Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 392
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    Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology
    Book Description:

    A turn to the animal is underway in the humanities, most obviously in such fields as philosophy, literary studies, cultural studies, and religious studies. One important catalyst for this development has been the remarkable body of animal theory issuing from such thinkers as Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway. What might the resulting interdisciplinary field, commonly termed animality studies, mean for theology, biblical studies, and other cognate disciplines? Is it possible to move from animal theory to creaturely theology? This volume is the first full-length attempt to grapple centrally with these questions. It attempts to triangulate philosophical and theoretical reflections on animality and humanity with theological reflections on divinity. If the animal human distinction is being rethought and retheorized as never before, then the animal human divine distinctions need to be rethought, retheorized, and retheologized along with it. This is the task that the multidisciplinary team of theologians, biblical scholars, philosophers, and historians assembled in this volume collectively undertakes. They do so frequently with recourse to Derrida's animal philosophy and also with recourse to an eclectic range of other relevant thinkers, such as Haraway, Giorgio Agamben, Emmanuel Levinas, Gloria Anzaldua, Helene Cixous, A. N. Whitehead, and Lynn White Jr. The result is a volume that will be essential reading for religious studies audiences interested in ecological issues, animality studies, and posthumanism, as well as for animality studies audiences interested in how constructions of the divine have informed constructions of the nonhuman animal through history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6323-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Laurel Kearns

    The present volume, which resulted from the eleventh Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium held at Drew Theological School in 2011, was anticipated byEcospirit, which resulted from the fifth Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium held at Drew Theological School in 2005.¹ The specter of Jacques Derrida’s cat Lutece hovered around the edges of the earlier colloquium that focused on conversations emerging in the field of religion and ecology, as did the feline peeking around the human face in Jan Harrison’s painting that graced the cover ofEcospirit. Other-than-human animals were always present in our discussions.

    The present volume’s engagement with Derrida’sThe Animal That...

    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Introduction: From Animal Theory to Creaturely Theology
    (pp. 1-16)

    Transfixed by multiple animal eyes: This was the condition in which the participants in the colloquium of which this collection is the product found themselves. Those absent eyes were made piercingly present in the luminous animal paintings of Jan Harrison that ringed the proceedings—eyes more and other than human eyes, eyes demanding a justice more and other than that which human law provides.

    A “turn to the animal” has been under way in the humanities for more than a decade, most evidently in philosophy, literary studies, cultural studies, and the fertile interstitial spaces between these and other contiguous fields....

  6. Animals, before Me, with Whom I Live, by Whom I Am Addressed: Writing after Derrida
    (pp. 17-35)

    In the opening essay ofThe Animal That Therefore I Am, Jacques Derrida reverses the usually assumed order between humans and animals—assumed, that is, within European and American cultures, in a long line of Western philosophical, ethical, and theological discourses. Humans have been taken to come first in rank of value, ethical worth, and ethical behavior and first in reflecting more purely the divine and holding the first level in Being of earthly beings. Derrida tries to imagine beyond these discourses how we are actually linked with varied animals and declares that in almost all respects we “follow after”...

  7. The Dogs of Exodus and the Question of the Animal
    (pp. 36-50)

    How might we reread biblical texts in the light of what Jacques Derrida calls “the question of the animal”? “The question of the animal” is not a single question, and those who approach it do so from many points of view. Derrida’s particular exploration of the question, however, focuses on the ways in which a tradition of philosophical thought has defined “the human” partly by contrasting it with, and excluding, something else called “the animal.”¹

    It has, of course, become common within contemporary critical theory to criticize homogenous representations of “the human.” Once the attempt to describe the properly human...

  8. Devouring the Human: Digestion of a Corporeal Soteriology
    (pp. 51-62)

    Traditional wisdom holds that the categoryhumancomes with the privilege of an untouchable corporeality: We are, it is often quipped, at the top of the food chain. And yet the termfood chainitself represents a kind of scientific misnomer: All organisms, including humans, return to the earth through the mouths and stomachs of insects, bacteria, and sometimes larger predators who find us a rather easy meal. Acknowledging that humans are a consumable product, I contend, is not just a point of ecological correctness: Recognizing our fleshy vulnerability may be vital to creating an opening for the divine. The...

  9. The Microbes and Pneuma That Therefore I Am
    (pp. 63-87)

    Juliana Spahr’s poem mimics the pulsation of breathing. She begins small: “Everyone with lungs breathes the space in and out as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands in and out,”¹ progressively extending this pneumatic interaction to a room, building, neighborhood, city, region, nation, continents, islands, oceans, troposphere, stratosphere, and finally mesosphere. From the all-encompassing mesospheric interconnection, Spahr reverses direction back to the hands to conclude the poem with the excerpt of the epigraph above. Here, she introduces a tragic dimension of breathing—the blasted bits from the twin towers inhaled by survivors, rescuers, and city residents²—closing...

  10. The Apophatic Animal: Toward a Negative Zootheological Imago Dei
    (pp. 88-99)

    Jacques Derrida mentions the phrase so quickly—so dismissively—in the introductory essay toThe Animal That Therefore I Am,that one might be sorely tempted to just keep following the essay along its creaturely path. In registering his vulnerable relation to a now infamous cat, Derrida interjects that he is not, even while it “seems” so obviously the case, “dedicating a negative zootheology” to the beloved feline.¹ Although that may not be the case, I, for one, would like to know who in fact would have assumed Derrida was doing “negative zootheology” in the first place.

    But the phrase...

  11. The Divinanimality of Lord Sequoia
    (pp. 100-115)

    In his characteristically ebullient and whimsical style John Muir describes to his Wisconsin friend and supporter a profound conversion. His language may be exuberant and lighthearted, but it is, to be sure, a fervent transformation to Lord Sequoia. Muir’s reality has been transfigured—even to his experience of time and space. Although the “juiceless” world would say this letter was written in the latter half of the nineteenth century in what has (through Muir’s work) become Yosemite National Park, in his juicy Sequoical world Muir writes from “Squirrelville” of “Sequoia County” in “Nut Time.”¹ Here the world, especially the other-than-human...

  12. Animal Calls
    (pp. 116-133)

    In his lecture “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow),” Jacques Derrida makes the vital move of questioning the rigid boundary between humans and (other) animals, which, in the predominantly phallogocentric philosophical traditions of the West, has been intimately tied to the question of language:

    Animalis a word that men have given themselves the right to give. These humans have been found giving it to themselves, this word, but as if they have received it as an inheritance. They have given themselves the word in order to corral a large number of living beings within a single...

  13. Little Bird in My Praying Hands: Rainer Maria Rilke and God’s Animal Body
    (pp. 134-145)

    That life might be especially difficult for that creaky old creature called God is not a new idea:If God lived on earth, people would break his windows,the old Yiddish proverb muses. But the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke illuminates another order of a god’s vulnerability. In a little book of tales that’s been translated into English asStories of God,Rilke fabulates a god who is not only vulnerable to the cruel judgments of human beings but is also so divided against himself he nearly self-destructs. He almost lets himself die. He is an immortal who is vulnerable...

  14. The Logos of God and the End of Humanity: Giorgio Agamben and the Gospel of John on Animality as Light and Life
    (pp. 146-160)

    The Gospel of John begins with aLogos,a Word sounding out the earliest origins of creation and measuring up even to God. After asserting that everything in existence resonates with echoes of the Logos, having come into being through it, John narrows his view and writes that this Logos islife(zōē) , and that this life is the light of human beings (anthrōpōn). Human life (zōē) radiates as light from the Logos of God. But John’s text is not all light and life. John quickly modulates into a minor key and writes of a darkness that refuses the...

  15. Anzaldúa’s Animal Abyss: Mestizaje and the Late Ancient Imagination
    (pp. 161-181)

    What does Gloria Anzaldúa, the Chicana lesbian poet, thinker, and borderland theorist, have to do with posthuman animality studies?¹ And what could she offer to a collection of essays that ventures to triangulate reflections on the human and the animal with reflections on the divine? Cursory glances through recent publications in posthuman animality studies reveal nothing to indicate a marriage between Chicana/o or borderland thought and the proliferation of discourses centered on the animal. Yet as will become clear, we find in Anzaldúa important methodological tools for rethinking the dualistic terms of oppression, particularly in this case, of the human/animal...

  16. Daniel’s Animal Apocalypse
    (pp. 182-195)

    Most will start at the beginning—with words, naked or otherwise, created and creating, a primordial shower, the blink of a cat.¹ Most will start at the beginning. We begin at the end—finitude, death, the cessation of time and history. We will be “starting from death,” because that is the necessary condition of all that follows. As Jacques Derrida writes on his very last page, “That is why death is also such an important demarcation line; it is starting from mortality and from the possibility of being dead that one can let things be such as they are, in...

  17. Ecotherology
    (pp. 196-209)

    Midway through the first of the thirteen weekly course lectures from the year 2001–2 that make up the first volume ofThe Beast and the Sovereign,Jacques Derrida alludes to “all the beasts from John’s Revelation, . . . the reading of which would merit more than one seminar.”¹ Whether all or any of these beasts receive even one seminar of the fourteen thousand pages of unpublished seminars that Derrida left behind at his death in 2004, I am not in a position to know.² Taking a back-row seat in Derrida’s weekly seminar, I attempt in this essay to...

  18. And Say the Animal Really Responded: Speaking Animals in the History of Christianity
    (pp. 210-222)

    In her thoughtful critique of Jacques Derrida’s lecture series on the question of the animal, Donna Haraway points out something that was “oddly missing.” Although Derrida understood that his cat was “a real cat, truly, believe me, a little cat. It isn’t the figure of a cat” and that he was in the “presence of someone, not of a machine reacting,” he still, in the long run, missed his own point. As Haraway explains, there is a weakness in Derrida’s philosophical ponderings on this real cat:

    He came right to the edge of respect, of the move torespecere, but...

  19. So Many Faces: God, Humans, and Animals
    (pp. 223-240)

    In this essay we give a brief summary of the promise offered by and the problems faced by continental philosophy and process philosophy for addressing animal ontology and animal welfare, and then we turn to a constructive proposal that draws on these two traditions. First, we look at two key obstacles that can be understood as challenges to continental philosophy’s ability to address animal welfare. Then, after considering some possible implications of process thought, we identify six key ideas that, in our view, can serve as springboards for sensitivity to animal alterity and the development of a life-centered ethic built...

  20. A Spiritual Democracy of All God’s Creatures: Ecotheology and the Animals of Lynn White Jr.
    (pp. 241-260)

    This quote reveals a Lynn Townsend White, jr.,¹ that few know. Since its original publication in 1967, White’s “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis”² has been a source of continuous debate and controversy in the field of religion and ecology. Hundreds of books and articles, many of them by ecotheologians, have been written as a direct response to it.³ Whether familiar with White’s article or not, many have absorbed his now highly debated and frequently misunderstood thesis that “Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt” for the ecological crisis.⁴ The field of ecotheology, especially in its earliest stages, largely...

  21. Epilogue. Animals and Animality: Reflections on the Art of Jan Harrison
    (pp. 261-276)

    All life is animated. Each and every living being—from the smallest of microbes to the largest of mammals—carries a desire for satisfaction relative to the situation at hand. This desire is his or her “spirituality” and also his or her “animality.” Spirituality and animality are not two.

    Animality, then, is what links us with our closest biological and spiritual kin: the other-than-human animals. It links us with an Animality at the heart of the universe, whom some address as “God” and others as “the Soul of the Universe” and still others as “the Tilting toward Love.” All of...

  22. NOTES
    (pp. 277-350)
  23. List of Contributors
    (pp. 351-356)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 357-368)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 369-370)