From dogmatism to a public theology: an archeology of theological knowledge and religious studies

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The premise of the German jurist, Carl Schmitt, that modern political concepts are understood as a secularized expression of theology and his attempt of support the Nazi «total State» was directly related to Hitler's statement as: “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work” (Mein Kampf, 1925). With the arrival of the Führer as the salvation from the Weimar Republic’s crisis, two perspectives prevail: the establishment of a state of exception as a kind of divine intervention to maintain the order; the formulation of a Sovereignty of the State as a secularization of papal infallibility in the Church, in which, in the face of the crisis, «uniformization» (Gleichschaltung) was necessary as a power structure that eliminate all types of dissonant expression. On the one hand, it does not seem to be a coincidence that groups with authoritarian discourses still claim such a divine mandate in contemporary times. Thus comes the perception of insufficiency of the secularization hermeneutics aiming to guarantee the noble ideal of secularism as protecting public order and safeguarding individual freedom of conscience, limiting them to the private sphere. However, within the framework of typical recomposition of post-secular societies, the scope of certain political projects get support through a religious self-referentiality explored as an immunizing element in the contexts of critical debate typical of the public sphere. The emergence of a “public religion”, in these circumstances, may not help to build a common project, shared by a pluralistic society, but becomes an instrument for the political strengthening of identity blocks. On the other hand, simultaneously, there is the emergence of counter-hegemonical plural political theological hermeneutics, committed to a public agenda within the religious traditions, such as the contextual theologies and currently some world religious leaders who have committed to the 2030 Agenda, to the point of being recognized by some UN analysts as a “spiritual” sector, viewed as a possible source of wisdom, valid for building consensus about life in common. Nonetheless, the incorporation of a public agenda in the religious realm by itself is still insufficient to contain the growth of extremist groups in democratic societies with religious support. To this end, this Special Issue aims to collect contributions from the interlocution of three archaeological projects, , namely those of Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau and Giorgio Agamben, that focus on the tension between this theological self-referentiality and the emergence of an public rationality, as a way to: a) offering more complex analysis tools for the question of the reemerging of the political theological discourse in post-secular societies; b) establishing an epistemological critique of theological self-referentiality, mapping its modern forms; c) analyzing, using an expression by De Certeau, how the change of perspective in religious traditions operates like a Trojan horse that re-signifies theological structures from an ethical sensitivity to new dilemmas from a plurality of resistance tactics.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • archaeology of theological knowledge
  • Michel de Certeau
  • public theology
  • Michel Foucault
  • religion and public agenda
  • public ethics
  • heterologies


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