In this issue: updates about two new COV&R initiatives and our summer meeting, plus reviews of books by Giuseppe Fornari and Beatrice de Graaf.
The ERC-funded project Homo Mimeticus: Theory and Criticism (HOM) hosted by the Institute of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven, Belgium, is pleased to announce its final international conference on April 20-22, 2022 (online; in-person option tbd). Furthering a re-turn of attention to mimesis HOM has been promoting over the past 5 years, this transdisciplinary conference is titled, The Mimetic Turn. Its general goal is to continue mapping the protean manifestations of mimesis (imitation, but also identification, contagion, performativity, simulation, mirror neurons, et al.) from a Janus-faced perspective that looks back to this concept’s genealogy to better look ahead to the challenges of the present and future. HOM’s overarching hypothesis is that from the linguistic turn to the ethical turn, the affective turn to the new materialist turn, the neuro turn to the posthuman turn to the environmental turn, there is a growing re-turn of attention to the ancient yet always new realization that humans are an all-too-mimetic species—or homo mimeticus.
Keynote speakers will include Rosi Braidotti, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, and Vittorio Gallese.
For inquiries about writing a book review or submitting a book for review,
contact the book review editor, Matthew Packer.
Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God
The Bethany Center for Nonviolent Theology and Spirituality
Giuseppe Fornari, Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God, Volume 1: The Great Mediations of the Classical World, Volume 2: Christianity and Modernity.
Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2021, Pages: iv + 633, xiv + 574
Giuseppe Fornari’s epic two-volumed work, Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God, provides a sweeping intellectual synthesis hinged around core Girardian ideas. Correspondingly, Fornari’s guiding concept of “mediation” seems to have more than a little Hegelian feel to it. But Fornari is eminently a Nietzchean thinker, rather than Hegelian, focused throughout on cultural genealogy. And the twin burning lights of Dionysus and Christ, as in the title, create a deep undercurrent of duality rather than a grand unity. Thus, this splendid work of scholarship may be said to have two somewhat separate, if not contrary, intellectual axes or planes: a systematic thought of “mediation” providing philosophical order and intelligibility and, at the same time, the immensely destabilizing, unresolved tension between Greek and Gospel heroes, a tension which, by Fornari’s own forensic account, drove Nietzsche mad.
At the heart of this crackling cocktail is the question of modernity, its meaning and destiny, and Fornari is to be profoundly congratulated on raising the issue in such a substantive, possibly definitive, way. For Fornari, modernity is to be understood as the loss of mediation as such, provoking the volcanic eruptions of the last century, each understood as a desperate search for ideological compensation. But the loss of mediation is itself its own form of mediation, especially if we consider it at least partly a crisis left us by Christ, i.e. both a chaos and the possibility of new meaning. On the one hand, modernity is the attempt to deny and transcend this situation in totalitarian movements, leading to the murderous horrors of our time, figured for the author in the literary-personal paradigm of Nietzsche. At the same time, elements of culture are left in a peculiar in-between situation, of sacrificial mediation and a compassionate identification with the victim brought by Christ.
Fornari lays out his work in two compositional halves corresponding to the two volumes. The first half offers an imposing panorama, first of all setting out his “gnosiological” framework, and then examining in detail the material of his subtitle, “The Great Mediations of the Classical World.” His intellectual mentors include Freud, Durkheim, Bataille, Nietzsche of course, and, pivotally, Girard. Throughout his work he returns to the author of Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden to invoke the latter’s ground-breaking generative anthropology, and yet to declare a decisively different angle of approach. Most significantly, Fornari accuses Girard of “noumenal negativism” (I, 64), meaning that he believes Girard, in his descriptions of the origin of culture, brings about a cataclysmic disappearance of the actual world of instinctual objects, to be somehow, inexplicably, restored in the symbolic order via the newly transcendent corpse of the victim. Thus, biological reality is vaporized to be brought back only in the black light of the death of the victim and the dread it inspires. In contrast, Fornari offers a progressive series of proto-human crises in which the instinctual object never disappears, but then, ultimately, becomes mediated via an ecstatic perception which is the corollary of victimary killing.
Fornari’s thought is a kind of generative phenomenology, a combination, we might say, of Husserl and Girard, something he hints at but does not develop. “The ecstatic-objectual mediation is not a dreamlike projection, but… a new level of reality, definable neither as imaginary nor simply objective… existing in an unprecedented relationship between a detached external object and a collective subject that to some extent corresponds to Husserl’s correlation but in a radically historical and genetic fashion. This mediatory and mediating process is a new symbolic reality, open to possibly endless future symbolic developments… representing the true lifeblood of every culture and every human being” (I, 83). In sum, Fornari’s thought is a theory of human mind, a phenomenon which, despite its crucial relation to the victim, always retains its functional independence.
At one level the question might seem recondite, representing something which may in fact be contained obliquely in Girard’s descriptions though passed over hurriedly. But Fornari is certainly right to highlight the problem, and then, more substantively, his solution of a collective mediatory praxis proves an open and fruitful pathway to move the discussion forward. On its basis he is able to document and analyze the actual history of diverse cultures, especially those surrounding the Mediterranean, which in some measure become conscious of the aboriginal conditions of humanization. Enter Dionysus, the horrifying rites of omophagia (“the absolute starting-point for symbolism,” I, 81), and their cultural elucidations.
Fornari proceeds with accounts of Orphism, the Eleusinian mysteries, a number of individual majestic achievements of Greek Tragedy, and yet the ultimate aporia of Tragedy’s vision. This part of Fornari’s work enters a range and depth of historical and literary material that many, including myself, might feel not competent to argue with, and it certainly invites here its own evaluation from scholars in the field. However, broad results are clearly apparent, and certain remarks can be made. Firstly, as already suggested, Fornari makes Orphism and its Dionysian rites the ground-zero of anthropological understanding of sacrifice, and from the very beginning of his analyses he connects this to the figure of Christ. But the structural continuity is more than once blown apart, as a symmetrical mountain carved suddenly in two, by a critical element obliquely mentioned. For example, “Our indifference and mental sluggishness easily blind us to the difference between the brutal violence of archaic sacrifice and the real meaning of Christ’s Passion…” (I, 142). Or, later, in discussion of the Bible itself: “My basic thesis is that the Bible texts have no monopoly on the truth they contain; instead, the objectual truth of mankind regarding man, a truth variously attained by all human cultures, gradually makes its way, acquiring its own particular accent in the Judaic and Christian tradition…. Jesus did not come to bring knowledge of the victim and sacrifice in these representational and abstract terms, something inconceivable to his Jewish mind, or to any other mind in antiquity. He came to announce a joyful loving mediation with Yahweh whose inner dynamic is mutual forgiveness…” (II, 240). Expressions like this arise on the surface of text like wonderful sea beasts suddenly breaching, but Fornari but does not make them operative or systemic. In other words, the revelatory nonviolence of the Christ is an obvious question in his comparative approach, but it’s one Fornari does not thematize because it could possibly destabilize his universal mediatory concept.
Meanwhile, in his account, the rites of Dionysus serve as the starburst of ancient Greece’s greatest actual insight: murder is humanity’s generative misdeed, and the rites both repeat the origins and mediate salvation by ecstatic identification with the slain and reborn god. Orphism threw light upon human origins in its ecstatic attempt to escape them. Secondly, in sympathy, the great tragedians of Greece aimed at a solution beyond violent reciprocity but could not reach it (I, 355). In contrast, in Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection the tragic phenomena were in fact overcome “with the living, victorious affirmation of the ideals of the person who suffered that tragedy unto death and thereby struck a deadly blow at the root of the symmetrical retaliatory logic that prevented the figures of tragedy from breaking out of the circle imprisoning them” (I, 355). Thus, knowledge of the victim at the basis of culture is indeed present in a favored way in the Judeo-Christian tradition, yet such knowledge is frequently present in other traditions and cultures (I, 223), apparent and realized in different ways and to different degrees.
All of which serves as a converse of Girard’s position, because Girard, rather than understanding the richly mediatory role of human culture, reduces everything to the victim and its disclosure in Christ. According to Fornari, Girard’s approach is absolutist, simplifying, polemical. His “adversarial schematism” (II, 225) attributes all knowledge and perfection to the Jewish and Christian traditions, to the Logos that emerges in and through biblical revelation apart from the fatally compromised human word (I, 373). On its own this material could have been sufficient for Fornari’s critical riposte to Girard, but he is by no means done. His continuation into a second volume recommences the story fully according to his second register, the seismic tension between Christ and Dionysus, and therewith the crisis of modernity.
Fornari is as much a biblical scholar as one of classical antiquity, and his second volume is an impressive work of critical thought, in laying out its assumptions, its knowledge of contemporary scholarship, and its evaluative textual findings. Jesus is a real historical agent in a real Judaic landscape, a setting deeply inflected by Hellenic cultural influence hand in hand with Judaism’s own prophetic history. Fornari gives core historical value to Jesus’ action in the Temple in the final weeks of his life; it is a “valuable interpretive key” (II, 199) throwing light on the historical Jesus, his meaning and plausible self-understanding. But it is at this point Fornari derives an interpretive framework which seems as narrow and formalistic as it is sympathetic to his overall treatment. He sees Jesus’ action in the Temple as a determinative protest at the supposed murder of Zerubabbel, the (possibly) Davidic descendant returning with the first waves of Babyonian exiles as governor (Haggai 1:1). Along with the murder of his prophet Zechariah, occurring at the hands of the then high priest, Joshua, and within the Temple precincts, this event earns Jesus’ excoriating denunciation feasibly spoken on the occasion of the Temple action itself (Matt 23:35-36, see I, 122-4, and II, 130-1). Jesus is aware that his obstruction of Temple sacrifice will bring about his death, and he invests his inevitable personal suffering with a regenerative meaning derived itself from ancient Yahwistic cult. In this cult the sacred monarch is fated to repeat sacrificially the god’s destiny of death. In historical times, the monarch as representative was able to displace the sacrifice onto a firstborn male, evidenced in the cult of Moloch (Hebrew root mlk/king; see I, 449). Jesus instead undergoes the original deadly travail in order to bring in the kingdom via the participation of the disciple in his very self, as made evident in the Eucharist.
Fornari states, “The theory that the sacrificial principle of divine metamorphosis was the specific and general precedent not only for the Eucharist as conceived and experienced by the first Christian communities but also for the Last Supper as conceived and experienced by Christ is fully confirmed” (II, 202). Thus, the Dionysian link is made once again, and Fornari also provides a corroborating examination of the Marriage Feast at Cana in John’s Gospel, gripping in its own right, demonstrating a Dionysian subtext in the writing.
There is evidently a large area for discussion here, both in details and general biblical hermeneutic. The elephant-sized problem is the general elision of Israel’s salvific history in the Exodus, and, in parallel, the large-scale absence of biblical apocalyptic. Apart from glancing references, there is no serious examination of this perspective and what its revelatory content might mean in Jesus’ trajectory. This is surely passive opposition to Girard’s considerable emphasis (especially in terms of the figure of Satan), but the narrowness of the Zerubabbel focus (including, it should be said, its hypothetical nature, lacking specific biblical testimony) has the effect of seriously diminishing the radically transformative historical arc expressed by sections of the Jewish community, preserving the liberative Exodus vision. The prophecy known as Second Isaiah introduces a transcendence of compassion that breaks the mold of human violence, especially in the figure of the Suffering Servant, and this spirit is later given new energy by the community behind the book of Daniel, expressly distinct from the militancy of the Maccabees. The Suffering Servant and his acute nonviolence is swallowed up in the Zerubbabel reference, and the equivalently nonviolent “one like a son of man” in Daniel—an apocalyptic code which, as Fornari underlines, is taken up by Jesus—is subsumed as “Son of God” and in the role of Mediator (II, 89-91).
These comments do not diminish the value of a great deal of Fornari’s exegesis, as well as his magisterial accounts of the historical development of biblical criticism from Spinoza onward. What they do suggest is an anomaly in Fornari’s overall method. As mentioned, the second axis of his work appears powerfully in the second volume, and nowhere more than his sixth and seventh chapter on the cross/crosses of the ancient and modern world. Where apocalyptic got very short shrift in the biblical treatment it appears thunderously here in its reactive worldish form—the perilous loss of mediation and the threat of totalitarian substitutes (II, 418-21), and of course the terrifying literary and spiritual benchmark of Nietzschean breakdown. What Fornari does not recognize is that the generative apocalyptic mediation of the New Testament is that of transcendent nonviolence. He in fact does know this but he mixes it with its converse: “The strangely real symbol of the crucified Christ shows that this world compared to the Greek world is more complex and diverse, and also more unresolved and suspended, envisaging a mediation that transcends violence alongside the usual mediations that inflict violence in the most atrocious ways…” (II, 346). He says this in respect of a particular and particularly gruesome official execution under the aegis of eighteenth-century Catholic France, and so his comment reflects the traditional “Christian” mediation of that world, one very much on the edge of crisis and revolution. But he never resolves the contradiction in its own terms, and hence the true nature of New Testament apocalyptic mediation remains obscured. In this way Girard’s “schematism” is avoided, but the latter may in this respect be more accurate to the nature of the case.
The question is critical when it is a matter of Christ’s Resurrection, something Fornari sees as phenomenologically real, i.e. it was an actual event for the disciples carrying its own new meaning. He says this: “…the Resurrection… shows us a reality superior to the subject/object coupling since it stands at the fountainhead of their formation and existence.” He goes on, however: “The difference between the Resurrection event and the ecstatic-objectual event I see to be at the origin of humankind is not a difference of quality but entirely a matter of degree and the capacity to retroact and reveal” (II, 485).
In other words, Fornari accords the Resurrection the same phenomenological status as the founding event of human mind, but, bizarrely, stresses there is no qualitative difference. What he intends for sure is that there is no “supernatural” element overturning the intramundane intellectual phenomenon evidenced at the beginning. Nevertheless, Resurrection is able, presumably by some increased brilliance, to retroactively disclose the sacrificial mechanism. This seems methodologically commendable: it preserves the single mediatory process, maintaining the basic continuity of the ecstatic-objectual world, i.e. the one founding phenomenology of mind/object. But the statement factually misses the radical novelty, the differend of the Resurrection. It seems evident there is a profound qualitative difference in the ecstatic-objectual event, i.e. the transcendent nonviolence of the Risen Crucified and the Father so revealed. Is it not this differential structure, in its intense proximity to Dionysus, and yet its gulf-like dynamic difference, which drove Nietzsche quite out of his mind, and half of the world with him? Fornari, with his twin planes or axes, perhaps ends closer to Girard than he wants to recognize. But if the outcome is to raise to the first level of importance the question of what indeed is the mediation of Christ today, the enquiry is more than worth its spectacular effort. To read this book, and to read it again, is to be personally rewarded with the truly postmodern urgency of this question.
Radicale verlossing: Wat terroristen geloven
Beatrice de Graaf, Radicale verlossing: Wat terroristen geloven. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 2021, Pages: 304
In 2018, the work of historian Beatrice de Graaf was awarded the Stevin Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands. Anyone who reads Radicale Verlossing (Radical Redemption) will notice that this award is no coincidence. The title and subtitle of the book leave nothing to be desired in terms of clarity: chiefly de Graaf wants to show what the current generation of jihadist terrorists believes, and what key role a story about radical redemption plays in that belief. In terms of method, she uses a narrative analysis: a critical examination of the testimonies of the terrorists themselves.
As befits a top scientist, de Graaf presents her research in a particularly well-organized manner. In the first two chapters she distinguishes her approach from other methods, introduces some basic concepts, and offers a reader’s guide. The introductory reflections end with the presentation of three panels that make up the narrative of radical redemption: felt deficit, self-chosen surrender and/or struggle, and redemption/reward. A radicalization process based on that narrative, which potentially leads to violence, proceeds in five stages.
The first panel of the story of radical redemption, “felt deficit,” consists of the first two phases of that process. The terrorist believes that the group with which he feels connected is in a state of absolute evil and injustice. He identifies himself with (alleged) innocent victims, without any regard for the possible innocence of those he sees as enemies. This goes hand in hand with the development of a sense of responsibility, resulting in various forms of possible violence: to the extent that the terrorist also considers himself as a malefactor, an act of self-sacrifice as atonement easily comes into focus; to the extent that he mainly accuses others of malice, he will mainly interpret his acts of violence (which may include his self-sacrifice) as a legitimate revenge.
In any case, a narrative of redemption blown up to mythical proportions enables terrorists to distinguish the killing of others and/or themselves as so-called “good, defensive violence” from the “unauthorized violence” (because of a so-called “first aggression”) of a “demonic” enemy. Against this background, the crime-terror-nexus is also notable. De Graaf discusses this in the context of the third panel (“redemption/reward”). She writes: “Radical redemption for young people with criminal records and a surplus of criminal energy is a common phenomenon in the history of terrorism and political violence” (176).
In the context of Islamist terror, de Graaf shows how ISIS used its magazine Rumiyah to justify criminal violence. The self-sacrifice of criminals turned them from “monsters” into “saviors”:
The stories of jihadists-with-a-criminal-record show that it was young people with little to no religious baggage who were particularly drawn to a holy war. They were inspired in no time—often during a stay in prison—to make the switch from crime to terrorism…. The ISIS magazine Rumiyah provided the confirmation, recommendation and substantiation of [the] offer of redemption. According to this digital magazine, it was not only permissible (halal) to shed the blood of the infidels (kufar), but also to take away their prosperity. Practices of deception, in the form of fraud, and theft from infidels, polytheists, and idolaters were praised as legitimate ways to wage jihad…. When a warrior actually lost his life, Rumiyah did not fail to glorify the deceased and to set him up as a martyr. This too was a form of reward: recognition and publicizing of one’s heroic role was an incentive for other jihadists and potential recruits. Here the combination and transformation from criminal to jihadist was memorialized. For example, in the obituary for the late ISIS fighter Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, aka Macreme Abroujui…. Rumiyah praised Abroujui’s criminal skills, elevating them to an ideal and aspiration for all fighters. The late martyr had been a ‘ferocious gangster’ whom everyone feared. With his heroic death, he had not only redeemed himself, but had also served Allah, showing the way to true surrender and conviction. According to Rumiyah, Abroujui had put his violence and criminal talents to use and had purified them in battle: ‘…in their previous lives they participated in the world of theft and gangs, but the violence they committed this time was a form of worship, through which they sought to get closer to Allah—and precisely no longer a way to wallow in excesses, disobedience and corruption.’ The phrase ‘past life’ is crucial here, indicating the intended redemptive move and transformation.” (176-178)
This depiction of the jihadist martyr is reminiscent of many a mythical hero. René Girard characterizes the mythical hero as follows:
A source of violence and disorder during his sojourn among men, the hero appears as a redeemer as soon as he has been eliminated, invariably by violent means. It also happens that the hero, while remaining a transgressor, is cast primarily as a destroyer of monsters.… [T]he hero draws to himself a violent reaction, whose effects are felt throughout the community. He unwittingly conjures up a baleful, infectious force that his own death—or triumph—transforms into a guarantee of order and tranquility.… [T]here are stories of collective salvation, in which the death of a single victim serves to appease the anger of some god or spirit. A lone individual, who may or may not have been guilty of some past crime, is offered up to a ferocious monster or demon to appease him, and he ends up killing that monster as he is killed by him” (Violence and the Sacred, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1972, 87).
Important in the third panel of the narrative of radical redemption is not only the act of violence itself (the fourth stage of the process), but also its validation by a constituency (the fifth and final stage of radicalization). That constituency must recognize the act of violence as part of a larger struggle between good and evil. Before it gets to that point, de Graaf connects the main push factors of radicalization in the second panel of the radical redemption story—the personal context of drastic experiences and the accompanying intense emotions and desires—with the pull factors of organizations that situate personal experiences in a broader historical, geopolitical, and meaningful perspective.
De Graaf uses the testimonies of terror convicts, whom she has interviewed herself, to convincingly support the three panels of the radical redemption story. This is done in chapters four, five and six. Prior to that, the third chapter contains stories of terrorists from the first three major waves of modern terrorism, as identified by David Rapoport from the late nineteenth century onward: anarchist terrorism, anti-colonial terrorism, and new left terrorism.
In doing so, de Graaf illustrates two important issues. First, she makes clear that the traditional characterization of terrorist ideologies by means of the so-called Three Rs—Revenge, Renown and Reaction—should, if necessary, be supplemented by a fourth R: the positive offer of a Story of Radical Redemption. It is a bit of a shame that she does not incorporate the notion of the Myth of Redemptive Violence, as developed by theologian Walter Wink (1935-2012). That would allow for an inside critique of theological narratives of redemption, which distinguishes a theology of nonviolent love and redemption from a theology of violent redemption. But perhaps that is too much to ask for within the scope of this book, and it is rather up to theologians to do so, especially also as an aid to deradicalization processes.
With her historical overview of modern terrorism in light of the radical redemption motive, de Graaf demonstrates that a narrative of radical redemption need not be purely religious. So secondly, she illustrates what she already emphasizes in her introductory reflections: “By bringing up the motive of radical redemption we transcend the debate between religious versus political motivation…. Whether a redemption story is political-ideological or religious in nature is a matter of supply, scale and gradation rather than psychology. Stories may differ, human biology and psychology remain the same” (33).
A few pages further, she adds:
Is redemption only a concept that can exist within religions? No. Within the context of sociology and cultural anthropology it is now widely recognized that the search for meaning, the formulation of goals that transcend one’s own immediate life horizon, is inherent in all human cultures. Man is a religious being, for better or worse; almost everyone believes in a higher purpose (transcendent or immanent) and has something to show for it. Our ‘altruistic gene’ that leads to community involvement and fundraising also brings with it exclusion and the stigmatization of perceived enemies of the community…. The question is not whether redemption only plays a role in religious contexts, but how the social experience of redemption is shaped. How is redemption standardized and prescribed (and by whom)? What does the alleged debt or penalty consist of, who is to settle it, and in what way? So it matters quite a bit how the idea of radical redemption is fleshed out and validated by an associated community and worldview” (38-39).
In short, the redemption motive may also play a role in secular forms of terrorism. What is striking, however, is that it does not always play a role, even if terrorist acts are committed by religious people. This is shown in the seventh chapter, in which de Graaf presents research in several control groups. She sees the redemption motive in fighters from a group like Boko Haram, while she finds it hardly at all in fighters from right-wing extremist networks (DTG Enschede) or from Syrian resistance groups. Rightly she warns: “Among the fighters of Boko Haram, a sectarian ideology, strong community, as well as mutual control and assessment do exist. Whereas with Syrian members of armed militias, even if they are Muslim, we must be very careful not to be too quick to point to religious or terrorist motives, with members of jihadist groups like those in Africa we must be careful not to link radicalization processes too quickly to major underlying causes such as poverty or deprivation” (254).
In this chapter, de Graaf does not fail to address the parasitic nature of right-wing extremist terrorism. By committing violence, some right-wing extremists actually imitate the violence of their enemy, paradoxically and tragically continuing the evil they thought they were destroying: “We could argue that the right-wing extremist terrorists practiced a form of idiosyncratic, parasitic terrorism. They developed their own perversely unique, right-wing extremist worldview, and parasitized on existing fears in society of ‘Islam’ and/or of ‘black danger.’ One could perhaps argue that every major wave of ideological terrorism, be it anarchist, ethnic-social, leftist-revolutionary, or holy, jihadist terrorism, was accompanied by a reaction of ‘parasitic terrorism’—terrorism that sucks up the energy of and fears about a prevailing wave of radical violence and uses it to destabilize society through its own attacks (of opposite ideological nature)” (234).
After the chapters that address her inductive method, the eighth chapter presents de Graaf’s “Grounded Theory” of Radical Redemption, a deductive frame of reference for further research. Moreover, she critically evaluates her research in the subsequent ninth and penultimate chapter. Variables in each panel that make up the triptych of radical redemption (again: felt deficiency, self-chosen surrender and/or struggle, and redemption/reward), ultimately result in ten profiles into which the interviewed terror convicts more or less fit: meaning-seeking zealot, penitent zealot, avenging zealot, political zealot, meaning-seeking altruist, penitent altruist, political altruist, meaning-seeking avenger, meaning-seeking follower, and armed opposition/self-defense.
Of course, the concrete environment in which a terror convict was raised is also important, but today variables in context at the macro, meso, and micro levels are quite often overshadowed by a unifying, globalized virtual context. Wherever terrorists may be, they draw on the same ideologies found on the Internet.
De Graaf sees possibilities for breaking the cycle of radicalization mainly in forms of criticism by one’s own supporters. Disagreement within one’s own ranks is important. If people in one’s own group do not (no longer) validate acts of terrorism, the temptation to choose armed struggle diminishes. In addition, de Graaf concludes that deradicalization in the context of the violent redemption motive almost automatically happens when perpetrators go through the entire cycle (the five phases) of the radicalization process. Indeed, the narrative of violent redemption can rarely live up to the high expectations it creates: “In other words, the redemption narrative succumbs to its own ontological inconsistencies” (275).
As a result, the likelihood of recidivism is also low. That said, more preventive measures should be taken in parenting and education. As for the reintegration of terror convicts, de Graaf sees an important role for religious communities. The example of churches in Africa inspires in that regard: “A special role is played by churches and religious communities, particularly in Africa, where they are often the last remaining institutions that are still willing and able to visit detainees, for example through the chaplains of the Roman Catholic Church in northern Cameroon and Nigeria. There the conditions in the prisons are so wretched that the churches are the only organizations still willing and able to do something for imprisoned convicts of terrorism” (288).
Apparently, the churches there play a major role in the process of forgiveness, a vital step on the road to eventual reconciliation. Perhaps forgiveness is the trace of a true transcendence? That trace leaves the path of perfectionism and fear of failure, of strident self-condemnation and condemnation of others to which some, whether in the form of compensatory (suicidal) terrorism or not, fall victim in the context of “secular presentism” (318).
Beatrice de Graaf has not only written an excellent book in scientific terms. With her concluding reflections she also sets the contours for further philosophical and even theological discussion.