Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disability & Performance

The next turn in my studies is to look at Karl Barth and power relations especially in the social-political sense. Two of the main contemporary thinkers looking at this topic today is Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler and I am considering putting him in dialogue with them.

What we define as normal or human is something that often gets taken for granted. However, it is the philosopher's (and I would argue the theologian's) place to continue to probe this question. Butler points out how important performance is when considering human action. Many theologians like to talk about our being made in God's image, yet how does that look with regard to performance? In the actual everyday practices, the glances, ticks and movements of every-day human beings. I would argue that one of the absolute tragedies of the traditions of the Church is how often uncompromisingly they reflected the essentialist tendencies of the culture. Essentialist thought that basically says men, women, dogs, plants, etc. work in this way, all of the time.

Looking at performance from a Christological standpoint, one can see how the incarnation of Christ illustrates the idea of performance in a way that no one foreseen (Kierkegaard saw this the best). A "king" or God-incarnate, born in a stable, walked among the sick and lame and was murdered as a criminal. Perhaps if our understanding of what is human started with this model, then perhaps theology would have a more adaptable place in understanding all manifestations of life, whether it is human or inhuman.

See discussion with Taylor and Butler below:

1 comment:

  1. In addition, the way Christ acts is to perform in a way that takes the common understanding of such symbols as Messiah, King, etc. and to perform them in a radically new way within the existing framework of the social-historical context of his day.