Liberation Theology: Deleuze and Althaus-Reid

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I’ve just read a solid article by Justaert on Deleuze and queer theology. She argues that postmodern liberation theology needs to look past Marx towards Deleuze for a new micro-politics. First she suggest that Althaus-Reid’s implicit theological ontology has much in common with Deleuze’s immanent ontology. Both thinkers also share a desire for liberation spiritually and politically and do so by thinking concretely and practically. Next (and this is what I found most interesting) was Justaert’s sketch of Althaus-Reid’s flowing Christology. This Christology is organized around a Christ who is conceived of as an event where the spiritual and political converge. Borrowing Deleuze’s idea of assemblage, we ought to think of a “Christology that encourages all-flowing” (158). This unique Christology can be depatriarchized by thinking of Christ as an emergent, fluid becoming-Christ. For Althaus-Reid this Christ is in fact a community. “[S]he interprets the community of poor women as catalyst for the becoming-Messiah of Jesus” (158). Justaert contends that Althaus-Reid’s Christology can be enhanced by thinking of it in terms of a Deleuzian assemblage. An assemblage is a dynamic process that is not static but rather “is a contingent organization of accidental encounters” (159). Christ is a solid paradigm for an assemblage insofar as an assemblage is defined by what it does and is lacking in any stable identity. Christ throughout the Gospels is constantly performing miracles, curing the sick, and exorcising demons. Also Jesus’ refusal to be tied down to a single identity (Messianic secret) suggests that he considered the proclamation and enactment of the Kingdom more important than who he was. In Deleuze’s philosophy an assemblage is constantly deterritorialized and reterritorialized (i.e. constantly changing and moving). Similarly, Christ himself continually interacted with different types of people (prostitutes, lepers, religious leaders) and was also always on the go in the Gospels.

Although we see some similarities, there are some differences between Deleuze and Althaus-Reid’s thought. For one, the author notes that the major difference is that Deleuze’s work is entirely atelological.

Finally, Justaert goes on to argue that Deleuze’s thought can help shatter some of the existing dualities contaminating Althaus-Reid’s theology. Namely, Althaus-Reid’s duality of heterosexuality and non-heterosexuality could be improved with Deleuze’s discussion of a “thousand tiny sexes” (162), and her simplistic negative view of capitalism could be nuanced with Deleuze’s analysis of capitalism and desire. Finally, Justaert believes that Althaus-Reid’s notion of political agency could become more developed and complex when complemented by Deleuze’s idea of micro-politics.

I’d encourage my readers to read the article in its entirety, which can be found here. It’s a good introduction to Althaus-Reid’s queer theology and demonstrates quite convincingly how Deleuze’s philosophy could be of great aid for postmodern liberation theology.

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