Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 46, No 3-4 (2017)

Biophilia's Queer Remnants

Courtney O'Dell-Chaib

Abstract


Evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis, that humans have a genetically influenced emotional affiliation with life and life-like processes, for some time has invigorated a prominent strain of scholarship within religion and ecology that taps into the affective dimensions of our evolutionary histories. Our biophilic tendencies coupled with the awe, wonder, and reverence evoked by these religiously resonant cosmologies, they argue, provide occasions for cultivating ethical investments rooted in genetic kinship. However, much of this work that adopts biophilia assumes a “healthy” animal-other and rarely affiliates with the ill, disabled, and mutated creatures impacted by ecological degradation. In conversation with Donovan Schaefer’s provocative new book Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power and his engagement with biophilia, this paper considers possibilities for addressing aversion to animals impacted by ecological collapse through Schaefer’s understanding of affects as not merely adaptive, but embedded within complex economies of embodiment and power.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.33167

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