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Welcome to the 2021 ISSRNC online conference - Religion and Environment: Relations and Relationality.
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Friday, February 26 • 4:00pm - 4:45pm
Migration, Relationality, and Food: Ecologies of Labor and Human Movement

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(LIVE conversation with presenters. Please watch the session videos beforehand.)

Building on the conference call to engage the intersection of environmental issues with the religious dimensions of migration and asylum, the three papers gathered here raise a set of overlapping questions related to human movement, food systems, relationality, and bodily and environmental health. The presenters draw upon both ethnographic and theological methods to approach these questions on multiple scales: from a micro-level exploration of the meal practices asylum seekers engage in as they organize, survive and resist the realities immigration detention, to the religious dimensions of food production and farm labor, to the broader themes that interlace human trafficking and environmental degradation. Taken together, the papers ask us to reflect upon the mutually constitutive nature of personhood and environment as they play out in situations of displacement, confinement, and labor exploitation.

Yvonne Zimmerman, “To Hear the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor: Human Trafficking and the Environmental Crisis”

This paper explores the connections between human trafficking and the environmental crisis. Human trafficking is an umbrella term for forced and exploited labor, and for the purposes of this paper, focuses on migrants and immigrants as a specific population that is disproportionately vulnerable to experiencing human trafficking, whether in the process of migrating and/or after arrival in their destination country. The environmental crisis refers to humans' systemic and sustained degradation and destruction of the environment to the extent that the earth's habitability for human and nonhuman life is being decisively undermined. I draw on the work of Christian social ethicist Beverly Harrison and Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical Laudato' Si to argue that these two issues share common structural ground, and sketch a framework that makes visible the social, economic, and political dynamics that connect them. I conclude by indicating what resistance to these entwined crises might look like.

abby mohaupt, “Eating and Working Through Our Faith”

In Good Food, Jennifer Ayres creates a practical theology of food that sees the "goodness" of food as intricately connected to the goodness of each part of the food system. She explores the theology of food through the health of the soil, the labor of the workers who grow and harvest our foods, and all the secular and sacred relationships created around and with food. Seth Holmes in Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies hones in on the relationships between the health of migrant farmworkers and broken food systems, using anthropological and medical lenses to trace the lives of real farmworkers. Each of these authors write from a white US framework, leveraging their identities as privilege in ways that center the food and the worker. This paper puts these two texts in conversation, arguing that our reliance on food for life gives us multiple times each day to make theologically sound choices about our food and live out a just religious environmentalism. I write this paper from a perspective of a white US farmer and Protestant theologian, incorporating a methodology of theological groundedness born from learning to work on a farm and discovering the joy of eating food that has been hard-grown.

Leah Sarat, “Where the Institution Becomes Flesh: Fasting, Feasting, and Resistance in a For-Profit Immigrant Detention Center”

When asked about the challenges encountered in Eloy, a private, for-profit immigrant detention center in Arizona, newly released individuals most frequently speak of food. Food marks the point where the institution becomes flesh, where the cost-cutting measures enacted by the facility's managing company, CoreCivic, enter and transform the cells of the men and women detained. As such, food practices serve as a powerful entry point for exploring questions of embodied religious experience and resistance within detention facility walls. Whereas CoreCivic's national leadership promotes a chaplaincy model centered on repentance and transformation of the individual soul, food practices among those detained, including fasting, hunger strikes, and the pooling of resources to produce impromptu shared meals, reveal a relational ethic dedicated to collective survival and liberation. By contrasting these food-related and ritual practices generated by and for detainees with the official chaplaincy model, we gain a window onto broader questions about personhood and relationality as they unfold within the U.S. immigration and carceral landscape.

avatar for Yvonne Zimmerman

Yvonne Zimmerman

Associate Academic Dean, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
avatar for abby mohaupt

abby mohaupt

PhD Student, Drew Theological School
avatar for Leah Sarat

Leah Sarat

Professor, School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies, Arizona State University

Friday February 26, 2021 4:00pm - 4:45pm MST
Online (Live)