New Beginnings without Innocence.
On the Role of Conflict in Community-Building
Conflict seems to be an irreducibly dimension of community: where there is community, there is conflict – there is struggle over the fair distribution of resources, struggle for appropriate representation, struggle over the modes of participation in this community.
The guiding question of this theological lecture by professor Judith Gruber (KU Leuven) is how we can develop theories of community-building, and practices of living-together, that do not ignore the irreducible fact of conflict, but instead find ways to productively deal with such conflict and disagreement.
Taking the conflict around representation of women in the Catholic Church as a test case, it will argue that approaches which seek to overcome conflict by calling for more inclusion fall short of addressing the fundamental problem of conflict. Instead of such an ‘ethics of recognition’ that is guided by the ideal that ‘all voices can speak’, we need to develop a ‘politics (and a theology) of un/recognizability’ that allows to critically interrogate the conflictive constitution of communities.
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Judith Gruber is professor of systematic theology at KU Leuven, Belgium, and the director of KU Leuven’s Centre for Liberation Theologies. She received her PhD in Catholic Systematic Theology from the University of Salzburg, Austria, in 2012 and subsequently held a tenure track position at Loyola University New Orleans from 2012-2017. Her research focuses on the intersection of systematic theology and critical cultural studies, with particular specializations in intercultural theology and postcolonial theology. Publications include Intercultural Theology. Exploring World Christianity after the Cultural Turn (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Research in Contemporary Religion 25, 2017). She is currently the representative of the European Society for Catholic Theology in the International Network for Societies of Catholic Theologies. From October 2021 onwards, she also serves as academic advisor for UCSIA with regard to ‘Religion, Culture & Society’.