She has been working at ILSE for a while already, but we are very happy to officially welcome Leslie Herrmann as a researcher in the team. Her work takes place within a new research project, entitled “Towards an Environmental Ethic of ‘Fittingness'”. Within this project she is conducting her doctoral research. Leslie introduces herself by answering some of questions.
Welcome to the ILSE team. Could you introduce yourself?
Hello! I am from California, but have been indelibly imprinted by the years I have spent living beyond U.S. borders, and the people I have met along the way. My perspectives are perhaps more internationalist as a result.
You are from the USA and now live in Belgium for 14 months. How do you experience living in Belgium?
The vibrancy of intellectual engagement and innovation is what is most striking; it is an exciting place to be if you are one who desires to think deeply and creatively, and to link that to service of a world experiencing a great deal of turbulence. The interplay between history and innovation is interesting and energizing. It is exactly the sort of place theologians love, as it is a microcosm for so much of what is unfolding in society through different spheres of life. Finding myself in the middle of it, working alongside and engaging others who may be working in different fields, but who also want to make a contribution to something larger than themselves is wonderful.
At ILSE you conduct doctoral research within the research project “Towards an Environmental Ethic of ‘Fittingness’”. What is your research about?
The focus of my research is an engagement with a theologically grounded environmental ethics organized around the notion of ‘fittingness.’
There is a rich history within the environmental conservation movement in which the impetus for care for the natural world emerged out of love and awe of its beauty. When you combine that with religious motivations, it is the most potent motivating factor in care of the created world, at the level of both the personal and the corporate level.
However, in recent years, a number of scholars have pointed out the fact that if our care is limited to that which we find aesthetically attractive, that which is not visually appealing tends to be excluded. We quickly recognize the Ardennes, the Serengeti or Yosemite as places requiring particular care, but we tend to forget, and neglect the rest. Of course, from the perspective of a biblically and theologically sound understanding of creation, this is problematic. The loving care of the Creator extends to the whole of his creation. My research seeks to work in view of the goodness of the whole of creation, while drawing upon the motivational power of aesthetics, such that we begin to see and respond to the whole of creation in a manner that reflects the Creator’s on-going involvement, love and care.
The notion of ‘fittingness,’ while it seems a rather mundane term, is actually quite interesting for so many reasons! It holds both moral and aesthetic meaning, which has the interesting effect of both drawing us in as involved participants, while at the same time suggesting boundaries. It shifts our focus in numerous ways: from an inward to an outward orientation, from an atomistic understanding of ourselves within the world, to the reality of our interrelated, interdependent existence. And, important questions naturally arise when we seek to understand how it is we are meant to ‘fit in’ with the rest of creation, or, to put it differently, to be good neighbors in the creation neighborhood. What do my neighbors need to flourish? Does my way of being in the world help or hinder its flourishing? Is my manner of living representative of one who fits in, or might it rather be characterized as a dis-fit? Do I live in ways that contribute to another’s demise? What if we ask similar questions at societal levels? Or within the context of businesses and corporations? Or governments and countries? There is a lot of rich terrain to be explored.
How do you hope to move on after you have finished your doctorate?
At my core, being creative in teaching, research and writing seem the best ways for me to continue contributing to the neighborhood, if I might continue the analogy. Often scholars find, when researching one project, a plethora of other questions arise that need to be set aside until a particular project is complete. So, I have my ongoing list of questions and topics I hope to explore further. Additionally, designing and strategizing with those who want to work creatively in other spheres – business, politics, neighborhoods, raising families, etc., is part of my bent; my hope is to continue fostering those connections and productive working relationships for the sake of creation’s flourishing.