Project Title: Tomorrow's Saints: How Communities Centered on Queerness and Ecology are Cultivating New Forms of Spiritual Experience
Project Description: My project explores how modern intentional living communities dedicated to ecological justice and queer liberation are developing unique practices and spiritual frameworks in response to the existential crises of the 21st century. Throughout history, those on the margins of society have played a crucial role in the development of religious imaginations and practices. From the Christian desert monks of 3rd century Egypt to the recluse poets of early China, there have always been individuals whose unique perspective allows them to critique social norms and question how we should relate to the environment and to our own bodies. I argue that many modern communities centered on sustainability and queerness play a similar role: Through artwork, poetry, and protest, they are creating new languages for us to understand the threats posed to our land and our bodies. Just as ancient hermitages and monasteries have historically provided spiritual and physical shelter for individuals who wished to align their actions and relationships with a unique religious framework, modern ‘intentional communities’ serve as unique spaces of healing for individuals whose queer, earth-centered, or neurodiverse ways of being are at odds with the values and violence of mainstream society.
Most Important Accomplishment: In 2023, I had the honor of traveling to the West Bank to learn from activists, religious leaders, and state officials about how ongoing regional conflicts are impacting the political, social, and religious experiences of Palestinian citizens. I had the opportunity to encounter firsthand how violence, marginal identity, and spiritual experience impact each other.
Reflections on the College Scholar Program: In my opinion, the greatest asset of the College Scholar Program is the community of students it has pulled together. Even though our fields of study are wildly diverse, I always walk away from conversations with fellow scholars with a new theory, a new book to read, or a new direction for my research to take. I look around the room and I see a cohort of open-minded and creative folks who are always willing to brainstorm together and refine each other’s ideas. It's the sort of community which makes my Cornell experience that much more meaningful.