Enhancing Life | November-December Issue
The November-December issue features the Enhancing Life Project, which takes aim at addressing one of the most basic human questions—the desire to enhance life. This desire is seen in the arts, technology, religion, medicine, culture, and social forms. Throughout the ages, thinkers have wondered about the meaning of enhancing life, the ways to enhance life, and the judgments about whether life has been enhanced. In our global technological age, these issues have become more widespread and urgent. Over the last two years, 35 renowned scholars from around the world in the fields of law, social sciences, humanities, religion, communications, and others, have explored basic questions of human existence. These scholars have generated individual research projects and engaged in teaching in Enhancing Life Studies within their fields, as well as contributed to public engagement in various ways.
Over the next month and a half, Enhancing Life scholars associated with the Divinity School will share essays and reflections on the Enhancing Life Project that will explore its implications for their own scholarship and teaching. We invite you to join the conversation by submitting your comments and questions below.
The Enhancing Life Project was made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, and the support of the University of Chicago and Bochum University, Germany.
- William Schweiker, Enhancing Life and the Forms of Freedom
- Anne Mocko, Attending to Insects
- Kristine A. Culp, “Aliveness” and a Taste of Glory
- Heike Springhart, Vitality in Vulnerability: Realistic Anthropology as Humanistic Anthropology
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Image: Tom Friedman’s Looking Up statue (2015) sitting at the intersection of Park Avenue and East 53rd Street in New York City. (© Tom Friedman; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photograph by Farzad Owrang)
William Schweiker (Principal Investigator of the Enhancing Life Project) is the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chicago. His scholarship and teaching engage theological and ethical questions attentive to global dynamics, comparative religious ethics, the history of ethics, and hermeneutical philosophy. A frequent lecturer and visiting professor at universities around the world, he has been deeply involved in collaborative international scholarly projects and will serve as President of the Society of Christian Ethics (2015-2016). His books include Mimetic Reflections: A Study in Hermeneutics, Theology and Ethics (1990); Responsibility and Christian Ethics (1995); Power, Value and Conviction: Theological Ethics in the Postmodern Age (1998); Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics: In the Time of Many Worlds (2004); Religion and the Human Future: An Essay in Theological Humanism (2008, with David E. Klemm); and, most recently, Dust that Breathes: Christian Faith and the New Humanisms (2010). He is also chief editor and contributor to A Companion to Religious Ethics (2004; 2dexpanded edition forthcoming). He is currently working on a forthcoming book with Wiley-Blackwell, titled Religious Ethics: Meaning and Method. His research for The Enhancing Life Project is on the integral flourishing of life.
Anne Mocko is Assistant Professor of Asian religions at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she has taught since 2012. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her research has primarily focused within the field of ritual studies, and she has been most interested in examining the capacity of ritual practice to inscribe narratives or ideologies into the lived realities of practitioners and observers. Her doctoral research was conducted in Nepal, and was focused on the effects and effectiveness of political ritual. She examined the ways that the royal rituals that had for centuries performed the king as the center of the government and nation were co-opted and transformed between 2006–2008 in order to remove the king and implement a party-based electoral government in the monarchy’s place. She is the author of several articles and book chapters, including most recently “Nepal and Bhutan in 2014: New Governments, Old Problems” (co-authored with Dorji Penjore, appearing in the January 2015 issue of the Asian Survey journal). Her first book, Demoting Vishnu: Ritual, Politics, and the Unraveling of Nepal’s Hindu Monarchy, was recently published by Oxford University Press.
Kristine A. Culp is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Dean of the Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago. Kris Culp works in constructive theology. She is the author of Vulnerability and Glory: A Theological Account (Westminster John Knox, 2010), one of the first theological works to connect multidisciplinary conversations about environmental and economic vulnerability with theological anthropology and sociality. She is the editor of The Responsibility of the Church for Society and Other Essays by H. Richard Niebuhr (2008), which collected Niebuhr’s various writings on ecclesiology and Christian community for the first time. Her essays have addressed protest and resistance as theological themes, feminist and womanist theologies, and “experience” in contemporary theology. She is currently working on a monograph entitled, “Glorious Life?,” which is supported by theEnhancing Life Project. It engages historical-theological debates about the glory of given things and of made things, and fosters critical sensibilities about the aliveness of life amidst the challenges and complexities of contemporary life. She also serves as a member of the Commission of Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.
Heike Springhart is Dean of Theologisches Studienhaus Heidelberg and Lecturer of Systematic Theology at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Germany. She received her doctorate in Theology from Heidelberg University, and was awarded the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise. In her scholarship she aims at shaping the conversation between developments in culture and society which are relevant for religious practice and contemporary theological questions with a strong interest in doing constructive theology. In her work as Dean she combines academic teaching, advising and supervision with ministry work in the community of students. She has published a book on religion and democratization in Germany after 1945, Aufbrüche zu neuen Ufern. Der Beitrag von Religion und Kirche für Demokratisierung und Reeducation im Westen Deutschlands nach 1945 (2008). In her recent book she developed a realistic anthropology, focused on questions of dying, death and finitude and their implications for theological anthropology (forthcoming). In The Enhancing Life Project she explored a multi-dimensional concept of vulnerability that leads to an enhancing of life, and she has a consulting task for the summer residency seminars.
The Martin Marty Center's Religion & Culture Forum is an online forum for thought-provoking discussion on the relationship of scholarship in religion to culture and public life. Each month the Marty Center, the research arm of the University of Chicago Divinity School, invites a scholar of religion to comment on his or her own research in a way that "opens out" to themes, problems, and events in world cultures and contemporary life. Scholars from diverse fields of study are invited to offer responses to these commentaries.
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The Religion & Culture Forum is edited by Joel A. Brown, Divinity School PhD student in Religions in America. Emily D. Crews, Divinity School PhD candidate in the History of Religions, was the previous editor.