This Unit critically and constructively explores how human–Earth relations are shaped by religions, cultures, and understandings of nature and the environment. We are self-consciously inter- and multi-disciplinary and include methods from a variety of social sciences such as those found in the work of theologians, philosophers, religionists, ethicists, scientists, activist-scholars, sociologists, and anthropologists, among others. We also strive to be a radically inclusive unit and welcome papers that challenge the dominant Eurocentric environmental discourse while envisioning new conceptual frontiers.
You are here
Religion and Ecology Unit
Call for Proposals
The Religion and Ecology Unit seeks individual paper and complete panel proposals relating to a wide range of themes in religion and ecology, including proposals that resonate with the 2022 thematic emphasis on “Religion and Catastrophe” – what is the role of the study of religion and ecology in the times of climate catastrophe?
We recognize that climate catastrophes—the effects of which are exacerbated by, and exacerbate, social inequality—will continue to transform the worlds in which we live. Given this, it is crucial for us to examine how the histories of colonialism, slavery, nationalism and migration have shaped the predominant visions of climate catastrophes and paved the way for the unequal distribution of environmental damage and resources for repair. Other questions to consider are: What distinct resources have specific traditions or particular communities developed to denounce or adapt to environmental changes in their communities? How are climate catastrophes changing religious traditions or even sparking the development of new ones? How does the present situation test traditional visions of a collective future?
The Religion and Ecology Unit is also pursuing possible co-sponsored sessions with the following Units:
After Catastrophe (Co-sponsored with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Unit)
While environmental catastrophes are often narrated as threats to dominant (i.e., white settler) social orders that need to be maintained, this session explores environmental catastrophe as de- and anti-colonialism. In other words, this session challenges the anxiety of rescuing settler futurity in decolonial projects by focusing on Indigenous scholarship of decolonization. Successful proposals will foreground Indigenous voices not as case studies in victims of catastrophe but as sources for reimagining and reinterpreting the connections between ecological changes and overturning social order as well as the structures and narratives for a decolonial inhabitation of land after catastrophe. Possible themes and questions might include:
- Past catastrophes as present problems: How do the underlying logics of colonial events like residential schools, forced removals, etc. live on in the structures of settler relations to land (property ownership, mobility, community building, gardening/agriculture, environmental protection and conservation, nature recreation, environmental organizations and movements, resource management etc)?
- How do/should religious environmental organizations or movements engage with Indigenous nations or colonialism? Both descriptive and constructive research are welcomed.
- Indigenous futures: what is the current scholarship in Indigenous religious traditions on Indigenous futurity? How does/should this impact how environmental problems and solutions are framed?
- Religious environmental concerns as rescuing settler futurity: How are environmental problems being framed in religious contexts to get practitioners to care about environmental problems, frame environmental issues as religious problems, or use religious traditions as resources for addressing those issues in ways that presume an anxiety about settler futurity? How do Indigenous religious traditions either frame these differently or offer theories and scholarship for critically engaging and changing these frames?
- Indigenous religious traditions and climate change: How have Indigenous nations both narrated and responded to climate change? How is climate change not an issue for a generalized abstract “Anthropocene” but for specific Indigenous communities? What are the responses to particular problems – both in terms of how communities draw on their own resources as well as advocate for themselves in public or political arenas?
Sikh Responses to Catastrophe (Co-sponsored with the Sikh Studies Unit)
This session invites presentations that connect Sikh faith with the environment and are open to any discipline or methodology (theological, sociological, ethnography, historical, etc.) Potential themes or questions can include:
- What are central environmental issues Sikh communities have responded to or are addressing? How are these communities drawing on religious resources for these responses (to mobilize communities, articulate faithful environmental practices, advocate for policy change, etc.)?
- How have environmental changes impacted Sikh communities?
- How have Sikh responses to catastrophe (environmental or otherwise) impacted local ecologies, land-use practices, environmental conditions?
- How have Sikh practices or scholarship impacted other religious traditions’ environmental practices or scholarship? What has been the role, influence, or absence of Sikh voices in ecumenical environmental projects?
- Considering different geopolitical settings, how does the way in which Sikhs in Panjab respond/organize/mobilize around different 'catastrophes' differ from those in diaspora?
Please note that, while individual paper proposals are given full consideration, we especially appreciate diverse and well thought out complete panel proposals.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Christopher Carter, University of San Diego1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Renan Dos Santos, University of São Paulo1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022
Timothy Harvie, St. Mary's University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Terra Schwerin Rowe, University of North Texas1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Christiana Zenner, Fordham University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027