On February 8, 1971, Michel Foucault announced the formation of Le Groupe d’information sur les prisons (the Prisons Information Group [GIP]), a group of activist intellectuals who worked to amplify the voices of those with firsthand knowledge of the prison—reflected in their motto, “Speech to the detainees!” In highlighting and circulating subjugated knowledges from within prisons, the GIP not only pursued political and material interventions, but also called for epistemological and methodological shift within intellectual labor about prisons. This essay turns to the work of the GIP, and philosophical reflection on that work, as a resource for contemporary theological methodology. Counter to the optimistic and positive trend in theological turn to practices, this essay draws on Foucault’s work with and reflection on the GIP to argue for a negative theology of practice, which centers on practice (those concrete narratives found in any lived theological context) while, at the same time, sustaining its place in the critical moment of self-reflection; this means theology exposes itself to the risk of reimagining, in the double-movement of self-critique and other-reponse, what theology is
. In order to harness and tap into its own moral, abolitionist imagination, this essay argues that theology must risk (paradoxically) and pursue (ideally) its own abolition—it must consider practices outside of its own theological and ecclesial frameworks as potential sources, and it must attend closely, critically, and continually to the ways that Christian practices, and accounts of them, perpetuate and produce harm.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited