In 2022, the HRC’s Works that Shaped the World public lecture series focuses on religion.
The contemporary theological movement known as Radical Orthodoxy boldly suggests that we have our history all wrong. Against typical narratives of epoch shifts in the Reformation and Enlightenment, Radical Orthodox theologians locate the “greatest of all disruptions” in the 13th Century theology of Duns Scotus. This transformed the nature of God from essential participant to occasional volunteer, and the nature of the world from a gift to a given. For Radical Orthodox theology, this shift fundamentally transfigures our understanding of our secular age, because it makes social theory, of both modern and postmodern varieties, the heir of a profound theological heresy.
This lecture will outline why this critique is so relevant to contemporary social theory, and then through a discussion of the sociology and anthropology of Islam, will suggest that Radical Orthodoxy is “good to think with”. First, Radical Orthodoxy suggests the urgency of a particular kind of reflexivity in the face of religious difference. Second, it will suggest different ways of encountering Islam as the sociological and anthropological “other” through older and arguably shared modes of participatory knowledge.
Samuel Blanch is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Law and Social Justice at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He works on contemporary Islam and on socio-legal aspects of multiculturalism. Sam’s PhD thesis was based on more than two years of fieldwork in Sydney and Iran, and drew on the methodological resources offered by Radical Orthodoxy in conjunction with ethnography and material analysis. He works on issues as diverse as ethical subjectivity and charity and the Iranian mural arts.