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 The Love We Cannot Not Want: A Response to Kwok Pui-lan L A U R E L C . S C H N E I D E R I must begin my response to Kwok Pui-lan’s introduction with some words of gratitude for the clarity with which she navigates Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s work on behalf of theology, an extremely challenging feat, especially for those of us, like Kwok, who take seriously Spivak’s own suspicions of theological motivations and investments in the detritus of colonial sprawl. One of the difficulties for us is that Spivak does not seem to invest herself in her own insights and claims but rather grounds herself in the world that inspires them, and so as the world changes, so her arguments change. She is as ready is disavow her earlier positions as she is to gesture provocatively toward new ones, as the conditions of globalization and dehumanization and as the possibilities for critique and insight demand. (Her famous discomfort over her own notions of the subaltern and the postcolonial are good examples of this.) Spivak, in other words, is not wedded to a priori claims about reality beyond a faith in the capacity of literary discourse to critically engage assumptions about that reality. On a purely methodological level this flexibility can spell trouble for some theologians, for whom big words such as ‘‘world’’ and ‘‘creation’’ or ‘‘eternity’’ and ‘‘absolute’’ are meaningful and serve as anchors for additional big words such as ‘‘love,’’ ‘‘faith,’’ and ‘‘truth.’’ For others of us, precisely the fluidity and pragmatism employed by Spivak and thinkers like her, together with her abiding passion for the empowerment of those most marginalized and hurt by totalizing systems of governance, offer some badly needed new ways of thinking big, especially thinking that results from postures of attention to actual relations. The PAGE 46 ................. 17764$ $CH3 10-28-10 12:06:48 PS a r es p o ns e t o k w o k p u i -l a n 兩 4 7 difficulties of this approach for anything approximating an ontotheology are, as Kwok so clearly points out, significant. The ontotheological is in retreat in much of contemporary theology, the reasons for which are too complex and long-winded to rehearse here. But the ontological is still important to the bigger claims that theologians seek to make about divinity and the world (and I dare say ‘‘the planetary’’). As such, the ontological is still a matter of theological concern even as it (finally!) loses its long-standing footing in Platonic idealism; it haunts every step we take and is an easy target for philosophers and literary critics, like Spivak, who may think that they have succeeded in shaking the ontological off, like an overcoat long out of season. But then such thinkers make suggestions like the one that has motivated this collection of writings, namely that ‘‘the planetary’’ may be a new direction for ‘‘original practical ecological philosophies.’’1 The theological returns, even in whispers of ontological possibility. It (the ontological ) is perhaps one of those things that we ‘‘cannot not want,’’ and may even be unable not to need, even as we commit ourselves to its persistent critique.2 Kwok focuses on two such theopoetic gestures in Spivak (we’ll not call them ontotheological, and I agree with her that it would be erroneous to do so) that Kwok suggests are useful, particularly to postcolonial feminist theologians. Together, both gestures form the main title of the conference for which her essay was written. Each one adds conceptual specificity to pathways that Kwok herself has been charting for feminist postcolonial theologians for over a decade. The first gesture, as we have seen, is ‘‘the planetary,’’ and the second is ‘‘planetary love.’’ I want to respond briefly to both gestures, both because I think that Kwok’s approach to Spivak’s cryptic offering of the planetary is indeed very helpful for theological purposes and because I share Kwok’s concern that ‘‘love’’ be revisioned appropriately. It is this latter concern that I take up principally in this response. The ‘‘planetary’’ is a notion that, according to Spivak, stands in opposition to the ‘‘global.’’ The global is an abstract notion of the whole in the way that maps are abstract. The planetary, in contrast, is fully embodied and as such cannot be charted except perhaps as the partially submerged monsters who roam the edges of maps (or epistemic systems). Furthermore, the planetary cannot...


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