Nature, Technology and Religion – Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Posted at October 27, 2012 | By : | Categories : Call For Papers,Conferences,News

2nd Announcement

The European Forum for the Study of Religion and Environment is pleased to announce the fourth international conference from May 22 to May 25, 2013, to be held at the Sigtuna Foundation in Sweden (nearby Stockholm), in association with the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture and The Sigtuna Foundation, entitled:

Nature, Technology and Religion – Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Keynote speakers are:

Bronislaw Szerszynski, Lancaster University
Lisa Sideris
, Indiana University
Zemfira Inogamova
, Totnes, Devon
Walther Christoph Zimmerli, Brandenburg University of Technology
Bengt Gustafsson, Uppsala University

Conference committee:
Maria Jansdotter Samuelsson, Karlstad University
Sigurd Bergmann, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Celia Deane-Drummond, Notre Dame University
Forrest Clingerman, Ohio Northern University
Carl Reinhold Bråkenhielm, Uppsala University

The capacity to invent, construct and use technical artifacts is an essential skill of human beings. Technology furthermore represents one of the central pillars of modern society and dominates the social sphere. Different – conflictual – understandings of technology and its significance for the modern society are at the heart of modern self-understanding, and these are by no means reconciled with each other. In spite of technology’s deep impact on human lifeworlds as well as on different kinds of natural environments, reflections about ethics and the deeper driving forces of technology have so far not been developed in a satisfying way. Additionally, the interaction between religious traditions and the meanings of technology is often poorly developed.

Although technology has not been regarded as a faculty of its own right in the academy, nevertheless from mid-20th century technology has moved closer to science and has rapidly increased not only its own power but also transformed the development of science in general as well as impacting on culture more widely. As developments in technology and science are rooted in the religious Christian history of the West, one needs to investigate deeper the internal normative codes from this long European history as these seem to be active still today in spite of the overall secularization of science.

Ethically regarded, it is probably preferable to regard technology as a highly ambiguous phenomenon which needs to be analyzed and examined in a much deeper way than commonly conducted. While many scholars have explored the interconnection of ethics and religion only a few have investigated how technology, ethics and religion interact.

As modern technology impacts are widely and deeply affecting many different spheres of life, religion and research, it should be a common task to continuously reflect on technology developments critically and constructively for the sake of the Common Good, including human and non-human life systems. The planned event intends to explore the phenomenon of religion and the spiritual and socio-cultural power of human technical innovation. The conference will offer the beginning of a wider novel discourse about the nature of technology and the technically constructed “second nature” and how both interact with each other. New ethical standards and reflections might result from such a discourse. This discussion  also might catalyze new insights about the Sacred at work in human technical creativity.

Questions such as the following indicate clearly the need for deeper reflection on technology, demanding a broader investigation in the environmental humanities and the sciences. The proposed conference will hereby focus on the implicit religious driving forces of technological practices and discourses about by attention to religious traditions, the diversity of nature and the meanings of technology.

• What criterion is used to make decisions about technological development: that what benefits life or that what increases profits? How are benefits and profits defined, and who is consulted? Can one model the practices of “homo faber”, the engineering human, rightly in present economic systems?

• How is the spread of technology affecting global justice between the rich and the poor? How does it affect environmental justice? What is the relationship between technology and globalization?

• In what ways are technologies in the social sphere impacting on receptivity to environmental issues, particularly among youth cultures?

• How can one understand the ambiguity of environmental technology, for example in the context of climate change, where climate technology on the one hand is expected to produce solutions of problems due to anthropogenic (dangerous) change and on the other hand promotes a specific form of irresponsibility due to its externalization of responsibility to experts and self-going systems? How should one interpret large-scale, technological attempts at global geo-engineering against this horizon?

• How are different models of human self-understanding at work in ideational legitimations of technology? What role did and does the old Jewish-Christian understanding of the human person as God’s icon play for “homo faber”? Are religious traditions offering alternative paths for technical self-regulation?

• How are understandings of nature and the environment in relationship to “the Sacred” at work in different technologies and discourses?

• Do modern technics liberate us from the human body and its semiosis in the relation between organism and environment, and allow us to follow an independent evolutionary dynamic? What influences does it have on natural environments as well as on self-understandings of human beings and their practices, perceptions and imaginations?

• Can one explore technology with the help of methods from gender studies and post-colonial studies in order to generate new knowledge, and what can modern technology teach about the spirituality and culture of late modernity?

• What are the deeper normative beliefs implicit and behind technological innovations? How can religious studies – especially the study of religion and the environment – throw light on the significant fabrications of meaning?

• In what ways is the notion of progress – with which modern construals of technology are associated – related to religious interpretations of history and eschatologies? What is the contribution of apocalyptic discourses to this debate?

• What can indigenous cultures teach about the animated artifacts for human survival and how are such spiritual practices and perspectives embedded in cultural systems? Are technical artifacts made into fetishes? How are “magic” and “power” fueled by human machines?

We invite contributions from scholars based anywhere in the world and in all fields that address the theme of the conference. Submissions are welcome by January 4, 2013. Decisions will be shared after February 1. Please, submit your abstract, no more than 200 words, together with a brief (one-page) CV as e-mail attachment or by post to <> (Dr. Maria Jansdotter Samuelsson, Faculty of Arts and Education, Karlstad University, 65188 Karlstad, Sweden).

Registrations for the event are welcome from January 15 to the Sigtuna foundation. An invoice for the  conference fee (4800:-SEK/555:-€, covering single room and all meals) will be sent after registration. Contact: <>

For further information, please contact:

Maria Jansdotter <>

Information about key note speakers can be accessed at: