Gifford Lectures: Bruno Latour’s “Facing Gaia: A New Inquiry into Natural Religion”

I am delighted to post that The University of Edinburgh released the abstracts for the Feburary 2013 Gifford Lectures to be presented by Bruno Latour, professor at Sciences Po, Paris. They will take place at St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh from February 18 to 28 at 5:30PM.

I would love to be able to attend these but there is no way I can afford the time or the money to spend a week in Edinburgh in February. Thankfully, the lecture’s web site states that videos of the lectures will be taken.

Titled Facing Gaia: A New Inquiry into Natural Religion, the abstract states:

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia,
this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as
well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression
of “natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature
borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia
in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite
notion of ‘’natural religion’’.

This overall theme will be broken down into a series of six lectures as follows.

Lecture 1
Once Out of Nature
18 February 2013

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second
word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and
uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct,
we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or
resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ‘’secular’’ version of
nature and of the natural sciences.

Lecture 2
A Question of Agency
19 February 2013

Once nature and the natural sciences are fully “secularized”, it becomes possible to
revisit also the category of the supernatural. Then, a different landscape opens which
can be navigated through an attention to agencies and their composition. Such a
freedom of movement allows the use of the rich anthropological literature to compare the ways different “collectives” manage to assemble and totalize different sets of agencies.

Lecture 3
Gaia’s Puzzling Features
21 February 2013

In spite of its reputation, Gaia is not half science and half religion. It offers a much more
enigmatic set of features that redistribute agencies in all possible ways (as does this
most enigmatic term “anthropocene”). Thus, it is far from clear what it means to “face
Gaia”. It might require us to envisage it very differently from the various divinities of the
past (including those derived from nature).

Lecture 4
How Many Globes Can Be Held on an Angel’s Fingertip?
25 February 2013

The paradox of what is called “globalization” is that there is no “global globe” to hold the
multitude of concerns that have to be assembled to replace the “politics of nature” of
former periods. What are the instruments —always local and partial— that are sensitive
enough to Gaia’s components for the limited technical and emotional apparatus of
assembled humans?

Lecture 5
War of the Worlds: Humans Against Earthlings 
26 February 2013

In the absence of any Providence to settle matters of concern – and thus of nature, its
barely disguised substitute – no peaceful resolution of Gaian conflicts can be expected.
The recognition of a state of war and the designation of enmity is indispensable if a
state of diplomacy is later to be reached. Under the pressure of so many apocalyptic
injunctions, what is a Gaian political theology?

Lecture 6
St. Christopher You’re Not Strong Enough to Carry the World!
26 February 2013

Although the resources of “paganism”, New Age cults, renewed themes of Christian
incarnation, and process theology offer rich mythological insights, it is not clear whether
they are at the scale and sensitivity needed to face Gaia. A search for collective rituals
should begin with works of art and experiments able to explore in sufficient detail the
scientific and political composition of the common world.

A pdf of the brochure for this lecture can be found here.

H/T to the Anthem blog.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s