This lecture argues that the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) sets up a support system for a “logic of domination” toward human and earth others. Conceptually inspired by the work of theologian Catherine Keller and feminist philosopher of the environment Val Plumwood, this lecture argues that the concept of creation out of nothing materializes in the world throughout different periods in the history of the Christian West: From the emergence of the concept of ex nihilo creation in the 3rd century CE and Christianity’s adoption by Constantine, to the “logic of discovery” in the writings of Christopher Columbus and John Locke’s understanding of the mind as tabula rasa and private property, and finally to the metaphorical connections between ex nihilo and the concept of terra nullius (empty lands), which was used to take over Aboriginal lands in Australia.
Dr. Bauman argues that the foundationalism found in ex nihilo has supported a colonizing epistemology and that post-foundationalist thinking (such as found in Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour) can help to re-construct Christian understanding of creation that recognizes human and earth others. In dialogue with emergence theory, Gayatri Spivak’s notion of “planetarity,” and Anne Primavesi’s concept of “gift,” he offers a constructive reworking of creatio continua (continuing creation) that is postfoundational and post-colonial. From this perspective, theology and the natural sciences become less about metaphysics and more about ethics and politics, and epistemology becomes dialogical, opening us onto the continuous process of planetary becoming.
Whitney Bauman is currently the Research Associate for the Forum on Religion and Ecology (http://environment.harvard.edu/religion/main.html). He is the Book Review Editor for Worldviews: Environment, Culture, and Religion and serves on the Steering Committee for the AAR's Religion and Ecology Group. He completed his dissertation, "From Creatio ex Nihilo to Terra Nullius: The Colonial Mind and the Colonization of Creation" in May of 2007.
Free and open to public.
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