This introductory essay points to the long patterns as well as the telling diversity of relationships revealed in genealogies of the race/religion/war triad. Our key observation is that race, religion, and war come together as a meaningful constellation precisely because they together underpin one dominant strategy of the power that we call the political, while at the same time we recognize that the relationships among race, religion, and war are simultaneously too compressed, historically transient, and reversible to take the form of a simple functionalism; indeed, at any particular moment their articulation is historically specific and subject to rearticulation. From the religious crucibles for the formation of race in the conquest of the Americas to the pastoral Christian origins of modern racial governmentality; from the colonial wars of high imperialism and the third-world proxy wars for the purportedly secular rivalry of the Cold War to the contemporary conditions of Muslim migrant and refugee communities—these multiple overlapping genealogies, we argue, are necessary reference points for an adequate analysis of our political present. As one way to think across these genealogies, we highlight the intersection of two ostensibly parallel scholarly trajectories: race as political theology and race as political ontology. Both of these trajectories point toward the condensed relationships among our three terms, illuminating in the process the deep structure of our present.
Race/Religion/War: An Introduction
Keith P. Feldman is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (2015) and most recently curated a forum on blackness and relationality for Comparative Literature (June 2016).
Leerom Medovoi is head of the Department of English at the University of Arizona. He is author of Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identity (2005) and writes on biopolitics, race, American studies, and ecotheory. He leads an international Mellon Foundation project on “Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging.” He is currently working on The Inner Life of Race: From Islamophobia to the Dogma Line (forthcoming).
Keith P. Feldman, Leerom Medovoi; Race/Religion/War: An Introduction. Social Text 1 December 2016; 34 (4 (129)): 1–17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-3680834
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