Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Sarah Pessin

Second Advisor

Ted Vial

Third Advisor

Carl Raschke

Fourth Advisor

Lynn Clark


Emmanuel Levinas, Encounter-oriented subjectivity, Ethnonationalism, Freedom, Karl Barth, Political subjectivity


This dissertation examines philosophical and political subjectivity, or how an individual knows the world and relates to society, through a comparative analysis of the phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas and the Christian theologian Karl Barth. Levinas and Barth share a deep structure of “encounter-oriented subjectivity,” meaning subjectivity oriented by encounter with the Other that calls into question the subject’s freedom and, in this same moment, calls the subject to concrete response. Encounter-oriented subjectivity is critical of the “unconditioned freedom” that orients liberal subjectivity and offers an alternative sense of a “passively conditioned” freedom, or a freedom always already called into question by the Other. This structure of passive conditioning creates new possibilities for understanding how the individual relates to society in and through her own history, tradition, and community. The dissertation utilizes a concrete-and-theoretical method that examines the two thinkers’ theoretical development in light of their concrete experiences. For Levinas and Barth, encounter-oriented subjectivity developed in response to rising support for ethnonationalism and its culmination in the horror of the Holocaust. In their different contexts and communities, Levinas and Barth confronted the unconditioned freedom of liberal subjectivity as a key factor in the phenomenon of active support and passive compliance to Hitlerism among their colleagues. Both thinkers took concrete action to disrupt ethnonationalism, and both developed theoretical responses to disrupt future occurrences. The resulting orientation to concrete care for the neighbor calls the subject to confront her community for the sake of the stranger and against ethnonationalism.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Michael Laminack


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


200 pgs

File Size

944 KB


Philosophy, Religion, Theology

Available for download on Saturday, December 13, 2025