Books

Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism

Oxford University Press, 2021

Any serious consideration of Asian American life forces us to reframe the way we talk about racism and antiracism. There are two contemporary approaches to antiracist theory and practice. The first emphasizes racial identity to the exclusion of political economy, making racialized life in America illegible. This approach’s prevalence, in the academy and beyond, now rises to the level of established doctrine. The second approach views racial identity as the function of a particular political economy–what is called “racial capitalism”–and therefore analytically subordinates racial identity to political economy.

Jonathan Tran develops arguments in favor of this second approach. He does so by means of an extended analysis of two case studies: a Chinese migrant settlement in the Mississippi Delta (1868-1969) and the Redeemer Community Church in the Bayview/Hunters Point section of San Francisco (1969-present). While his analysis is focused on particular groups and persons, he uses it to examine more broadly racial capitalism’s processes and commitments at the sites of their structural and systemic unfolding. In pursuing a research agenda that pushes beyond the narrow confines of racial identity, Tran reaches back to trusted modes of analysis that have been obscured by the prevailing antiracist orthodoxy and proposes reframing antiracism in terms of a theologically salient account of political economy.

Links:

Oxford University Press

Amazon

Goodreads

Review from the Asian American Christian Collaborative

Review from the Asian American Theological Forum

Review from Christians for Social Action

Review from the Political Theology Network

Interview about the book through Anxious Bench at patheos.com

See more reviews in the Resources section of this website

Foucault and Theology

T&T Clark, 2011

Near the end of his life, Michel Foucault turned his attention to the early church Fathers. He did so not for anything like a return to God but rather because he found in those sources alternatives for re-imaging the self. And though Foucault never seriously entertained Christianity beyond theorizing its aesthetic style one might argue that Christian practices like confession or Eucharist share family resemblances to Foucaultian sensibilities. This book will explain how to do theology in light of Foucault, or more precisely, to read Foucault as if God mattered. Therefore, it will seek to articulate practices like confession, prayer, and so on as techniques for the self, situate “the church as politics” within present constellations of power, disclose theological knowledges as modes of critical intervention, or what Foucault called archaeology, and conceptualize Christian existence in time through mnemonic practices of genealogy.

Links:

Bloomsbury

Amazon

The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory: Time and Eternity in the Far Country

Wiley-Blackwell, 2010

The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory develops a theological analysis of the American war in Vietnam and constructs a Christian account of memory in relation to this tragic conflict.

  • An elegantly written reflection of memory and forgiveness, this unique work explores the ecclesial practice of memory in relation to the American war in Vietnam
  • Questions how and why we choose to remember atrocity, and asks whether it is ever ethical to simply forget
  • Explores the theological categories of time and eternity, and the ideas of thinkers including Aquinas, Augustine, and Barth
  • Reveals broader insights about history, memory, and redemption
  • Resonates beyond the field of theological inquiry by offering a broader analysis of war entirely relevant to our time

Links:

Wiley

Amazon

Corners in the City of God: Theology, Philosophy, and The Wire

edited by Jonathan Tran and Myles Werntz

Cascade, 2013

David Simon’s The Wire lays out before us a city in which people struggle under the weight of poverty, political corruption, economic despair, educational collapse, and the drug trade. This volume explores the various theological, ethical, and philosophical challenges presented by The Wire. As each season of The Wire unfolds, the moral complexities of life in the city deepen, as the failures of one system have unforeseen effects in other corners of the city. Fleshing out the ongoing tension between the “earthly city” and the City of God, Corners in the City of God is a theological companion to David Simon’s masterpiece, inviting the reader to wrestle with the implications of belonging fully to the cities of the world, in all of their splendor and tragedy.

Links:

Cascade/Wipf and Stock

Amazon