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MemberMichelle Brooks

My name is Michelle Brooks and I am an ABD doctoral candidate studying medieval literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am currently at work on my dissertation, “Negative Territories: The Poetics of Un-Making Late Medieval Culture in Chaucer,” which builds a comprehensive taxonomy of literary negation in Chaucer’s Middle English poetry and prose. My methodology builds on a formal analytic approach that theorizes negation as a creative force within England’s medieval material-historic context. In addition to my teaching and research experience, I have also served as a Research Assistant, Editorial Assistant, Treasurer, and Conference Coordinator.   I’m interested in Geoffrey Chaucer, Middle English Language and Literature, Medieval Manuscripts, Medieval Technocultures, Astrolabes, New Formalist Analysis, The “Negative Turn” in Feminist and Queer Affect Theory, Literary Negation in Later Medieval Prose and Poetry, and Arithmetical and Economic Systems of the Middle Ages.

MemberIsabel Soto

This is tough. Was raised and educated in the UK, moved to Spain in the 80s. Lived in New York for a couple of years, the only place that has ever felt like ‘home’. Research/intellectual interests: African American studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies – any intellectual inquiry into otherness. Also very interested in exceptionalizing paradigms, whether in the positive or negative sense. Look forward to productive sharing. Saludos.

MemberKaren O'Donnell

I am a Practical and Systematic Theologian whose research interests are particularly focused on the body and taking the embodied experience seriously in theology. This informed my doctoral research which was focused on trauma and its impact on faith as lived theology. It also informs my current research in Digital Theology in which I am concerned with approaches to digital spaces that negate or abstract real bodies and their digital experiences.

MemberDesiree Rowe

Dr. Desireé D. Rowe received her interdisciplinary Ph.D. in 2009 from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. She also earned her M.A. from Minnesota State, Mankato and B.A. in English from Seton Hall University. Her work lives at the intersections of queer performance ethnography, feminist rhetorical perspectives on popular culture, and digital discourses. Her research agenda currently focuses on radical negativity and failure (among other darker aspects of human subjectivity) to reimagine alternative constructions of possibility. Her work includes articles in Women and Language, Text and Performance Quarterly, Cultural Studies -Critical Methodologies, Rethinking History: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Qualitative Inquiry, many book chapters, and a solo autoethnographic performance that she is touring. She was recently awarded the Best Book Chapter of 2015 by the National Communication Association’s Ethnography Division. In her spare time, she likes to watch crappy reality television and period dramas and build cardboard rocket ships with her daughter.

MemberMarika Rose

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophical Theology at the University of Winchester, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, and reviews editor for Theology and Sexuality. My research focuses on the intersection of contemporary continental philosophy of religion and Christian systematic theology. My PhD thesis, ‘A Theology of Failure: Ontology and Desire in Slavoj Žižek and Christian Apophaticism’ brought the recent ‘materialist turn’ in continental philosophy to bear on existing debates about the relationship between Christian mystical theology and contemporary philosophies of difference, otherness and negativity. I argued that Žižek’s materialist thought offers resources for re-conceptualising Christian identity without the idealism which so often characterises Christian theology and tends to cover over both the dependence of Christianity theology on resources drawn from non-Christian traditions and the ways in which Christianity’s failures are not simply incidental but deeply entangled with the basic structures of Christian thinking. A monograph based on my thesis is forthcoming with Fordham University Press. Since finishing my thesis I have continued to develop my work on Žižek in more critical directions, exploring in particular the entanglement of Christianity and Eurocentrism within his work, and have begun to explore the role of Christianity in contemporary constructions of whiteness and European identity, drawing on resources from black and liberation theologies. My current project focuses on the cultural and theological shift from angels to cyborgs as key figures for imagining the futures of human life in order to ground a broader exploration of the process of disenchantment – the disappearance of a Christian-Neoplatonic vision of the world in which everything exists within a hierarchical system of signs which point to God – and subsequent re-enchantment – the emergence of a digitised, machinic capitalism in which everything exists within an algorithmic system of signs in which everything enables the circulation of surplus value.

MemberBob Pennington

One Sunday, in 2007, at Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, in Ormond Beach, Florida, I heard an appeal for mission volunteers from Bishop Thomas Wenski.[1] I responded to his call by contacting Sister Bernadette Mackay O.S.U., the Director of the Mission office at the Diocese of Orlando. A few months later, I was in the bed of a pick-up truck as it ascended a steep mountain path made of nothing but dirt and rock. My destination was La Cucarita, a remote town in the Cordillera Central Mountains of the Dominican Republic, near the border of Haiti.   La Cucarita proved to be a liminal place for me, a place where I crossed a threshold into a new and unfamiliar reality. Before I arrived in La Cucarita, I could have never imagined that people could express so much joy and happiness while living in a cultural context marked by extreme poverty. La Cucaritan reality ultimately changed my life because I was forced to confront a paradox I did not understand.   I could not understand how everyday experiences caused me to sometimes feel like I had “encountered God” through interactions with joyful, hospitable people, or, through the contemplation of the natural landscape.[2] I also struggled to understand how I could feel the presence of God in a cultural context marked by a lack of material resources like water and electricity. Such a lack of resources necessary for daily life provoked in me a sense that: “This should not be!” Something was “not right.” Seven years later, in my Ph.D. program, I learned that I had what Edward Schillebeeckx describes as a “negative contrast experience.” LaReine-Marie Mosely writes that, for Schillebeeckx, a negative contrast experience is something that has the power to evoke not only “outrage at excessive human suffering,” but also “protest and eventual praxis to ameliorate and end the suffering.”[3]   As my mission work came to an end, the paradox of Cucarita remained a puzzle I could not solve. After I returned to Florida, I reflected on my mission experience and realized that my “social imaginary” had been annihilated.[4] Charles Taylor explains that a social imaginary is the way people “imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others,” and how things ought to go.[5] The paradoxical reality of Cucarita had annihilated my desire to pursue the social imaginary I associated with the “American Dream.”[6] Ultimately, my experience in Cucarita forced me to question my ideals and my goals. And, soon thereafter, I realized I no longer wanted to be a postmodern American whose “idiosyncratic preferences are their own justifications” for happiness.[7]   The change I underwent could be described as a metanoia, a conversion where my “eyes were opened” and my “former world faded and fell away.”[8] La Cucarita had not only opened my eyes to real social injustice but also to a new vision of happiness. I felt compelled to act, I felt inspired to do something. But, what? I chose to pursue graduate studies in theology.   After I earned a master’s degree in Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, I enrolled in a Practical Theology Ph.D. program at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. In Miami, I learned that my vocation is to be a Catholic theologian, ethicist, and educator who instructs students’ on how to use a theological method to make crucial moral choices in siding with the poor and marginalized in a civic and political context. [1] Wenski is now Archbishop of Miami.   [2] What I mean when I say “I encountered God” is analogous to the way in which Karl Rahner, S.J. spoke as if he were Ignatius of Loyola speaking to a modern Jesuit: “I encountered God; I have experienced him.” For more see, Karl Rahner, Ignatius of Loyola Speaks, trans. Annemarie S. Kidder, (St. Augustine’s Press: South Bend, Indiana, 2013), 6-9.   [3] For more on this topic see LaReine-Marie Mosely, “Negative Contrast Experience: An Ignatian Appraisal,” Horizons 41, no. 1 (2014): 74-95. What is central to Schillebeeckx’s claim is when individuals and communities face evil and suffering—their own and that of others—the universal pre-religious response is “This cannot be allowed to continue!” What is most crucial about Schillebeeckx’s argument for my present and future work is that the feeling of pre-religious indignation becomes the “specific starting point for ethics.”   [4] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 171-2. In Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), James K.A. Smith writes that, in regard to the phrase “social imaginary,” Taylor acknowledges his debt to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991), 65n46.   [5] Taylor, A Secular Age, 171. Commenting on Taylor’s concept, James K.A. Smith suggests that the imagination (an imaginary) is a “quasi-faculty whereby we construe the world on a precognitive level, on a register that is fundamentally aesthetic precisely because it is so closely tied to the body. As embodied creatures, our orientation to the world begins from, and lives off of, the fuel of our bodies, including the ‘images’ of the world that are absorbed by our bodies.” Heuristically, then, the “imagination” (an imaginary) names a kind of faculty that is kinesthetic because it is closely tied to the body and how we make sense of our world. For more see, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 17-19n37, n38.   [6] James K.A. Smith argues that the modern American social imaginary promotes a narrative of autonomy that indicates that one gives oneself (autos) the law (nomos). For more, see James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 175n50.   [7] Joseph A. Tetlow, “The Most Postmodern Prayer: American Jesuit Identity and the Examen of Conscience, 1920-1990,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 26, no.1 (1994): 33.   [8] Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 130. A richer description of Lonergan’s insight is that conversion is “a transformation of the subject and his world. Normally it is a prolonged process though its explicit acknowledgement may be concentrated in a few momentous judgments or decisions.” And, “conversion, as lived, affects all of a man’s conscious and intentional operations. It directs his gaze, pervades his imagination…it enriches his understanding, guides his judgments, reinforces his decisions.” 130-131.