree that nihilism eventually leads to defeatism, destruction, or violence. Nihilism thus is mostly associated with destructive anarchism, right-wing or left-wing extremism.

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