Associate Professor, Religious Studies California State University, Northridge
I am an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at California State University, Northridge, and previously served as Director of CSUN's Program in Civic and Community Engagement (2016-2019). I specialize in the study of religion and environment in American culture, with attention to questions of race, ethnicity, and class. I also run workshops and programming to support faculty writers.
My first book, God and the Green Divide: Religious Environmentalism in Black and White (University of California Press, 2016), provides critical analysis of the contemporary American religious environmental movement. Through an in-depth ethnographic study of Faith in Place, an interfaith environmental nonprofit in Chicago that has partnered with over 900 congregations and is notable for the racial and ethnic diversity of its coalition, I uncover varied agendas and motivations that participants brought to their religious environmental involvement. Faith in Place leaders embraced the broad category of religion to encompass diverse groups into their cause, suggesting that every religion supported concern for the earth so all people of faith ought to take measures to protect the planet. Yet in practice the shape and meaning of religious environmentalism varied based on race, ethnicity, and class. Based on these observations I argue that the spread of religious environmentalism in the United States has relied not simply on the “ecological dimensions” of scriptures, theology, and religious traditions, but also on latent assumptions about race, ethnicity, and class.
My current book project, Rethinking Religious Environmentalism seeks to decenter dominant narratives of religious environmental history by showing that there are different ways of conceiving of and engaging in "eco-friendly" activities. Based on ethnographic research in Los Angeles, I have identified an ethic of living lightly on the earth that is grounded in an immanent, relational worldview in which God is present in the material and the human-nature boundary is porous. I call this ethic nepantla environmentalism because it creatively combines aspects of Catholic faith, indigenous spirituality, and American environmental thought. While a nepantla environmental outlook results in ecocentric values and behaviors, it has not been acknowledged as "environmentalism" because it does not adhere to the raced and classed assumptions embedded in dominant narratives of environmentalism. Focusing on nepantla environmentalism challenges dominant narratives of American environmental history, and especially the place of Latino/a communities within that history. I have published aspects of this work in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion; Worldviews, and Teaching Theology and Religion.
In the classroom, I aim to create significant learning experiences that will cultivate intellectual curiosity, critical-thinking skills, and a drive to effect positive change in the world. My teaching interests include the study of religion and climate change/the environment, religion and American culture, and religious studies theory.