Call for Proposals

Extended deadline for abstract submissions: March 1, 2016
Notification emailed by: April 1, 2016
Registration deadline: all presenters will be expected to register for the conference by May 1, 2016.
Conference start date: Monday, June 20, 2016
Proposal submission guidelines

Established in 2013, the Indiana University Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society (CSRES) is an interdisciplinary association of scholars, academic programs, and research centers from the eight campuses of Indiana University. Our mandate is to aid in the development of research and scholarship to better understand religion, ethics, values, and spirituality in society and to promote collaboration among constituents at IU and beyond. CSRES utilizes and builds upon IU’s extensive strengths in religion and ethics to advance research in key themes.

This Call for Paper Proposals for “Wonder and the Natural World” is the second phase of a two-year thematic initiative sponsored by CSRES. The first phase was open to faculty at all IU campuses and culminated in a daylong symposium in May 2015. The current call for proposals is open to national/international scholars from a variety of disciplines.

Conference Theme: Aristotle famously observed that philosophy originates in wonder. Descartes considered wonder the first of all the passions, a “sudden surprise of the soul” that moves the mind toward understanding and away from ignorance. Others have considered wonder a defective state, a stunned response that impedes rather than facilitates the acquisition of knowledge.   Wonder is the province of the wide-eyed child in the woods, and the wild-eyed scientist in the lab. Scientific wonder beckons us into mystery but may also banish the mysterious and drain away its power.  Its virtuous dimensions are said to shade into generosity, humility, and compassion, while its shadow side suggests the lure of unwholesome enchantments and hubristic trespass into forbidden knowledge.  Wonder can engender moral caution and respect for otherness—what R.W. Hepburn calls the “concern not to blunder into a damaging manipulation of another”—but it may also foster the will to mastery and domination. Wonder has also played an important role in the environmental movement since its inception and it remains central to discourse about the planetary future.

Wonder has been framed as a key moral disposition, as well as an aesthetic, emotional, or cognitive response; depending on its objects and orientation, it may display both salutary and sinister dimensions. Wonder at nature (broadly construed) is prompted by the odd and uncanny, the strange and novel, the transcendent and sublime, as well as encounters with the monstrous and horrific. It has variously been associated with, or dissociated from, curiosity, awe, intimations of divinity, infinity, the sublime, the miraculous or supernatural, feelings of astonishment and puzzlement.

The many facets of wonder in relation to nature will be addressed by conference participants, including plenary and keynote speakers. We also welcome paper and panel proposals that explore wonder or its cognate terms in relation to (but not limited to) the following prompts:

  • multi-faith perspectives on nature and greening religion; contested meanings of nature and the divine; secular reenchantment and religious naturalism; natural patterning, design, regularity; natural and divine law; natural theology
  • global or planetary ethics; shared environmental response/ethics; Anthropocene discourse, eco-cosmopolitanism, future ethics; ethical unity or pluralism, solidarity, universality
  • deep time perspectives and scale; aesthetic, affective, phenomenological connection to deep time and evolution; cosmology and ethics; religious/ethical dimensions or implications of spatial and temporal scale; diversity, death, extinction, de-extinction; human origins
  • political power and charisma in relation to environmental mobilization; environmental/ social justice and activism; regulation of and political/legal constraints on the wondrous
  • ethics of alterity, identity, subjectivity; wonder in relation to difference and othering; naturalizing and de-naturalizing others; precarity and vulnerability; gender, sexuality, disability, race
  • mythmaking and metaphor; nature and narrative; science and poetics; storytelling and meaning-making; responsible creation and use of metaphor
  • scientific and religious awe; wonder as source of conflict or connection between scientific and religious discourse/experience; mystery and magic; reductionism, holism, emergence; certainty, ambiguity, and belief in religion and science
  • the apocalyptic imagination; environmental catastrophe, natural disaster, natural evil, theodicy; war and nature; shock and awe
  • children and nature; children’s nature spirituality, experiences, or nature-study (current or historical); nature-deficit disorder; sense of wonder
  • outdoor recreation, education, theme parks; ecotourism; landscape geography, architecture, and art; sacred geographies; artificial, recreated, or restored environments
  • cinematic or fictional representations of nature/the natural; science fiction, visual media, interactive or virtual worlds, gaming
  • bioethics, biopolitics, biopower; management of human and nonhuman life/death; natural limits or forbidden knowledge; natural healing and health; transhumanism and enhancement
  • the human/more-than-human boundary; boundary-crossing and shapeshifting; embodiment, animality, and sensuous experience; new/feminist materialist perspectives on embodiment and matter
  • the technological sublime; technological interventions; genetic engineering, synthetic biology, geoengineering; techno-philia and –phobia
  • adaptive, innate, or evolved responses to the natural and nonhuman world; evo-/eco-psychology, biophilia and biophobia
  • historical, cross-cultural, or interdisciplinary approaches to/appropriations of awe and wonder in relation to the natural