Asceticism and Empire: Asceticism as Body-politics in Isaac of Nineveh and Hardt & Negri

The latest issue of Studia Theologica, the journal for nordic theological studies, is out. I have an article in it, my first properly peer-reviewed article. It is an attempt to make explicit some of the political implications of my view of early Christian Asceticism developed in my book The Asceticism of Isaac of Nineveh, by comparing it with some ideas in Hardt & Negri’s Empire.

I am very happy with it, I think it is a good summary of my argument about asceticism, i.e that is has to be understood as a political concept, and that the body is central in this aspect. Those of you that have access (e.g. via you university) can find the full text here. For the rest of you, here is the abstract:

In this article, the author attempts to clarify the motivation and goals of early Christian ascetics by treating asceticism as a political concept. By reading the ascetic tracts of Isaac of Nineveh (7th century), and drawing on some views on the role of the body in the practice of resistance in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the author argues that ascetics like Isaac used their bodies to resist the control of ancient society and to create a tangible image – or icon – of a different way of living and of a different kind of society – the kingdom of God. Using a threefold typology of asceticism as transformative, performative and bodily, and focusing especially on the role of the body, a new way of understanding Christian asceticism emerges that, on the one hand, clearly distances itself from earlier models that viewed asceticism as an alien element in the Christian tradition; and, on the other hand, makes it possible to use the concept of asceticism to understand present day forms of resistance.

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