I put theological and philosophical ideas in conversation with other work in the environmental humanities, in order to investigate and explore the way that humans have tried to make sense of our relationships with more than human worlds. I do this in order to critique the way that certain dominant political theologies have shaped habits and forms of thought, in both religious and secular contexts, in the modern west. These habits and forms of thought have enabled and facilitated the exploitation of both human and more than human worlds. In order to cope with the grief, anger, and anxiety that surge up in the wake of this exploitation, I also seek to mine this ancient tradition for intellectual and spiritual resources that might be repurposed for a different kind of future.
My current book project, Sister Death: Political Theology in an Age of Extinctions argues that death—in the form of mass extinction events in the more than human world, the plundering of what was once the commons, as racism, as pandemic—seems to dominate our social, political, and natural environment. To live in the face of all this death is to inhabit, at least affectively, an age of extinctions. But, as Sister Death argues, so much of the way that Americans—especially white Americans—have come to understand the nature of death has been shaped by a problematic political theology. Christian thought has crafted a view of death as the enemy of a deity who produces and safeguards eternal life. At turns beloved and despised, death is is collapsed into a dimension of the negative where it serves as a receptacle for phenomena that is foreclosed and abjected. This is a view of death that is animated by and oriented towards a destruction that serves to make death alien and strange.
Borrowing the figure of Sister Death from Francis of Assisi, this book is a critique of the political theology of death that describes the life and death relation as one of pure enmity. Sister Death draws inspiration from the ecological wisdom of processes of decay, feminist critiques of the ancient philosophical fear of (and fascination with) mortality, and the work of Black thinkers who have critiqued the limits of white theologies of death. At the crossroads of this chorus of perspectives, Sister Death illuminates a vision of the sisterhood of what Jacques Derrida called lifedeath—a relation of mutual vulnerability, accountability, and a support that is not without antagonism. What emerges is a political theology that encourages those of us who’ve inherited this ancient and destructive political theology of death, produced by Christian orthodoxies, to support and vitalize other models for living and dying in this age of extinctions.