Carl Schmitt, Early Modern Political Theory and Colonial Studies
Call for Papers Date:
The 2006 English translation of Carl Schmitt’s well-known work Nomos der Erde [Nomos of the Earth (1950)] raised both interest and controversy in circles of Early Modern scholarship and teaching across the social sciences and humanities. Some of the reasons for this attention are obvious, such as Schmitt’s political entanglements with Nazism and his nostalgia for a triumphant European interstate system. Yet interestingly, while Schmitt’s historicization of globalization from a juridical perspective has invited denunciations from conservative and progressive intellectuals alike, most critics neglect or downplay three of Schmitt’s most productive ideas for the study of the colonial Americas and Asia and the historical development of Eurocentrism: the necessary violence that made the first conception of a modern world order possible; the political and juridical-legal dimensions of Christian theology; and the divergence of the practice of sovereignty between the continent and the colonies. Taken together, they solicit the demand for a wider dialogue that cuts across the fields of political philosophy, international law, religion, and culture, concerning the indispensable role of the Americas, Asia, and Africa in the very conception of the administrative, legal-institutional, and cultural foundations of a global world order.
Beginning with a reflection on these theses, we are seeking essays that analyze the structural as well as historical determinants shaping a Eurocentric world order as witnessed in Europe’s colonial peripheries; and the manifestation of these determinants in the many forms of religious, cultural, and artistic expression as well as the body of legal, economic, and religious innovations that “globalize” the world in both Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric ways. Clearly, Schmitt’s work only serves as one of many possible points of departure for reflecting on these developments: in the past three decades, theories of cultural hybridity, the continental philosophy of Empire and Multitude, the historiography of Subaltern Studies, and the development of key concepts like coloniality (in Latin America) and Asia-As-Method (in East and Southeast Asia), the persistence of the Baroque, all intersect and enrich our understanding of colonialism, displacing what Jürgen Habermas called the “philosophical discourse of modernity.” What these and other intellectual trajectories highlight is the difference between the theory of sovereignty along with its historical dispersion in Europe, on the one hand; and the practice of colonial sovereignty in its multiple manifestations and developments, on the other. How do the disparities between these two articulations lead to necessary differences in the forms of analysis, politicization, poetic/artistic representation, or philosophical and theological reflection in the apprehension of a specifically colonial modernity at large?
The aim of this collection of essays will be to engage with the traditions of political philosophy and (political) theology, and views on globalization in the Early Modern period, in order to decipher and interpret the forms of exception(ality), expediency, and anomaly, in the colonial setting. Some directions of thought include the influence of the colonies upon the concept of European states and state sovereignty; the translation or reproduction of colonial relationships of power in national and state-bound arenas; the couplings of law and theology in the construction of border forms of authority; and the conceptualization of violence, “just war,” “just enemy,” piracy, and “police”. With the simple objective of showing the centrality of colonial settings in the “worlding” of the modern world—the development of international law, political theology, epistemology, the economy, and the new, important functions of Christianity—we hope to contribute to the reinvention of intellectual traditions; a task that is inseparable from the re-negotiation of our political and cultural futures.
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