Intro Programme Abstracts
Social Aspects of Hell: A cross-cultural approach


John Papatheodorou (University of Thessaly):
Exercising the imagination: The politics of damnation

No other religion has ever raised Hell to such importance as Christianity, under which it became a fictional "theater of cruelty", surrounded by legends, mythologies, doctrines, surveillance and punishment. Hence, Hell and "infernology" have their own historicity, providing a wide intellectual field of sympathetic perception or/and radical scepticism. In modern times, Enlightenment provided the weapons for one of those great attacks on Hell’s eternal power. In my paper I will focus on the –so called- "age of reason" and its enemies, choosing an emblematic figure of the Orthodox apologetic theology, the Greek monk Nikodemus Hagiorites (1749-1809). By focusing on his confessional manual books which enjoy a central role in the conservative Greek orthodox tradition, I will try to investigate how the politics of damnation in his ascetic literature, acquire their meaning as a new productive field of political imagination of the Self. In Nikodemus Hagiorites discourse of the ascetic morality, the main task is to construct the Self in indepedence of the profane world and of mortal sins (especially sex, desire and "bodily movements"). Thus, Hell becomes an imaginary chronotope which provides a rather complicated relationship between the self and the world. This new ethical and political subject is defined by a new "power-knowledge" formulation, articulated by a great variety of codes, practices and forms of self-cultivation. My main argument is that, in Nikodemus' moral discourse, hell functions as a rhetorical device within the wider frame of the the modern "technologies of the self".

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