Special Issue "Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Lisa E. Dahill

California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, USA
E-Mail
Interests: Rewilding Christian spirituality and sacraments; Eco-Reformation; outdoor prayer practices; interspecies relationships; and the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jacob J. Erickson

School of Religions, Peace Studies and Theology. Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Ecotheology, environmental humanities, Queer theory and theology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The rapidly developing field of Religion and Ecology claims an impossible task: to encompass in scholarly thinking all that is, at least on Earth.  Projects in the field span the entire biosphere in its endlessly complex interrelations with the planet’s waters, climate, geology, and the evolution of life, in dialogue with the similarly evolving forms of human meaning-making in the face of these mysteries.  To the extent that religious meaning-making has contributed to the short-sightedness and delusions underlying contemporary biocide and collective human suicide, religions need urgent re-orientation to this largest planetary reality. 

One robust thread of scholarly projects in this field queries dominant Western – often Christian – assumptions of human distinctiveness. Anthropologies rooted in a dominion-based imago Dei often posit human superiority over the rest of creation—alienating, objectifying, and commodifying the natural world.  Such ideas fuel widespread planetary injustice and degradation.  Work in Religion and Ecology instead attempts to reawaken religiously generated forms of kinship between humans and the larger biosphere.  A particularly generative area of such research includes attention to human relations with other animals in interdisciplinary explorations identified with what is called diversely “critical animal studies” or “posthumanism.”  From the essays in Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology (Fordham University Press) and the thriving Animals and Religion Unit of the American Academy of Religion, to studies of the roles of other animals in the world’s religious/cultural traditions, the topic of human or divine animality and human-animal religious kinship marks a pivotal contribution to the larger field.

Comparatively less, however, has been published on human-plant relationships as a topic of study in religion – this despite the fact that plants make possible all animal life on Earth, both by their generation of the atmospheric oxygen animals depend on and by their creation via photosynthesis of that essential transubstantiation: sunlight becoming living and edible tissue.  Drawing together rock, soil, mineral, water, air, and light – and comprising possibly 98% of Earth’s terrestrial biomass (not including bacteria), plants also encompass hundreds of thousands of species, giving rise to the beauty, diversity, and habitability of every ecosystem on the planet.  Only relatively recently, however, have scientists begun to articulate what indigenous people have always known: that plants of all kinds are not just photosynthetic scenery but sentient, communicative beings – actual kin to us animals, biologically interwoven with humans and other animals in endlessly complex ways and actively relating to us and each other in every place with perceptions and agency of their own.  The pioneering integrative work of scientists like Potawatomi botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer has brought to a wide readership the transforming insight a scientist immersed also in indigenous knowledge can articulate; and the emerging field of plant philosophy strains to do justice to the kinds of indigenous insight recent anthropological study – for instance with Amazonian indigenous cultural groups – points  to.  A few works in religion have appeared, including several monographs as well as a themed issue on arborphilia published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture in 2013.  Yet a search of the 2017 program book of the American Academy of Religion in Boston (admittedly a crude measure) elicits a mere three papers whose abstracts mention “plant,” “plants,” or “botany,” only one of which actually treats plants as the focus of the paper; while “animal,” “animals,” and “animality” yield twenty-some results, including three entire sessions.  If alienated Westerners are to experience the ecological conversion our planet so urgently needs, surely such conversion must include a reawakening also to the fundamental human religious and/or spiritual relationship with plants of all kinds: an essential step toward the truly immersive interspecies religious consciousness that a fully ecological vision both requires and makes possible.

For this issue of Religions, “Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relation,” we seek papers exploring one or more of the following foci:

  1. place-based religious engagement with the plants of a given bioregion – centered in the practices of a particular religious tradition and/or in indigenous ritual, medicinal, or relational engagement with particular plants of a place;
  2. practices of plant-centered religious bio-regionalism encompassing topics such as ethics (for instance, human population and/or land-use restrictions to make possible rewilding), political action, forms of interspecies community, biodiversity, hydrology, etc., as well as human food ecologies (agroforestry, permaculture, foraging, and the like);
  3. insights from plant philosophy, interspecies anthropology, contemporary botany and neurobotany (or other cross-disciplinary dialogue partners) that stretch received religious traditions and make possible new forms of religious insight;
  4. plant-based, plant-honoring, or plant-centered rituals or visions of human life or all life;
  5. the place of plant-centered work within the larger “posthuman” turn in critical theory and religious studies.

Those wishing to propose a contribution may submit an abstract, including title and thesis, by July 1st, 2018.  Should your abstract be accepted, final drafts will be due by December 1st for the process of peer review.

Prof. Dr. Lisa E. Dahill
Prof. Dr. Jacob J. Erickson
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charges (APCs) of 550 CHF (Swiss Francs) per published paper are partially funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched for a limited number of papers per year. Please contact the editorial office before submission to check whether KU waivers, or discounts are still available. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Plant studies
  • Environmental humanities
  • Ecotheology
  • Posthumanism
  • Dominion/Imago Dei

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Planting the Seeds of the Future: Eschatological Environmentalism in the Time of the Anthropocene
Religions 2019, 10(2), 125; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020125
Received: 2 December 2018 / Revised: 11 February 2019 / Accepted: 18 February 2019 / Published: 20 February 2019
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Abstract
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this essay examines how the local Jehovah’s Witnesses’ response to the current ecological crisis on the Galápagos Islands has produced a distinct form of religious environmentalism. Specifically, I argue that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ vision of the ultimate future informs [...] Read more.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this essay examines how the local Jehovah’s Witnesses’ response to the current ecological crisis on the Galápagos Islands has produced a distinct form of religious environmentalism. Specifically, I argue that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ vision of the ultimate future informs action rather than despair—contrary to what is often assumed about millenarian beliefs. This essay joins voices in Christian feminist and eco-theology interested in reclaiming eschatology for its imaginative valence. Yet, unlike invocations for hope that lack consideration of their viability, my ethnographic approach contributes to this literature with a view of the practical reverberations of eschatology. Further, current discussions about ecological unraveling, often couched around the concept of the Anthropocene, have reinforced expert-driven, techno-scientific measures that exclude other forms of knowledge production and practical interventions. If such worries continue to motivate a paradigm of conservation that exclude locals, my essay shows how the local Jehovah’s Witnesses promote a valuable alternative form of environmentalism, on the Galápagos and elsewhere. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
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Open AccessArticle John Muir and the Botanical Oversoul
Religions 2019, 10(2), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020092
Received: 10 December 2018 / Revised: 21 January 2019 / Accepted: 28 January 2019 / Published: 1 February 2019
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Abstract
The relation of influence between Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Muir helps to illuminate Muir’s characteristic brand of nature religion, namely his mysticism. This relation is especially clear, I argue, in both Emerson and Muir’s writing on their mystical affinities for plant life. [...] Read more.
The relation of influence between Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Muir helps to illuminate Muir’s characteristic brand of nature religion, namely his mysticism. This relation is especially clear, I argue, in both Emerson and Muir’s writing on their mystical affinities for plant life. Applying Harold Bloom’s renowned theory of literary influence, I draw lessons from Emerson and Muir’s mystical writings to highlight the ways in which Muir acquired from Emerson the plant-related vocabularies and practices that came to mediate his nature-inspired mysticism and also how Muir can be said to have surpassed Emerson’s own mystical example, thus opening new vistas of consciousness in human–plant relations in the nineteenth-century American religious experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
Open AccessArticle Without Why: Useless Plants in Daoism and Christianity
Religions 2019, 10(1), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010065
Received: 13 December 2018 / Revised: 18 January 2019 / Accepted: 18 January 2019 / Published: 20 January 2019
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Abstract
This article focuses on three examples of religious considerations of plants, with specific attention to the uselessness of plants. Drawing on Christian and Daoist sources, the examples include the following: (1) the lilies of the field described by Jesus in the Gospels of [...] Read more.
This article focuses on three examples of religious considerations of plants, with specific attention to the uselessness of plants. Drawing on Christian and Daoist sources, the examples include the following: (1) the lilies of the field described by Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke; (2) the useless tree of Zhuangzi; and (3) Martin Heidegger’s reading of a mystic poet influenced by Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius, for whom a rose blooms “without why,” which resonates with Heidegger’s deconstruction (Destruktion) of the history of metaphysics and his interpretation of uselessness in Zhuangzi. Each of those examples involves non-anthropocentric engagements with the uselessness of plants, which is not to say that they are completely free of the anthropocentrically scaled perspectives that assimilate uselessness into the logistics of agricultural societies. In contrast to ethical theories of the intrinsic value (biocentrism) or systemic value (ecocentrism) of plants, these Christian and Daoist perspectives converge with ecological deconstruction in suggesting that ethical encounters with plants emerge through attention to their uselessness. A viable response to planetary emergency can emerge with the radical passivity of effortless action, which is a careless care that finds solidarity with the carefree ways of plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
Open AccessArticle Popular Religion, Sacred Natural Sites, and “Marian Verdant Advocations” in Spain
Religions 2019, 10(1), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010046
Received: 29 November 2018 / Revised: 4 January 2019 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 11 January 2019
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Abstract
A relevant number of shrines, hermitages, monasteries, and pilgrimage routes in Spain are located within or near Natura 2000, a European network of protected core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types. Given the growing [...] Read more.
A relevant number of shrines, hermitages, monasteries, and pilgrimage routes in Spain are located within or near Natura 2000, a European network of protected core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types. Given the growing interest in alternative conservation strategies and the geographical correlation between nature preserves and Sacred Natural Sites (SNS), this paper explores how religious devotions have made preservation possible in Spain. By an extensive literature review and interviews with long-established custodians of nonurban Marian sanctuaries, it looks at the development of plant-related allegorical titles, the multiple meanings of “Marian verdant advocations”, and the role popular religion has played in connecting theological insights with particular elements of natural ecosystems helping value and preserve the Spanish biocultural heritage. We found that 420 Marian titles directly refer to plant species or vegetation types and many of the nonurban Marian sacred sites are placed in well-preserved natural areas, some of them playing a human-related added value for most emblematic National Parks, like the sanctuaries of El Rocío (Doñana NP) and Covadonga (Picos de Europa NP). We conclude that there is a strong relationship between popular religion, Marian verdant titles, and nature conservation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
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Open AccessArticle The (Processed) Vegetal Body and Blood of the Markan Messiah
Religions 2019, 10(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010001
Received: 1 December 2018 / Revised: 15 December 2018 / Accepted: 17 December 2018 / Published: 20 December 2018
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Abstract
Although the Eucharist is attested four times (Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:15–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26) in the New Testament, only two (Luke and 1 Corinthians) out of the four instances bespeak of commemorating this event (“Do this in remembrance of me”). Limiting [...] Read more.
Although the Eucharist is attested four times (Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:15–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26) in the New Testament, only two (Luke and 1 Corinthians) out of the four instances bespeak of commemorating this event (“Do this in remembrance of me”). Limiting the discussion to Mark’s iteration of this event, Mark’s version does not command to remember; rather he focuses on the ontological (“This is my body/blood”). This paper follows Stephen D. Moore’s vegetal reading of the Johannine Jesus (Gospel Jesuses and Other Nonhumans) that invites and acknowledges the animacy of the vegetal in affectively re-engaging the identity of the messiah. That is, (processed) plants/food are not there just to be symbolically equated with the body and blood of the messiah. They re-animate and re-define the nature of messiahship. This paper utilizes Jane Bennett’s vital materialism, Bruno Latour’s actants, and Michael Marder’s vegetality in arguing that Mark vegetally reconfigures the ontology of the messiah in the Eucharist/Last Supper scene (14:22–25). Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblage will assist in elaborating how the vegetal could dismantle anthropocentric understanding of ontology. By doing so, this paper opens up the possibility to reimagine a messiah who finds his identity with the vegetal or those that are considered dispensable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
Open AccessArticle Saint Hildegard’s Vegetal Psycho-Physio-Theology
Religions 2018, 9(11), 353; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110353
Received: 17 October 2018 / Revised: 2 November 2018 / Accepted: 6 November 2018 / Published: 13 November 2018
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Abstract
Besides a series of psycho-physiological correspondences between parts of the soul and physical processes, one finds in Hildegard’s corpus an entire hagiography and a theography mapped onto parts of plants in a sort of spiritual botany. The analogies mixed together with the non-analogical [...] Read more.
Besides a series of psycho-physiological correspondences between parts of the soul and physical processes, one finds in Hildegard’s corpus an entire hagiography and a theography mapped onto parts of plants in a sort of spiritual botany. The analogies mixed together with the non-analogical emanations of viriditas are complex, insofar as they involve particular species of plants or plant organs, psychic faculties, and chief actors in the Judeo-Christian theological drama. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
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