Exhaustion, Conversion, Excommunication

Thursday Lecture Series, Exhaustion

The term conversion carries connotations of religion and coloniality. But this has not prevented it from appearing, more generally, as an index of change and transformation. Barber – by drawing on debates in Religious Studies, Philosophy, Black Studies, and Media Studies – argues that conversion’s apparent generalizability is actually limited by its specifically Christian formation. Conversion names a specifically Christian operation that has itself converted to a generalizable form. Whereas conversion once mediated Christian salvation to the world, it now makes the world itself a secular medium of salvation. In this sense, conversion names a process that is both fluid and fixed, one that is capable of simultaneously sedimenting, exhausting, and generating identity. Within this process, exhaustion emerges both as a limit and as a new medium for production: by marking what threatens to be lost, it also names a condition from which we are supposed to be saved. Exhaustion, far from pointing to the cessation of the world, provides media for the world’s conversion. Against this ceaseless world – whether Christian, secular, or even post-secular – Barber proposes a logic of excommunication. This is a logic not of the “post-” but of the “non-,” not of new but of the never.