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Toward a Micro-Political Theology: Revisiting Liberation Theologies from the Perspective of Michel Foucault

Chen, Yin-An (2020) Toward a Micro-Political Theology: Revisiting Liberation Theologies from the Perspective of Michel Foucault. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:80448)

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This dissertation attempts to explore a very significant question in the tradition of liberation theologies: 'What can the theology of liberation do if social movements and revolutions cannot maintain the fruits of freedom and liberation?' or 'What is the next stage in the development of liberation theologies?' The dissertation seeks to examine the future threshold of the theologies of liberation and proposes a new micro-political theology based on the work of Michel Foucault.

In the introduction, I provided evidence to demonstrate my argument that social movements and revolutions do not bring permanent freedom and liberation to the oppressed. 'Political theology' does not help to bring about a radical change of liberation because it assumes that the church or the theological is separated from the public and political spheres. I argue that we need a micro-political theology to overcome the division between spirituality and political theology and overcome the limits of liberation theologies.

Based on my reflections on this phenomenon, in Chapter one, I examined the methodology of liberation theologies, shared by Latin American liberation theology, feminist theology and womanist theology. I pointed out that liberation theologies put overemphasis on the analysis of social structure and neglect the lived-experience of the individual subject. They also lack an understanding of the project of subjectification, relying on social structure to define the groups of sufferers.

In response to this situation, in Chapter two, I introduce Michel Foucault's theory of power relationships in order to rethink the exercise of power, which works not only at the level of social and political structure but on the individual's body, desire and sexuality. Foucault's theory enlarges the vision of political theology and liberation theologies to show that political resistance cannot be a limited act in the political realm. Political resistance must consider the process of subjectification, which means examining how the subject is constructed by society and all kinds of power relationships through shaping desire, sexuality and the body.

In Chapter three, I go on to examine the current political theology that concerns itself with sexuality and desire (Marcella Althaus-Reid's indecent theology, Jung Mo Sung's liberation theology and Daniel Bell's Radical Orthodoxy theology). Even though they all consider human sexuality and desire, their approaches are limited and cannot produce a political theology that addresses the micro-political dimensions (as Foucault suggested). For example, Althaus-Reid fails to recognise that the existence of the perverted, who are praised and honoured by indecent theology, is entirely socially constructed and is the invention of heteronormativity. This failure is a weak point in her theology and makes it less effective at criticising and subverting heteronormativity. In addition, I argue that Sung and Bell have different opinions on human desire. Sung is pessimistic about desire, which he sees as the creation of capitalism. The result is that he cannot take desire into fully into consideration, apart from considering the refutation of desire to be an ethical decision. Bell fairly judges the creation of desire as part of God's creation in human beings, but his theology does not really offer political action. In other words, the chapter shows that the division between Sung and Bell is the division between ethics and ontology.

The introduction of micro-political theology attempts to achieve the balance of ethics and ontology, following the assumption that who we are (an ontological question) leads to what we do (an ethical question). The model of micro-political theology states that spirituality, such as asceticism, itself is political. This is because when we discern who we are and how we are constructed within all power relationships, we have already begun recognising how power relationships exert themselves on us. This recognition is the first, but the most important step, of political resistance. In this way, I argue that the micro-political, considering spiritual practice as constructing the self, should be the next stage of developing liberation theologies.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Philosophy (MPhil))
Thesis advisor: Carrette, Jeremy
Uncontrolled keywords: Michel Foucault, liberation theologies, queer theology, feminist theology, womanist theology, Marcella Althaus-Reid, Daniel Bell, Jung Mo Sung,
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance Literature > PQ1 French Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2020 15:10 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2023 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Chen, Yin-An.

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