James H. Cone and Political Theology in IR
: A Conversation

  • Paul Blamire

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis seeks to mobilise the work of theologian James H. Cone as an intervention into discussions of political theology and ontology in International Relations. Christian theology is increasingly drawn upon to inform and enliven multiple meta-theoretical discussions in International Relations, such as ethics and metaphysics. Engaging primarily with white European and American traditions of theology risks an impoverished understanding of the wide array of Christian traditions. The thesis broadens the scope of the ‘theological turn’ in IR by substantively engaging with a key figure of the Black Liberation Theology movement in the United States, James Cone. Cone is offered as a political thinker whose theological corpus offers multiple productive encounters with influential works of political ontology and political theology, particularly regarding questions of the political impact of theology, and theological grounding of questions of ethical or ontological universality. Closely following Cone’s theological reasoning opens significant questions about the importance of debates about Christianity’s central figure and their competing mobilisation as the grounding of theological, and subsequently, secular, universality. It is thus argued that central to Christian political theology are questions about the impact of Christ’s conceptual abstraction from a historically situated Jesus. This process of abstraction authorises a two-part reflex that is familiar in Christianity: the supersession of the Jews as God’s chosen people, and the supersession of any bounded particularity at all, through which Christianity becomes a universal offer of salvation. This thesis thus draws out Christian Supersessionism and identifies its manifestation in influential sites of theological and philosophical thought, revealing the depth of the theological problem to which Cone’s theology responds. Directing attention towards the persistent problem of supersessionism, and its intricate involvement with the production of both much anti-Semitism, as well as a theologically rooted white supremacy, reveals the radical potential of Cone’s theological work
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorMilja Kurki (Supervisor) & Mustapha Pasha (Supervisor)

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