Call for Papers: Baudrillard, Religion, Theology

The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies invites contributions to a special edition that explores Baudrillard, religion, and theology and associated themes.

Guest editors: James Walter, London School of Economics, and Jon Baldwin, London Metropolitan University.

Baudrillard never produced a full length study on religion or theology but there are concerns, motifs, and reflections throughout his work. The religious anthropology of Durkheim, Mauss, and Bataille, in sacrifice, the counter-gift, and intimacy – all of which the disenchanting of the world cannot fully suppress - was always an important influence upon his work.

Baudrillard wrote in the shadow of Nietzsche’s proclamation that ‘God is dead’ and the notion, he ascribes to Heidegger, that we are in ‘the second fall of man, the fall into banality.’ Baudrillard’s provocation is that God is ‘his own simulacrum’ and has ‘passed away to advantage of the code.’ On the other hand, Baudrillard’s thought might offer, as Wernick has suggested, ‘a salvific opening’ and a challenge to the ‘powers of the world, including the gods, to appear once more.’ This is a ‘mysticism of the disillusioned revolutionary,’ and the religio-moral significance of Baudrillard’s work might be where it points towards, but fails to achieve, ‘a social Messianism, a groundless mysticism and a Bacchanalian dance with the spirits of death and rebirth.’

Two recent books have contributed to the primacy of considering Baudrillard, religion, and theology. Baudrillard and Theology (James Walters), proposes identifiable theological themes and implications of Baudrillard’s work and suggests that it can inform the post-secular. For Walters, Baudrillard’s nihilism often takes on an apophatic character, and there may be a realised eschatology in his concept of the singularity. Seduction has certain commonality with the Pauline vision of grace, and the poetic fragment – often employed by Baudrillard – is a means of attending to the ‘other’ marginalised by modern thought. The ‘strange attractor’ posits profound mystical resonances.

The identification of radical alterity in the immanent world might reawaken possibilities for transcendence within a hyperreality lost in nihilism and egoism. All of which can present ‘a new opportunity to encounter God,’ and also point to where theology can inform Baudrillard. This reading can contribute to the critique of ‘cosmic false consciousness’ (Milbank), and invigorate ossified and conservative theology. Baudrillard’s work then, can inform what Ward has identified as the theological horizon of much postmodernism: ‘the concern with the other and the elsewhere, the concern with that which remains unresolved, remains in question, while the critique of onto-theo-logic is forever being accomplished.’

Secondly, The Handbook of Hyper-real Religions (ed. Adam Possamai) offers studies of new syncretisms and ways of ‘being religious’ in a fully mediated age. A hyper-real religion is defined here as a ‘simulacrum of a religion created out of, or in symbiosis with, commodified popular culture which provides inspiration at a metaphorical level and/or is a source of beliefs for everyday life.’ Music, dance, psycho-active substances, Star Wars (Jediism), The Matrix (Matrixism), J.R.R. Tolkien, World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, and so forth, seemingly offer resources for new forms of religiosity and spirituality. Perhaps, as Baudrillard suggests, ‘God is not dead, he has become hyperreal.’ The rise of a global religious marketplace and spiritual-industrial complex, with spiritual eclecticism, and certain ‘New Age’ appropriations of Eastern religions, neo-paganism, mysticism, and so forth also suggest significant inquires. As well as this, the alleged demise and reinvigoration of traditional religion suggest that the forces of secularisation, rather than being unidirectional, partake in an on-going dialectical process. Finally, there could be consideration of four masks of Eastern postmodernism: insurgent, poet, mystic, and sectarian.

This may well be taking Baudrillard into theological territory he himself would not have walked. So how might he contribute further to notions of nihilism and radical atheism? Popular atheism might be read as no more than the mirror of fundamentalism, itself a thoroughly modern conception. Atheism, no less than theism, can be used as a pretext, a rhetorical cover, and manipulated in ulterior and ethnocentric causes. Insofar as his work followed the death of God more rigorously than most, how might Baudrillard contribute to a serious atheism that attempts to refuse religion’s terms of engagement and which eschews complicity with the theological and religious paradigms it seeks to replace? Explorations of these themes and the broad intersection of Baudrillard, religion, theology, are invited.

Please send abstracts, queries, and communication to James Walters and Jon Baldwin, j.walters2@lse.ac.uk   j.baldwin@londonmet.ac.uk by October 1, 2016. Deadline for submission March 1st 2017. Expected publication Autumn 2017. We are also able to consider appropriate non-traditional commentaries and interjections, polemical, and creative pieces.