Friday, January 25, 2013

Gun control and "the powers"

Rick Elgendy is a fellow doctoral student here at the University of Chicago Divinity School who is doing work in political theology, offering an account of the possibility of resistance within a situation of complicity to the powers by critiquing various theological explications and constructing his own with the help of Barth and Foucault. On a more personal note, I'd also say that Rick has been a great help in bringing many of us from younger cohorts of the program together to read and critique each other's work... one might say he has helped us in resisting the principalities and powers present in academia that often lead one to non-collaborative and solipsistic work regimens.

Rick has a new post on "The Irony of Gun Control" at the Political Theology blog where he applies his work to some underlying assumptions of the current gun debate:

"any view that treats guns as simply subordinate to the purposes of those who wield them only partially describes their effect on us.  We have to take into account that the expansion of human power – in this case, to wound and kill – itself draws us into certain situations and logics that may render us the subjects of our ability and technology. Looking at gun control through the lens of “the powers” enables us to see how the actions we take contribute to a living and dynamic culture in which personal responsibility of the sort that allows us to demarcate “good guys” from “bad guys” is not eradicated, but complicated.  Each one of us benefits from the protection assured by the threat of guns; each one of us could be the next life they claim as recompense, without regard for personal rectitude. This perspective would require us – all of us, though in different ways and to different degrees – to see ourselves as both complicit with this power and the victims of it."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Theology Journal Surveys?

I used to post a good bit about academic journals, often with an eye to how theology as a discipline could improve its review and publishing practices. The topic hasn't come up in a while (I haven't been posting much at all, really), but Leiter's recent link to a discussion on slow review processes, some current frustrations of my own on the matter, and some I've heard voiced from others made me wonder again whether theological studies could benefit from something like Andrew Cullison's journal survey for philosophy.

I don't think that the quantitative ranking and over-professionalization of humanities fields is all that helpful... or rather, any help it offers is accompanied by some real drawbacks... but some compiled information on basic issues that do lend themselves to quantitative monitoring seems like it would be a big help to theologians at all points in their career. In assessing religion departments, pertinent information would probably be job placement rates and tuition/financial aid info; for journals I'd want to see the sort of information on Cullison's survey - acceptance and R&R rates, prevalence and helpfulness of referee comments, etc. This information would not be intended to mark certain venues as better or worse, but simply so we have an idea of what to expect when submitting a paper somewhere.

Another benefit of such information would be to goad referees on to quicker turn-around times. Theology needn't hold itself to the sorts of time schedules common in the hard sciences - quite the opposite, I think humanities fields benefit from their somewhat slower pace, and closer and slower scrutiny is probably necessary for the sorts of arguments that publications in the humanities make. But this shouldn't be confused with the delays that are sometimes present in review work for our discipline; often enough referees would probably benefit from feeling more pressed to complete reader reports. And I think the biggest issue in theology is that there doesn't seem to be a very extensive public conversation about what expectations we take to be reasonable or normal for this work. I know my own experience with publishing has been sort of haphazard, and I've largely just figured it out on my own as I went.

Would it make sense to set up something like this survey for theology journals? Would people be interested in filling out survey information from their review experiences? Do journal editors or reviewers have thoughts on the benefit or drawbacks of this?