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)
Prof. Dr. Lisa E. Dahill
California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, USA
Interests: Rewilding Christian spirituality and sacraments; Eco-Reformation; outdoor prayer practices; interspecies relationships; and the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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:
- 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;
- 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);
- 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;
- plant-based, plant-honoring, or plant-centered rituals or visions of human life or all life;
- 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
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.
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- Plant studies
- Environmental humanities
- Dominion/Imago Dei