1 - Theology and the condition of postmodernity Cambridge Companions Online - Cambridge University Press

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1 - Theology and the condition of postmodernity

pp. 3-25

  • The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology
  • Edited by:
  • Publisher:

  • Online Publication Date:
  • May 2006
  • Print Publication Year:
  • 2003

  • Hardback ISBN:
  • 9780521790628
  • Online ISBN:
  • 9780511998799
  • Paperback ISBN:
  • 9780521793957


Those who attempt to define or to analyze the concept of postmodernity do so at their own peril. In the first place, postmoderns reject the notion that any description or definition is “neutral.” Definitions may appear to bask in the glow of impartiality, but they invariably exclude something and hence are complicit, wittingly or not, in politics. A definition of postmodernity is as likely to say more about the person offering the definition than it is of “the postmodern.” Second, postmoderns resist closed, tightly bounded “totalizing” accounts of such things as the “essence” of the postmodern. And third, according to David Tracy “there is no such phenomenon as postmodernity.” There are only postmodernities. Given these three points, the task of writing an introduction may seem to be well nigh impossible: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!”

In fact, “postmodern” has become a gregarious adjective, and can often be seen in the company of such respectable terms as “literature,” “philosophy,” “architecture,” “art,” “history,” “science,” “cinema” – and, yes, even “biblical studies” and “theology. ” But what does the qualifier “postmodern” mean and how does it work? Does it carry the same force when linked to history as to theology, to art as to biblical studies? Typically, introductory studies of postmodernity take one of two routes: some follow its growth and trajectory in a single domain (for example, architecture, literature); others seek to give a theoretical account across a number of domains. With respect to the latter strategy, there is a further divergence: between theories that describe a process in the history of ideas, on the one hand, and socioeconomic processes, on the other.

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