Planetary health in the anthropocene : sharing agency in the body of God

Greyvenstein, Juanita (2018-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The earth, more-than-human communities, and many marginalised human communities are currently suffering because of the immense strain industrialised societies place on the earth’s life-support systems. Climate change is but one of the symptoms of a planet in peril. A number of earth-system processes are functioning in high risk zones and being fundamentally altered by the impact of society. To signal the changes observed by many scientists in the functioning of the earth, this epoch has been named the Anthropocene. This term is however more than a scientific designation, it disrupts our understanding of the presuppositions on which we have built both environmental and humanistic sciences and it specifically challenges their absolute separation. The Anthropocene as term itself is, however, controversial because it is not without cultural and gender bias. For theology to take up its public and prophetic role, it is necessary to engage with the wide range of disciplines that are defining, characterising and critiquing the Anthropocene. This study engages these disciplines through a specific methodology – through an eco-feminist critique. It shows how an androcentric bias has informed both scientific and religious understandings of the world – leading to a perception of the more-than-human world as inert, mechanic, fully knowable and primarily a human resource. This study suggests that an organic and agentic cosmology – as e.g. defined by Sally McFague in her model of the universe as the body of God, provides a more appropriate religious cosmology that takes the natural sciences and specifically an evolutionary cosmology seriously. I argue that this religious cosmology may offer a framework for ethical reorientation in the time of the Anthropocene. McFague’s theology gives fundamental value to embodied existence. It is through the matter of our bodies that we experience life and do theology. In this perspective it is also through our bodies that we share in the body of God, who is “transcendently immanent” through the physical processes of the universe. The doctrine of incarnation is both complexified and radicalised to apply to all fleshly bodies. To further understand how entities relate to one another in McFague’s model of the universe as the body of God, her conceptualisation of agency is explored. Masculinist formulations of agency as autonomous efficacy are shown to have cost the bodies of women and the earth dearly. To think more democratically and organically about being agentic beings, Bruno Latour’s argument of “sharing agency” is explored. When we realign human history with the common creation story we begin to see that humans are not the only actors in this world. An agential view of all matter allows us to articulate new orientations between the call for humans to be heroic earth stewards and the call to return to “wild untouched nature.” Sharing agency brings us to the humble acknowledgement that we are not the sole authors of bodily life but that our bodies are intertwined and implicated by the lives of other more-than-human bodies and the body of God.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die aarde, meer-as menslike gemeenskappe, asook talle menslike gemeenskappe ly vandag as gevolg van die geweldige impak van geïndustrialiseerde samelewings op ons aarde se lewensonderhoudende sisteme. Klimaatsverandering is maar een van die simptome van ‘n siek planeet. ‘n Aantal aard-sisteem prosesse is reeds fundamenteel in hulle funksionering ontwrig en verander deur die impak van die Westerse samelewing. Wetenskaplikes het besluit om die waarneming van talle groot veranderinge in ons aard-sisteem aan te dui deur die herbenoeming van ons epog – die Anthropocene. Hierdie term is egter meer as bloot ‘n wetenskaplike klassifikasie. Die Anthropocene narratief ontwrig die voorveronderstellings waarop ons beide die moderne natuur- en menswetenskappe gebou het, en dit daag veral die absolute skeiding van hierdie velde uit. Hierdie term self is egter ook kontroversieel omdat dit nie sonder kulturele en gender vooroordele daargestel is nie. Indien die teologie haar publieke en profetiese rol vandag wil opneem, is dit noodsaaklik dat sy al die dissiplines wat betrokke is by die definiëring, karakterisering en beoordeling van die Anthropocene in haar nadenke sal betrek. Hierdie studie betrek hierdie dissiplines deur ‘n spesifieke metodologie – deur ‘n eko-feministiese kritiek. Die studie toon aan hoe androsentriese vooroordele beide wetenskaplike en godsdienstige kosmologieë beïnvloed het, en bygedra het tot ‘n persepsie van die natuur as ‘n nie-lewende, meganiese en ten volle kenbare en manipuleerbare terrein. Hierdie studie argumenteer dat ‘n organiese en agentiese kosmologie - soos bv. gedefinieer in Sally McFague se model van die heelal as die liggaam van God - ‘n meer geskikte godsdienstige kosmologie voorstel. Hierdie model maak erns met die natuurwetenskappe en met name ‘n evolusionêre kosmologie. Ek argumenteer dat hierdie kosmologie ‘n toepaslike raamwerk vir etiese heroriëntasie in die Anthropocene lewer. McFague se teologie skryf fundamentele waarde aan beliggaamde ervaring toe. Dit is deur die materie van ons liggame wat ons die lewe ervaar en teologie doen. Binne hierdie perspektief, deel ons ook deur ‘n materiële bestaan in die liggaam van God, wat “transendent immanent” in die fisiese prosesse van die heelal teenwoordig is. Die lering van die inkarnasie word hier gekompliseer en geradikaliseer om op alle vleeslike liggame van toepassing te wees. Om vervolgens die verhouding tussen verskillende entiteite binne die model van die heelal as die liggaam van God verder te verken, word McFague se verstaan van agentskap geanaliseer. Daar word geargumenteer dat ‘n maskulinistiese verstaan van agentskap as outonome effektiwiteit ‘n betreurenswaardige invloed op die liggame van vroue en die aarde gehad het. Om meer demokraties en organies oor agentskap te reflekteer word Bruno Latour se voorstel aangaande die “deel van agentskap” verken. Wanneer ons die menslike geskiedenis in lyn bring met ons gemeenskaplike skeppingsverhaal, besef ons gou dat die mens nie die enigste akteur in die geskiedenis is nie. Deur materiële agentskap te erken, kan ons nuwe oriëntasies tussen die mensdom en die meer-as-menslike wêreld artikuleer. Spesifiek mag dit ons help om die spanning tussen oproepe tot heroïese rentmeesterskap en ‘n terugkeer na ‘n wilde, ongeskonde natuur te oorbrug. Om agentskap te deel bring ons by die nederige erkenning dat die mens nie die enigste outeur van liggaamlike lewe is nie, maar dat ons liggame onherroeplik vervleg is met die liggame van die meer-as-menslike wêreld en saam deel vorm van die liggaam van God.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103527
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