Back in 2012, I was still hoping to go back to school for International Security Studies. As always, my faith was a big part of who I was, and I could be an obnoxious, self-righteous prig about it. I came across a book called Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone, by Dr. Megan H. Mackenzie. . .and I couldn’t wait to tear it apart. It was written from a feminist point of view, and there I was, on the other side. I cringe now at some of the stuff I wrote. My former self even had exchanges with Dr. Mackenzie on Twitter. I should note that Megan and I still keep in touch, and we have a very good relationship these days – especially after I transitioned!
As I started to read the book, I found Dr. Mackenzie was drawing on the philosophical ideas of Michel Foucault (with whom she has since “broken up with” lol). First, I had no idea who he was at that point – I had taken a course years before in Philosophy 101, but at the time it was an elective to satisfy the humanities requirement for my engineering degree. In any case, if we covered him in that class, I certainly didn’t remember. Second, the idea of applying philosophy to International Security Studies – or just about anything – had never crossed my mind until then. So then I did some research. on them. At the time, Foucault’s theories on the relationship between power and knowledge made me roll my narrowly dogmatic eyes.
I’m much more open-minded these days, of course, and I thank Dr. Mackenzie, because in addition to modern philosophy, her book opened my eyes to feminist thought, which in turn introduced me to Judith Butler. Butler is one of the originators of the idea of gender performativity, which of course was of interest to a trans person. I wasn’t open to the idea of coming out at that point, but the cracks were starting to show.
In any case, mentions of philosophers, such as Foucault, Derrida, Weber, and Hegel kept popping up in my readings on International Security Studies, and I started to see them in theology as well. In researching to understand Dr. Mackenzie’s book, I came across Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism by James K. A. Smith, an evangelical doing philosophy and I read several other survey books.
After that, life happened and though I read a little here and there about philosophy, mainly to inform what I was reading in theology, I got away from it. After my marriage ended, and as I struggled with my faith due to transition, I avoided theology because much of what I had was evangelical and conservative, which didn’t fit with who I was becoming.
However, this year I discovered postcolonialism, about which I will be writing another post, but in the meantime, let me note that many of the people writing in that field, as well as the adjacent field of postcolonial theology – I find that is has interesting parallels to being trans in western society – reference philosophers as well, especially Foucault and Derrida, among others. So once more I find myself drawn into philosophy. I’d like to have a better background in it, so I think I’ll be doing a deeper dive into the subject. I’ll keep you informed, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride!