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 The Pterodactyl in the Margins: Detranscendentalizing Postcolonial Theology S U S A N A B R A H A M To be human is to be intended toward the other. We provide for ourselves transcendental figurations of what we think is the origin of this animating gift: mother, nation, god, nature. These are the names of alterity, some more radical than others. . . . If we imagine ourselves as planetary subjects rather than global agents, planetary creatures rather than global entities, alterity remains underived from us; it is not our dialectical negation, it contains us as much as it flings us away. And thus to think of it is already to transgress, for, in spite of our forays into what we metaphorize, differently, as outer and inner space, what is above and beyond our own reach is not continuous with us as it is not, indeed, specifically discontinuous. We must specifically educate ourselves into this peculiar mindset. gayatri chakravorty spivak, Death of a Discipline PHILOSOPHICAL A ND THEOLOGICAL CONCERNS Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s idea of ‘‘planetarity’’ is a postcolonial topology for ethics in the wake of the demise of identitarian forms of ethics. Moreover , it is the basis of her call to detranscendentalize1 all forms of radical alterity (mother, nation, god, nature). How can we stage a conversation between ‘‘planetarity’’ and theology? Instead of the arbitrary cultural and imaginary maps for identity-based ethical models, Spivak suggests that the topographical expanse presented by planetarity will affirm the best of our human impulses, which is to be for others. This is an impulse that can be embraced by theology. However, for Spivak, the taint of the religious as a system of beliefs and its transcendental foundations must be rigorously opposed in view of its continuing co-optation by imperial and nation-building interests. Yet, detranscendentalizing does not mean the erasure of PAGE 79 ................. 17764$ $CH5 10-28-10 12:06:58 PS 80 兩 s u sa n a br a h am religion entirely. Spivak, it would seem, has reassessed the role of religion for politics. ‘‘Detranscendentalizing’’ refers to the move to counter secular attempts ‘‘to privatize the transcendental.’’2 Thus, detranscendentalizing as a deconstructive move is not primarily a challenge to religion or theological discourses. It is a challenge to secularist politics that seeks to marginalize religion. This essay consequently stages a conversation between theology and Spivak’s detranscendental proposal for ethics in its nonsecular frame. Spivak’s argument is primarily directed to area studies in comparative literatures. For theology, her notion signals the manner in which postcolonial theological thought ought to be attempted. Firstly, theology in view of planetarity must revise its ontotheological framework and reliance on traditional theological metaphysics and belief systems in its presentation of the relationship between transcendence and immanence. The traditional ways of clarifying the relationship between transcendence and immanence shifts to a material and cultural plane while eschewing identitarian cultural conventions. Consequently, theological discourses can be interrogated for their commitment to heterogeneity and plurality that goes beyond a mere ‘‘logofratocentric’’3 notion of democracy in view of planetarity. Theology done in the postcolonial moment cannot ignore, postpone, or simply add on the problem of sexual difference. Further, planetarity presents a more complex topographical context for ethics. It is not simply the planet that ought to be at the forefront of ethical inquiry; it is the manner in which we live together as creatures that belong to the planet, ‘‘planetary subjects,’’ that is the more urgent frame for ethics. Spivak’s call to ‘‘detranscendentalize the sacred’’ seems to be an attempt to rethink transcendence and immanence on a cultural plane. In this effort, her reading and presentation of religion and theology is self-avowedly ‘‘nonspecialist .’’ For Spivak, transcendence as an other-worldly phenomenon is useless for ethics. Yet, as I shall argue, deconstruction need not sound the death knell for theological discourses of transcendence if they are able to consider the cultural contexts in which they are generated. Planetarity challenges theological discourses to speak of transcendence and immanence in a cultural mode. As the epigraph suggests, planetarity is a ‘‘peculiar mindset’’ that challenges the exploitative dualisms of colonial and postcolonial power. The detranscendentalized space of transcendence consequently is ‘‘here,’’ not ‘‘there’’ (other-world). This mundane space of transcendence is complemented by the incursion of complex temporality. Space, the here and now, in urgent, immediate, and singular encounter, is complicated by a complex PAGE 80 ................. 17764$ $CH5 10-28-10 12:06:58 PS d e tr a...


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