an ‘informal seminar’ on postmodernism?


Sony Center, Berlin

In a few weeks time I’ll be discussing postmodernism with some Christian Arts students. Actually, I’ve been asked to run an ‘informal seminar’ — whatever that means (truth be told, I probably dobbed myself in for it).

My brief is to spend an hour talking about how even though postmodernism has its limitations, it isn’t simply a threat but is useful to employ at times. I’m also supposed to make some suggestions about how to approach it academically as well as Christianly.

At this stage, my (rough) plan is to attempt to cover the territory marked out by the following points:

  1. Feeling Threatened by Postmodernism? — a chance to share some of their experiences (both in an outside the classroom)
  2. Some Key Distinctions — e.g., popular v academic postmodernism
  3. The Postmodern Critique of Modernism (and Empire) — focussing on the ethically-motivated critique of metaphysics and violence mounted by the likes of Foucault and Levinas
  4. Going One Better: Jesus, Love and ‘the Other’ — suggesting that the postmodern yearning for justice is truly satisfied in the gospel of peace that releases us to acknowledge our limitations and give ourselves in loving service

I’d love for you to tell me: What do you reckon I need to make sure I don’t leave out? What am I overlooking that’s glaringly obvious? Are there other things you think it’d be nice to say?


  1. this sounds really good, Chris. Did annette put you up to it?? I especially like your intro point – very pastoral of you 🙂

    I know you only have an hour, but its interesting that you want to focus on the ethical strengths of postmodernism. I’d be interested to know if (and in what ways) you tihnk its had a positive influence on how we think about the nature of truth and knowledge. Because i suspect that its here that christians feel most threatened by it. At the same time, though, i think postmodernism has been valuable at least to the extent that it has fostered greater epistemic humility among christians.

    1. Thanks Meredith, that’s really helpful. You’re right. It is often the epistemic claims of postmodernism that get us worried — especially when self-styled postmoderns like I used to meet in English Lit. tutorials would announce how much they loved that idea that there was no Truth, or that it was relative, because it was so empowering.

      I guess I’m tilting towards ethics because it seems to underwrite the epistemic claims: grand knowledge claims are problematic because of their (supposedly) oppressive outcome. But I need to be reminded not to rush too quickly past the pointy pastoral issue in my desire to diagnose its cause!

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