Three Themes

Sacred Cosmologies, Environmental Change, and Expressive Culture

The environmental crisis cannot easily be disentangled from the religious perspectives on the meaning and value of the natural world. One way to understand these perspectives is through the lens of cosmology, a term that encompasses interrelationships between humans, other-than-humans, ecological systems and even the universe or cosmos itself. Expressive culture provides an essential link between sacred cosmologies and contemporary life. This theme explores the links between sacred cosmologies, expressive cultures, and contemporary environmental action. Read more.

Ritual Natures: Expressive Culture and the Natural Forms of Trees, Water, and Rocks

The natural forms of trees, rocks, and water have long been central to ritual practices across a wide range of religious traditions. Found in situ and transported far and wide, the tactile substances of wood, stone and liquid – among other natural forms – organize individual and social religious practices and expressive culture, even while they also exist as resources central to everyday subsistence. This theme considers how natural forms are described, praised, and given sacred and ecological meaning in and through expressive culture, including music, ritual, liturgy, theater, dance, literature, and the visual arts, among other media. Read more.

Extraction and Disposal in Expressive Culture

The extraction of natural goods is a key moment in the human relationship to the more-than-human world. The same can be said of its inverse, disposal. Both extraction and disposal are socially contested sites. The environmental justice movement grew out of opposition of black and brown communities to unjust and racist practices of disposal in which landfills and other toxic dumping sites were located overwhelmingly in and near these communities. Indigenous communities have been especially prominent leaders in protest movements against extraction, most notably in the form of oil and gas pipelines. These important movements invite further study as moments of expressive culture imaging and enacting alternatives to present practices of extraction and disposal – and thereby making visible the violence and toxicity funded by capitalist, colonial, and racist power structures. This theme explores how expressive cultures, including protests, engage extraction and disposal in order to understand, criticize, and reimagine ways of life. Read more.

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