Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Political Violence in International Relations after the Death of God

12 May 2012 | Workshop

University of Leeds

Supported by

  • BISA Post-structural Politics Working Group
  • School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds
  • The Centre for the Study of Political Community, Kings College London
  • 'Histories of Violence' Project, University of Leeds

Participants include
Professor Michael Dillon, Universities of Lancaster and Sehir; Professor Mustapha Pasha, University of Aberdeen; Professor Julian Reid, University of Lapland; Dr. Brad Evans, University of Leeds

Event outline
'God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that  the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood  off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great  for us?' Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Nietzsche's proclamation that man has killed God poses profound and enduring questions for scholars and students concerned with the political, broadly conceived. As Nietzsche illustrates, insofar as the death of God signifies the undermining of originary or enduring foundations upon which transcendental values might be based, it renders man's situation limitlessly precarious and uncertain. This workshop interrogates the relationship between political violence, political identity and the sacred. It will explore, on the one hand, the extent to which the (post-)modern condition has borne witness to the destruction of the sacred as a guide to, and principle directing, political action, whilst also, on the other hand, focussing upon the enduring place of the sacred in much of contemporary political theorising and praxis. The workshop invites a particular focus on the place of the sacred in individual and community identity production and in political violence and war-making in the contemporary world; examining the extent to which collective being, belonging and security are desirable or possible in light of the sacred or its absence will comprise the core threads of the workshop.

These questions frustrate the boundaries of any one academic discipline. Accordingly, we invite potential participants from across IR and related disciplines to submit abstracts of no more than 300 words by February 29 2012, drawing upon, but not limited to, such issues and questions as:

  •  Is political violence indissociably linked to the spectre of the sacred?
  •  To what extent is there a continued reliance upon the transcendental or divine in international politics and theory?
  • Do war-making and terrorism always amount to forms of sacred politics?
  • What are the possibilities for political community in the absence of the sacred?
  • How might the relationship between God's death and critical and post-structural theory be understood?
  • What have been the implications, contributions and problems of Nietzsche's thought relating to the death of God, and that of his interlocutors and inheritors, for international politics?
  • What is the relationship between postcolonial theory and the death of God?
  • How might the sacred and the divine be differently conceptualised?
  • If modernity replaced God with Reason, has late-modernity replaced God with Contingency?
  • How is the sacred linked to the governmental problematisation of risk?
  • What is the relationship between the post-political and the death of God?
  • What 'festivals of atonement' or 'sacred games' are practiced in the contemporary world to mitigate the void left following the death of God?
  • What might be the relationship between the death of God and the tragic?
  • What is the role of the messianic in international politics?
  • Is God's death the necessary condition for, or does it preclude the possibility of, ethico-political responsibility?
  • Has the 'greatness of the deed' proven too great for man?

Location Details

University of Leeds

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