Ecology and Religion: Events and Opportunities

Read below about several events and opportunities coming up regarding ecology and religion in nineteenth-century studies.


1. “Alternative Sources of Power: Victorian Religious Ecologies” Seminar at MVSA 2019, led by Dr. Joshua King.

Putting “religion” next to “power” in scholarship on nineteenth-century Britain often used to entail portraying the first as holy oil lubricating the grim gears of the second, an ideological aid to capitalism, imperialism, and consumerism and to the ecological violence on which these have depended. Yet, following the “religious turn” in the humanities and social sciences after the mid 1990s, many scholars have acknowledged the counter-cultural and even activist energies sustained by Victorian theologies, devotional literature, and religious ritual.

This Seminar calls for an explicitly ecological extension of this interest in the counter-cultural power of Victorian religion. It invites interdisciplinary attention to Victorian religious ecologies, instances of Victorians discovering in and through their theologies and religious practices ecologically sensitive sources of power for social, individual, and creative life. Of primary interest will be those efforts to imagine and participate in forms of power attentive to the biotic and inanimate communities in which humans are embedded, challenging the environmental destruction and injustice entailed in modern industrial capitalism. One might consider, for example, how John Ruskin built on his belief in a divinely sustained and significant natural world to champion an agrarian craft economy that would be powered by water, sun, and wind, and that would cultivate loving knowledge of fellow creatures. Poets such as Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins lamented modern environmental violence, and in their poetics diversely evoked a world charged with the grandeur of God, in which the divine life of the Trinity pulsed through every stem, paw, and stone. Less often recognized are the natural theologies underlying Chartist poetry, protest, and preaching, which frequently repudiate laissez-faire political economy, envisioning the earth and its bodies in an egalitarian community sustained by a common creator. Equally important are the ways in which Victorian religious ecologies can be discerned beyond Christian discourses and the British metropole, emerging, for example, among the Brahmo Samaj, a Hindu reformist society begun in Calcutta, through their visions of a divinely sustained, affective community of beings that would overcome imperialism and nationalism. Seminar participants are encouraged to identify many more examples.

The Seminar invites papers that will combine willingness to examine Victorian religious ecologies as serious and potentially revelatory experiments in thought and practice, even as they remain alert to the blind spots, injustices, and insufficiencies of these experiments. Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page CV (both as MWord documents) by December 1, 2018, to Joshua King at Joshua_King@baylor.edu.

For more information on the MVSA Seminars, see this post.


2. Mission Waco Ecology Workshop

On Tuesday, October 2, 2:30pm, Mission Waco will host a 1.5-hour workshop in the Jubilee Theatre, led by Professor Scott Truex, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University, about the environmental crisis we are facing in the world. His PowerPoint presentation will help you understand God’s ecology, the destruction currently happening to our environment, and practical ways you can make a difference. ($5 donation requested at the door.)

Click here for more information on Mission Waco’s Urban Renewable Energy and Agricultural Project (REAP).


3. “Stewardship of Creation,” 2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

This symposium on Wednesday, October 24-Friday, October 26, presented by Baylor University’s Institute for Faith and Learning, will consider the opportunities and challenges for people of faith as they observe the divine mandate to care for creation. What resources does the Christian tradition offer regarding management of the environment and the wise use of natural resources? How do religious accounts of God, creation, justice, and human flourishing shape our embrace and use of technology that alters for good and ill our world and the lives of every creature in it? How might Christians work with others to reimagine the human relationship to the earth? Finally, what might faithful stewardship of creation look like in the coming decades?

For more information, see the Baylor IFL symposium webpage.

4. Ecology and Religion in 19C Studies Conference

Ecology and Religion in 19C Studies Conference Logo

This multi-site, digitally networked conference calls for interdisciplinary efforts to put religious and environmental concerns back into dialogue in nineteenth-century studies, and to do so through a mode of conferencing responsive to the acceleration of anthropogenic climate change since the nineteenth century.

It will be on September 18-21, 2019 and, in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of flight-based conferencing, will take place at two central, digitally connected locations, or “hubs”: the Armstrong Browning Library (ABL) at Baylor University, in the United States, and Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Additionally, digitally linked sessions will be held at two “satellites” in North America: the University of Washington (Seattle) and Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). Events will be live-streamed through the conference website, where, after the conference dates, they will also be recorded for future access. Physical participation will be restricted to those able to reach conference sites by car or public transport (within 450 miles).  Participants unable to travel will be eligible to join colleagues digitally on panels hosted at the ABL.

Submissions are are due by 5:00 p.m. Friday, March 15, 2019 and should be emailed to ablconferences@baylor.edu.

Panel Proposals (90 min)

  • should be less than 1,000 words total
  • include a summary of the panel’s focus and of each paper (3 panelists maximum)
  • include a one-page CV for each panelist listing primary publications and research achievements
  • indicate the location (ABL or Lancaster U) and whether any panelists wish to participate digitally (ABL only; we prefer that some panelists be physically present for every panel, so fully digital panels will require special consideration)

Individual Paper Proposals (20 min)

  • should include a 300-500 word paper description
  • include a one-page CV listing primary publications and research achievements
  • indicate the location (ABL or Lancaster U) and whether you wish to participate digitally (ABL only).

Possible topics include:

  • theological dimensions of early environmental and nature writing, broadly defined (travel guides, natural histories, protest letters to newspapers, etc.)
  • intersections between theology, ecology, and poetics (e.g., in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti, but also poets whose work is less often recognized for such intersections)
  • religion, medical science and practice, and environmental consciousness
  • theological qualities and religious images in emergent ecological science and ecological theory, including broader theories and representations of the economy of nature
  • colonial religious ecologies, especially those articulated in critical and constructive dialogue with metropolitan discourses and practices
  • theology and/or religious practice and emergent conceptions of animal rights (e.g., anti-vivisection writing and movements)
  • gender, religion, and environmental consciousness
  • environmentalism, and environmental destruction, among religious missions and missionaries
  • environmental implications of comparative religious study and interfaith dialogue
  • cosmopolitanism, religion, and environmental consciousness
  • religious language and natural theologies in working-class literature protesting laissez-faire industrial political economy and its environmental devastations (e.g., as in some Chartist hymns)
  • theology, religious practice, and scientific exploration and expeditions
  • environmental consciousness in apocalyptic preaching and literature
  • religious and theological ways of conceiving, narrating, and marking time, whether more immediate and observable natural seasons and cycles, or visions of deep time emerging in the natural sciences
  • the ecological implications of nineteenth-century liturgy and liturgical movements, such as Anglo-Catholic ritualism
  • environmental consciousness in religious burial practices and views of the body’s degradability
  • religiously informed urban ecologies, such as debates over, and experiments in sanitation, park planning, and housing projects
  • religious and theological aspects of debates over fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy (e.g., Ruskin’s assaults on coal-based industrial capitalism)
  • religiously inspired experiments in agriculture, land use, and protests for common access to and use of land and natural environments (e.g., natural theologies informing Chartist Land Plan agitation, Octavia Hill and the Commons Preservation Society, John Ruskin’s visions for sustainable farming through the Guild of St. George)
  • religious understandings of food, eating, and fasting
  • religious and theological dimensions of early nature tourism
  • theology and conservation (e.g., Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and the National Trust)
  • environmental concerns in nineteenth-century ecclesiastical architecture and architectural literature, such as championship of the Gothic
  • the environmental issues involved in nineteenth-century religious publishing and communication networks, both in terms of ecological waste (e.g., from massive expansion in production and distribution of religious literature) and of experiments in sustainable publishing (e.g., hand-crafts publishing methods pioneered by students of Ruskin’s theologically informed vision of sustainable economy)
Posted in 19C News, 19CRS, Conference

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