Peter Paik
Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature
End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2002-03

Peter Paik I worked on two related projects dealing with religion and theory during my fellowship year. The first relates to the apocalyptic fantasies that have served to legitimate an imperialist foreign policy and examines recent Hollywood films, the popular novel series, LEFT BEHIND, and policy articles advocating the use of military force in pre-emptive wars following the attacks of September 11. 

The second project focuses on the recent attempts by Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou to revitalize communism by returning it to its basis in Christianity. [editor’s note: a version of this project appears as an on-line working paper on the Center website:] I put these efforts into context by considering the work of earlier thinkers who took up this question but came to different conclusions: Simone Weil, Reinhold Niebuhr, Leszek Kolakowski, and Georges Sorel. At this point I have taken up the thesis that Machiavelli is the missing element in Zizek and Badiou's account of Leninism, and have embarked upon a study of "realism" in political thought as a possible basis for a socialist politics. Thus, I am currently thinking through Leo Strauss' political ideas as not only an attempt to stave off the arrival of the Nietzschean Last Men but also a resolution to the dilemma of victimization not by trying to put an end to scapegoating but to avoid becoming the scapegoat (i.e. that victimization is fundamental to politics, and thus it is more viable to manage the process of victimizing, of choosing the enemy in the schmittian sense, than to abolish the process itself).  

I have completed one article and done most of the work for a second. I found the experience of being a fellow rewarding both for the time off from a full teaching load and for the intellectual exchanges that took place at the Center events. At the beginning of the semester it was difficult at times to see any kind of coherence in our respective projects, but the forum on the war in Iraq served as a culmination of our efforts - I thought that we came together as a group during this event, which I think in many ways was, along with the 9/11 conference, the most important event of the year. [editor’s note: for a transcript of this meeting, see the Center on-line working paper series:] The 9/11 conference provided much in the way of materials for teaching and ideas to engage in my own research. 

"Smart Bombs, Serial Killing, and the Rapture: The Vanishing Bodies of the Imperial Apocalypse," Postmodern Culture, September 2003.

"Strange Adversaries and Invisible Bedfellows: On the Gnostic Theologies of Postmodernism," American Comparative Literature Association Conference, April 4- 6, 2003, San Marcos, CA.

"Saint Paul, Critic of Postmodernism: Rethinking Communism through Christianity in the Recent Work of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek," MAFLL colloquium, March 2003, UWM.

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