6/18/13 11:03 AMAgainst Heresiologies: Book Review of Barber’s “On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity” | anthrocybibPage 3 of 10http://anthrocybib.net/2013/03/20/against-heresiologies-book-review-of-barbers-on-diaspora-christianity-religion-and-secularity/
argued book makes the case in a way that cannot be easily or uncritically dismissed.The path towards uniting these two questions goes right though Baruch Spinoza, a not uncommonroute in discussions of immanence. Barber starts off his book by asking what Spinoza meant in hisdescription of substance as “God, or Nature.” Barber reads these alternate articulations of reality as
indicating substance, the sole and constituting entity in Spinoza’s univocal cosmology. Thismight seem to be a needless doubling, but Barber sees these two significations as not beingredundant. Rather than having God and Nature serving as fungible indexes or signs for substance,God and Nature instead are
attempts to give immanence an “improper” name. These namesare improper because attempts at giving totality a completely encompassing name always fails, inthat these attempts at naming must be immanent to the totality that they name, resulting in a shortfalland a concomitant inevitable excess that escapes signification. That excess, in other words, is the partof substance that the name for substance must be embedded in for it to be possible to attempt toname substance. For Barber, these improper names are still necessary, as there is no escape frominevitability of signification. In fact, multiple improper names are necessary (even as the form of these improper names are contingent), with each improper name grasping the excess of the otherimproper name, and while each improper name also having an excess of their own.This proliferation of improper names creates circuits between God, nature, and immanence, with both God and Nature both having a relationship with immanence, and also with each other. Now,there are other ways to imagine the relationship between God, Nature, and excess, Barberacknowledges; in fact, he architectonically sketches four other paradigms that each posit differentrelations for his Spinozan triad, with each paradigm exemplified by a set of recognizable names inphilosophy. For Barber, though, each of these rival paradigms fail because they attempt to prioritizeeither theology (here standing in for God) or philosophy (here standing in for Nature), or to see oneor the other of these terms as in essence inarticulable. Only an immanence with two improper namescan allow us to grasp the whole – though the whole can never be grasped at once, and as we areimmanent in it, it can never be grasped exhaustively.
“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and . . . the year of the Lord’s favor”
All this, though, is prelude. The real move comes when Barber puts forward the specifics of oneparticular theological articulation: the “Christian Declaration,” an announcement of a new set of affairs, of a striving for divine perfection and a love for enemies. This announcement is like aperformative, in that these jubilee-inspired qualities are made real in the very act of theirpronouncement.Now, this is a statement that is radically egalitarian, Barber states, undoing relations of domination.Set against hierarchies, it is an “oppositional discourse,” that is not about what is, but rather about“possibilities of existence” that are yet to come (Barber, 36-37). Also, and this is an important point,due to its performative-like nature, the way that it pulls itself up by its own bootstraps, thisdecleration is capable of being given a fully
reading. Built around bringing to some otherdiscourse the good news that the other discourse lacks, the Christian Declaration is a “theology” that