The Journal of Religion and Society recently published a supplemental issue growing out of a conference held by the Kripke Center at Creighton University in February of 2019. The papers, conversations, and food (!) were excellent and I was very glad for the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
A revised version of my essay from that conference is now available and open-access. “The Recursive Violence of Anthropological Exceptionalism” [PDF link] reworks an argument and a set of ideas that I’ve put into publication previously in Modern Theology. In this version, the constructive portion of the essay shifts from an emphasis on vulnerability to an emphasis on shame and gentleness. As much as the essay is similar to its earlier iteration, I’m much happier with the constructive work here and think that the argument was worth getting right.
While you’re there, I also highly recommend the very timely essays by Anne Blankenship on “Just Immigration and the Social Gospel” and Erin Kidd on “Theology in the Wake of Survivor Testimony: Epistemic Injustice and Clergy Sex Abuse.”
This coming weekend, I’ll be attending the AAR/SBL annual meeting in San Deigo—unburdened by any QR code surveillance apparatus.
I’ll be giving two talks this year. First, on Saturday evening from 5:30–7:00 (Convention Center, room 26B), I’ll be participating in a panel on Reiko Ohnuma’s book Unfortunate Destiny: Animals in the Indian Buddhist Imagination. The book is a fascinating analysis of animals in early Indian Buddhist texts and was, for me, a welcome chance to read outside my area of expertise. Among the other respondents will be Aaron Gross, whose work has been really formative for my thinking. The panel has been organized by the Animals and Religion Unit, where I serve as a member of the steering committee.
Second, in the same 5:30–7:00 time slot on Sunday evening (in the Hilton Bayfront room 411A, Sapphire level), I’ll be participating in a session that Beatrice Marovich and I organized. The session is titled “The Powers of Gentleness and the Limits of the Human” and is organized around the work of the late French philosopher and psychoanalyst Anne Dufourmantelle in Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living. The panel brings together a collection of my favorite people—Jacob Erickson, Elizabeth Pyne, Beatrice Marovich, and myself, with Karen Bray presiding—and the papers in the panel look really excellent. The session is happening under the auspices of the Theology and Religious Reflection unit. My paper here is entitled “Gentleness, Carnivory, and the Violence of God.” It began when I encountered Dufourmantelle’s claim that the opposite of gentleness is not violence, but fraud and sentimentality. The paper brings together Dufourmantelle with Walter Benjamin’s categories of predatory violence and divine violence to make some exploratory connections.
Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting a version of the research that I’ve done in the last few years on the ecological politics of dignity. I’ll be presenting at the Annette Moran Faculty Colloquium here at Carroll College. It’s an opportunity to share work with colleagues in a school where we have surprisingly few opportunities to talk through our research. Teaching takes up so much of our time and energy here, that it’s not often we have a chance to share the work that we’re doing for the wider world. I’m glad to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and curious to see how the argument plays out for a crowd of mostly non theology/religious studies folks.
I’ve titled my presentation “Dignity: Caught between Humanity and Animality”
In a few weeks (September 20-22), I’ll be participating in a conference at the University of Fairfield. The conference will discuss the politics, traditions, and possibilities of theology’s future. My paper rather narrowly addresses these questions by focusing on solidarity and subsidiarity: for whom and with whom does theology have a future? And, as you might have guessed, my answer to that question is not confined to a single hominid species.
In short, my argument is that solidarity and subsidiarity with poor and marginalized communities is always undermined by the exclusion of animality from theological consideration. I’m eagerly anticipating a weekend of conversation with friends and colleagues.
Over the weekend, I was in Pittsburgh for the annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The theme of the conference this year was “Another World is Possible: Violence, Resistance, and Transformation,” a timely and important central theme chosen by current CTSA President Maria Pilar Aquino.
I gave a paper in the Anthropology section working through some ideas around human dignity, violence, and the boundary between humanity and animality. My paper was titled, “The Recursive Violence of Human Dignity: Rethinking Creaturely Dignity as Vulnerability and Struggle.” In the time span between proposing the presentation and writing the paper, I shifted from vulnerability and struggle toward the concepts of shame and gentleness, which bear some relation in my mind.
I’ll be writing this up at greater length for an upcoming issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, so these ideas will see the light of day for a broader audience.
I wrote a short introduction to Inner Animalities for Ancient Jew Review and it’s now been posted! This essay focuses on the importance of my work on Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus for the book as a whole, on questions of methodology, and on interdisciplinary work at the intersection of animal studies and scholarship on Late Antique Christianity. I’m grateful for the opportunity to introduce my book to a broader audience and especially grateful for the editorial insight of Erin Galgay Walsh and Matthew Chalmers, who brought the piece along and improved it immensely.
Check the essay out here and look at all the other fascinating work at Ancient Jew Review while you’re there. Of special interest is the recent colloquium on Animals in Late Antiquity.
I’m floored to have been nominated and selected by my colleagues at Carroll College as the 2019 Distinguished Scholar of the Year. Many of you know that this has been a real roller coaster of a year professionally. Throughout everything, though, the support and encouragement of faculty colleagues has been unflagging. Receiving recognition for my research, writing, and conference-work from people whom I’ve been leaning on all year is tremendously gratifying and I’m inspired to live up to the honor.