Vincent Lloyd on Negative Political Theology

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What Life Is Not: Negative Political Theology in Michel Henry and Aimé Césaire

The Christian phenomenologist and novelist Michel Henry and the Martinican poet and political theorist Aimé Césaire argue that every attempt to pin down the concept of life will fail. Instead, they insist that ethical and political reflection on questions related to life ought to proceed not from a certain definition but by a certain method. This method involves iterative reflection on what life is not. Cultural forces (capitalism particularly for Henry, racialization particularly for Césaire) distort life, positing concepts of life that go wrong. Césaire and Henry task us with identifying and disavowing these concepts, over and over. My paper explicates this method and locates it in a tradition of negative political theology.

Vincent Lloyd is Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. He is the author of In Defense of Charisma (Columbia University Press, 2018), Religion of the Field Negro: On Black Secularism and Black Theology (Fordham University Press, 2017) and Black Natural Law (Oxford University Press, 2016).

4 pm, Wednesday 19th June

Furness Lecture Theatre 3

Lancaster University


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