How do we move from thinking about bodies in our world to feeling and standing with those bodies?
I am interested in how individuals and societies make ethical choices about who or what is included in their community of concern. What inherited truths—whether scientific, religious, or secular—inform our ideas of who should be protected and who is expendable? What logics are at work to justify the marginalization of certain people, animals, or habitats? And how do these ideas change?
In a world of creaturely bodies, life indeed has a cost. But that admission need not resign us to tragic necessity. Rather, it is the necessary affirmation required for any effort to minimize that cost, to innovate toward futures with less loss, and to shake up the structures that define winners and losers at the outset.
In this work, I have found friendship with world visions that strive toward these aims amid the inconsistencies of practice: Jainism's nonharm to all life forms and multi-faceted perspective, the peace church witness against state violence, feminist, womanist and ecological ethics of care, critical animal theorists, liberation theologians, A. N. Whitehead's claim that reality creates itself in constant process, as well as poets and artists who inhabit the knife-edge of grief/goodness, pain/beauty.
I live toward the creative adventure of a plant-based life, and work to illuminate the local and global entanglements of industrial agriculture, alongside other contemporary bioethical issues.
I have taught philosophy and religious studies—with an emphasis on applied ethics and South Asian/Indian traditions—at Claremont School of Theology, Monmouth College, and Rice University. I currently serve as associate professor and Shri Parshvanath Presidential Chair in Jain Studies at the University of California, Irvine. I am most at home playing guitar, dancing, or hiking with my beagle pals.
Photo header: Industry-bred piglets, likely en route to a local family farm. Most family operations purchase piglets in order to maximize litter size, prevent disease in their growing sheds, and to ensure genetic homogeneity required by most slaughterhouses. Location: Highway 34 near Peoria, IL. 2016; B. Donaldson