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Iris' report about her fellowship 'Ethics of the Anthropocene'

24 February 2022
Iris Veerbeek has been Junior Fellow in the 'Ethics of the Anthropocene' programme. In this blogpost, she writes about her experiences.

From June until December 2021, Iris Veerbeek has been Junior Fellow in the ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene’ programme. This is a joint initiative of IVM and FRT which is aimed at investigating the societal relevance of world-view traditions for addressing environmental issues. Having finished the Fellowship, she will now give a brief overview of what she has been up to these last six months.

Her main focus has been the development of a research proposal for a PhD project. She has completed this just before the Christmas holidays and is, together with her supervisors, very happy with the end result. It has been submitted to NWO for the call PhDs in the Humanities. In short, the project intends to investigate the potential of religious stories and rituals for creation of and reflection on sustainable futures. In times of ecological crises, questions of the future are crucial: what do you expect of the future? What is a good future? These questions are of importance, because the images people hold of the future determine people’s actions. If we foster sustainable future images, this will foster sustainable action. However, imagining alternative futures beyond current socio-political structures – an activity also known as ‘futuring’ – is extremely challenging. There is even mention of a ‘crisis of the imagination’. At the same time, religious traditions have imagined and reflected on ‘the good life’ for centuries. Through stories and rituals religions relate and embody their visions of ‘the good life’, and, in doing so, of ‘good futures’. With this PhD project, therefore, Iris wishes to investigate the value of these religious resources for activities of futuring. This will be done specifically in the context of primary education. 

In October, Iris presented her research plans to a class of Master’s students in the course ‘Contextual Bible Interpretation’ as well as to the Colloquium of Contextual Bible Interpretation. The conversations resulting from this gave her new insights into her subject and new ideas for research directions.

Furthermore, she has been working on an article based on her master’s thesis, which she submitted to an academic journal. Iris also wrote an essay for the Dutch journal for religious education Narthex, which was published in December. 

Moreover, together with her supervisor prof. Peter-Ben Smit and PhD candidate Eva van Urk, she is currently organizing a network lunch with various Christian 'green' societal organizations, to promote cooperation between ‘the academy’ and ‘the field’ with regard to eco-theology. 

Finally, together with Peter-Ben, she submitted a fund application to set up a project that develops "wild retreats" for churches. These are retreats aimed at learning to read the Bible from a more than human perspective, and not just from a human perspective, to counteract an overly anthropocentric reading of the Bible. We call them 'wild retreats' because they take place in nature and because we intend to use insights and methods from 'wild pedagogies'. Ultimately, the project should lead to the development of a toolkit that churches can use independently to organize such retreats.

Throughout the fellowship, Iris made many interesting contacts, both in the educational as well as in the (inter)religious field, and the inspiring conversations she had were of much help during her process. Altogether, a lot has happened these past six months. It has been an adventure! 

Text written by Iris Veerbeek