Decades ago, feminist theologians emphasized the importance of “naming” in achieving justice. They argued not having a name for something makes it more difficult to understand its influence on our lives. Naming elements of our lived reality (including patriarchy, specific barriers to women’s flourishing, the patterns and values of relationships, and so forth) was seen as key to claiming the power to name ourselves and thereby claiming agency in a world of complex relations and interlocking injustices. Colonialist epistemologies and anthropologies that shape dominant culture in the U.S. prioritize universal over local knowledge, text-based propositions about objects rather than relational knowledge of subjects. While recent science draws attention to the interconnection and interdependence of human persons and our biological environment, there is little value given to local environmental knowledge of plant life. Feminist wisdom implies that this loss of naming for our own environment entails a loss of agency as well as a loss of understanding. Bringing feminist theology into conversation with science and indigenous ways of knowing, this paper argues that we cannot name ourselves if we do not have words for the plants with which we are interconnected on every level from basic sustenance to daily interaction to complex microbiology.
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