Professor Lisa Sideris and IU Religious Studies congratulate Jonathan!
It has been a highlight of my career to work with Jonathan over the last several years. Jonathan came to IU from Princeton Theological Seminary, with impressive training in the intersection of evolution and theology, and with interests in the implications of this intersection “ecological theology.” From there, however, his trajectory broadened out significantly over the years, as he grew increasingly interested in the emerging field of Critical Animal Studies (CAS), a multidisciplinary area of academic scholarship that seeks to integrate research with political and social engagement. Over the years, Jonathan has sought to articulate new forms of subjectivity suggested by posthumanist, religious, and philosophical reflection, as they pertain to nonhuman animals and to broader issues of oppression and social justice. The intersection of CAS with relitious studies and theology is an area especially ripe for innovation, because so much scholarship on religion and animals remains wedded to scriptural imperatives whose ethical content is ambiguous at best, or to stale paradigms borrowed from analytic philosophy. Jonathan reclaims overlooked areas of Continental Philosophy and particularly the work of Jacques Derrida, for critical animal studies and concrete religious/ethical practice. Against the frequent charge that Derridian approaches produce little or no explicit ethical guidance, Johnathan explores concrete spiritual practices and technologies of the self that are grounded in decentered human subjectivitiy and irreducible otherness of human and nonhuman others. These are vital contributions a, with the potential to shift the conversation on religion and animals.
In everything he does, Jonathan’s brilliance and determination shine through. Even while living away from campus, and without the immediate oversight of his mentors or the company of fellow students—even in the midst of parenting two adorable young children—he remains a voracious reader and disciplined writer. An especially memorable event in our work together was when Jonathan overhauled and co-taught with me a graduate seminar on Darwin and Religion. This partnership significantly updated and enlivened my course material, and greatly expanded my own understanding of the implications of Darwinian science for contemporary theoretical developments in religious studies and the humanities. I have learned far more from Jonathan than he has from me. Indeed, to a significant degree, Jonathan is self-taught. His intellectual gifts are matched by his compassionate concern for nonhuman life. We are so proud to see Jonathan receive his Ph.D. this spring, and look forward to following his development as a scholar.