restricted access A Political Necrology of God

For early modern Christian subjects, Christ’s crucifixion and death fixes at the heart of things a momentary submission to decreation and destruction, replenished by the Resurrection and the promise of the Second Coming, but present all the same as a kind of absolute eclipse in ontotheology. With reference to the reworked “Nicene Creed” that closes Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, this essay asks: what happens to political ecologies of vibrant matter when they confront the corpse of God? How might Renaissance political ecologies speak to contemporary political dynamics, and what stands to occupy the vacant place of suicide, then and now, within this communal nexus? This essay pursues answers to these questions by placing an early modern text on suicide, John Donne’s Biathanatos, into conversation with a contemporary theorization of community—Roberto Esposito’s Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community. Donne’s scandalous, even blasphemous, presentation of Christ as a “self-killer” in Biathanatos raises the possibility that Christian community is founded in the shadow of an originary yet occulted moment of self-destructive will, at once inferred yet unrepresentable. The socially binding consequences of this sacrificial dynamic are further explored in relation to contemporary politics, with reference to the focalizing effect of the suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation catalyzed the “Arab Spring” of widespread popular revolt.