Encountering Earth

Encountering Earth: Thinking Theologically with a More-Than-Human World, invites scholars with varying theological, philosophical, and ethical perspectives to address how personal, autobiographical encounters with the planet and its more-than-human inhabitants provide a foundation for shaping their theological understanding of Earth.

One day, Matthew Eaton was walking through an impromptu animal shelter display at his local pet store when suddenly an eight month old kitten dug his claws into Eaton’s flesh. Eaton recognized that the, “eyes of this cat and the curve of his claw,” compelled a response analogous to those found in the writings of Buber, Levinas, and Derrida. And not just Eaton but a whole community of theologians have found themselves in an encounter with particular places and animals that demands rich theological reflection. Eaton enlisted fellow editors Harvie and Bechtel to collect the essays in this volume in which theologians listen to horses, rats, snakes, cats, dogs, and the earth itself who become new theological voices demanding a response. In this volume, the voice of the more-than-human world is heard as making theology possible. These essays suggest that what we say theologically represents not simply ideas of our own making subsequently superimposed onto the natural world through our own discovery but rather are the results of this encounter.

Encountering Earth: Thinking Theologically with a More-Than-Human World, invites scholars with varying theological, philosophical, and ethical perspectives to address how personal, autobiographical encounters with the planet and its more-than-human inhabitants provide a foundation for shaping their theological understanding of Earth. The essays within this collected volume construct theologies of a more-than-human world based on the affective encounters emerging between human theologians and their non-human neighbours. In this work, such encounters are understood as dialogical connections between human and more-than-human subjects, rather than as one-way interpretive events where humans comment on the passive existence of non-human objects. In this volume, non-human bodies are understood as dynamic, active subjects rather than a collection of passive objects. Crucial to this project is the breadth and depth by which we understand such subjectivity, which we understand simply as the relational capacities of all things.

Following this assumption, Encountering Earth unfolds through four major sections, each using various human relationships with Earth and its varied inhabitants to form its theological optics. Together, these sections highlight the infinite potential for emergent human/more-than-human encounters to shape theological thought. These essays are divided into the following sections: 1. Family and Home;  2. Farm and Lab;  3. Wilderness and Wild;  4. Cosmos and Earth.  This organizational scheme is geographical; the unfolding directionality of the work is meant to guide the reader through the types of encounters the human might have with Earth, and the potential spaces in which such encounters might occur. The book moves from the intimate relationships of the more-than-human-home with its companion animals, to encounters with life of various animal and non-animal forms in both domestic and wild spaces, and finally to encounters with the non-living, yet still subjective dynamics of Earth itself.

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