After Earth? Religion and Technology on a Changing Planet
2023 ISSRNC Conference | Call for Papers
February 2-5, 2023 @ Arizona State University and Beyond
Human-induced changes to the Earth system are happening at an unprecedented rate. At the same time that human activity is disrupting the climate, igniting mega-fires, depleting natural resources, and triggering mass extinctions, we are witnessing renewed interest in space exploration and extra-bodily aspirations. Religion and spirituality, in myriad forms, are present in calls to restore nature and respect natural limits, as well as in excitement about transgressing traditional earthly boundaries and creating new futures. Pressing global-scale environmental and social problems are increasingly met with technological responses that can foster greater intimacy and entanglement with nature, but also detachment from nature and material processes.
Hyperconnectivity and alienation simultaneously define our social lives and interactions with nature. Can the same technologies that potentially enable humans to decouple from Earth be deployed to save it? Can emerging technologies be a vehicle for positive change or religious transformation? How, if at all, do techno-solutions address the underlying cultural, social, and religious causes of global crises? Do emerging technologies fundamentally alter the human-nature relationship, or are they merely the latest version of longstanding religious or secular-scientific interpretations of the human? Is there an implied theological anthropology embedded in techno-social and techno-environmental projects? How do technologies at the horizons of planetary limits—from space exploration to renewable energy—intersect with matters of race, gender, and justice? Does a global-scale response to these interconnected, escalating crises demand a shared, common vision of the human?
We welcome proposals from scholars across the arts and humanities, sciences and social sciences, inviting all researchers broadly engaged with the nexus of religion, nature, and culture. The conference theme of “Religion and Technology on a Changing Planet” is a direct invitation to those scholars working on the following:
- Religious and spiritual aspects of emerging technologies, including rewilding, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, space exploration, etc.;
- Theological and ethical critiques of emerging technologies including climate engineering, de-extinction, synthetic biology, space exploration (e.g. settlement, empire, extraction, colonization, terraforming);
- Inquiries into the intersection of religion, gender, sexuality, and embodiment with the construction of scientific and technological forms of knowledge;
- Religious and spiritual dimensions of planetary models (Gaia, Earth System Science, Spaceship Earth, cybernetics, animism, autopoiesis and ecopoiesis);
- Compatibility or conflict of emerging technologies with environmental justice, Indigenous rights and perspectives, religious/ethical perspectives on animals or nature;
- Engagement of religious and spiritual groups with post-truth technologies (social media, misinformation, science denial, conspiracy);
- Futurevisions and worldmaking, religion in/and/of science fiction, dystopia, utopia, apocalypticism, Afro-futurism, Afro-pessimism, religion and ethics in promised, unrealized, and emerging human and non-human futures;
- Machine intelligence, AI, and transhumanism; sapient technologies, techno-transcendence, religious, spiritual and ethical dimensions of human augmentation and organic-synthetic fusions, technologically facilitated spiritual experiences; cybernetics, disability, queerness;
- Intersections of religion and spirituality with extractivism, disposability, necropolitics, and ‘throw-away culture’; the theology and ethics of energy transition; climate change belief and denial in a digitally mediated political economy;
- We also invite reflection on theory and method in the study of religion and the environment; barriers to interdisciplinary inquiry; and/or discussion of methods and practices for engaging across disciplines.