TL;DR You know those cool graphs of people’s Facebook friend connections? I’m making one of those, but of dead theologians and philosophers. It might end up telling me something about them and how ideas are passed from person to person or community to community, but more likely than not it will just give me some pretty pictures.
Network theory and Theology
I am using social network theory and analysis exploring how the social imaginary of ‘freedom’ changes in the mid-twentieth century in response to two intersecting cultural movements: the secularization of the West, and the disruption of structuralism by post-modernity. These are certainly not exclusive categories, but they are also not coterminous. As such it will be important to take them on their own terms as somewhat independent interrelated fields of understanding, ‘life-worlds’, in which the average contemporary westerner is being conditioned by and participating in. The secularization thesis presented by Taylor in A Secular Age (2007) will be vital to this study, as well as the work of Talal Asad in Formations of the Secular (2003). Both these authors understand secularization through the interactions of material and ideological forces in given times and places that variously produce the epistemological approach, the political activity, the social theory, and the self-conceptions, and it is these that also condition how freedom is understood in the concomitant theological contexts.
The post-modern idea of the displacement and deconstruction of bodies – whether of knowledge, power, sociality, sexuality, et al. – through the disassemblage of the metanarratives that purportedly constructed these bodies both challenges the notion of any one ‘secularity’ writ large across the West, but also seems to be a causal force that opens up large cultural spaces in which various social revolutions like secularization emerge. In addition to this work, there will also be reading of the reception of Origen’s writings on freedom in the mid 20th century. The purpose of this is to show ways in which philosophical challenges like theodicy and solutions like apokatastasis arise within the particular grammar of one or the other definition through the reception of various ideas made possible by the social networks of various cultural actors.