1st Edition

Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and the Theology of Freedom

By Gunda Werner Copyright 2024

    This book explores how Judith Butler’s work on gender and the shaping of the human subject and Michel Foucault's notion of parrhesia, ‘speaking the truth’, can be made fruitful for a theology of freedom. The volume illustrates the importance of three concepts - freedom, gender (body) and power (critique) - and how this triad provides the foundational categories and structural elements of a theology of freedom. By starting from an analysis of power and the performative potential of gendered embodiment, freedom can be thought of as the basis of creative and critical human action and thereby implemented in theology. The chapters feature several theological-historical case studies that are representative of topics that continue to shape contemporary Catholic norms and thought. In particular, the author reflects on the 13th century with the idea of personal sin and confession, and the 19th century with a gender ideology that has led to the marginalization of difference and dissent. The book shows how Butler and Foucault can provide essential insights for Catholic theology and is valuable reading for scholars of religion, philosophy, and gender and sexuality studies.


    1 The capillary effect of power in the field of subject theory: Theological relevance

    2 Subjection and control: Michel Foucault’s subject theory

    3 Becoming human in freedom – Becoming a subject according to Judith Butler

    4 Freedom – (gender) body – power (critique): The possibilities and limits of Foucault’s and Butler’s subject philosophy

    5 Challenges for a theology of freedom

    6 Outline of a theology of freedom


    Gunda Werner is Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany.