Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Synopsis

A turn to the animal is underway in the humanities, most obviously in such fields as philosophy, literary studies, cultural studies, and religious studies. One important catalyst for this development has been the remarkable body of animal theory issuing from such thinkers as Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway. What might the resulting interdisciplinary field, commonly termed animality studies, mean for theology, biblical studies, and other cognate disciplines? Is it possible to move from animal theory to creaturely theology?

This volume is the first full-length attempt to grapple centrally with these questions. It attempts to triangulate philosophical and theoretical reflections on animality and humanity with theological reflections on divinity. If the animal human distinction is being rethought and retheorized as never before, then the animal human divine distinctions need to be rethought, retheorized, and retheologized along with it. This is the task that the multidisciplinary team of theologians, biblical scholars, philosophers, and historians assembled in this volume collectively undertakes. They do so frequently with recourse to Derrida's animal philosophy and also with recourse to an eclectic range of other relevant thinkers, such as Haraway, Giorgio Agamben, Emmanuel Levinas, Gloria Anzaldua, Helene Cixous, A. N. Whitehead, and Lynn White Jr.

The result is a volume that will be essential reading for religious studies audiences interested in ecological issues, animality studies, and posthumanism, as well as for animality studies audiences interested in how constructions of the divine have informed constructions of the nonhuman animal through history.

Excerpt

The present volume, which resulted from the eleventh Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium held at Drew Theological School in 2011, was anticipated by Ecospirit, which resulted from the fifth Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium held at Drew Theological School in 2005. The specter of Jacques Derrida’s cat Lutece hovered around the edges of the earlier colloquium that focused on conversations emerging in the field of religion and ecology, as did the feline peeking around the human face in Jan Harrison’s painting that graced the cover of Ecospirit. Other-than-human animals were always present in our discussions.

The present volume’s engagement with Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am is a significant contribution to the challenge to Cartesian philosophy and Western theology. But this volume goes far beyond the discussion of Derrida. It includes wide-ranging contributions to animal studies, animality studies, the study of religion and animals, anthrozoology, and the myriad other names for the emerging transdisciplinary conversations about humans and other animals. It takes heed of Derrida’s critique of philosophy for speaking of “‘the animal’ as of a single set that can be opposed to ‘us,’ ‘humans,’ subjects” in its engagement with the breadth of what animal means, from microbes to magpies. Recognizing that humans are animals does not deny differences throughout the spectrum of animality. Some of the contributors also take heed of what Donna Haraway observed—that on the cusp of this moment of new awareness, Derrida “failed a simple obligation of companion species: he did not become curious about what the cat might actually be doing, feeling, thinking, or . . .

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