College Theology SocietyServing Church and Academy Since 1954

Theology, Ecology, and Natural Science

2023 Call for Papers

Benjamin Hohman, Boston College (MA)

James Robinson, Iona University (NY)

Pursuant to the larger theme of CTS 2023, “Theology and Media(tion): Rendering the Absent Present,” the Theology, Ecology, Natural Science section is looking to cultivate three distinct conversations around media and mediation across our three sessions. Submissions should specify for which of the three sections they would like to be considered.

1. Reflecting on the world of human relationships, Bernard Lonergan describes a process of “mutual self-mediation,” in which we first discover and then entrust ourselves to another in “an act of confidence, of intimacy, of letting down one’s defenses.” In recent years, many new branches of animal research have uncovered the ways in which human collective and individual identity have emerged and continue to emerge in dialogue with other non-human animal species. We invite paper submissions that explore this theme in dialogue with the following:

a. Studies of or reflections on the ways in which human beings communicate with other animals verbally and non-verbally.

b. Thomas Berry laments that “We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’” How do we respond to this? How might we draw inspiration from Berry’s mandate to relate to the natural world as a “communion of subjects” instead of a “collection of objects”? c. How the anthropomorphizing of other-than-human animals might facilitate and/or hinder our interspecies encounters

d. How scholars such as Christopher Carter explore the link between ethical eating, human-animal relationality, and racial justice

e. How ecofeminist scholars illuminate the patriarchal nature of the degradation of other-than-human animals

f. How scholars such as Carol J. Adams critique the ways in which the consumer food markets intentionally cover over animal bodies, lives, and deaths in stores to obfuscate the subjectivity of non-human animals

g. How scholars such as Elizabeth A. Johnson challenge us to “ask the beasts” and consider the ethical implications of “animal praise” of God

2. Modern academic discourse is marked by intense specialization and often separation of various disciplines. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the barriers between theology and science. We invite papers that reflect on the various ways in which theologians and scientists have severally sought to constructively bridge this divide in various ways and for various reasons, including:

a. The efforts of process theologians and philosophers to rethink the idea of God within a framework more congenial to the dynamic world order revealed by modern science

b. The collaboration of theorists of emergence in the human, social, and natural sciences in works like The Re-Emergence of Emergence to find a more adequate account of the complexification of the cosmos overtime

c. Roger Haight’s recent attempts to provide a greater theological context for evolution in his recent book, Faith and Evolution: A Grace-Filled Naturalism

d. Simon Conway Morris’s elaboration of a theory of evolutionary convergence over and against theories of radical contingency and randomness in the work of Stephen Jay Gould and others e. The work and witness of scientists and scholars such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Fr. George Coyne, SJ.

3. Visual art, music, and poetry as well as ritual practices and (increasingly) technology have served as powerful tools for mediating an ecological consciousness and promoting environmental sustainability.We invite proposals that reflect on the special role played by various forms of media in promoting “ecological conversion.” Some possibilities include:

a. Angela Manno’s use of classical techniques of iconography to bring attention to endangered species

b. Leah Thomas’s (Green Girl Leah’s) use of social media to promote forms of intersectional environmentalism

c. The development of apps like PlantNet, Merlin bird ID, etc. as a way of helping people attend to and understand local ecosystems and species

d. The development of ritual practices such as the “Cosmic Walk” and prayer practices such as the “Ecological Examen”

Please e-mail proposals to both conveners by December 15, 2022. Decisions will be communicated by mid-January 2023.

The College Theology Society is a registered, non-profit professional society and a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion.


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