Willis Jenkins

John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, Department Chair

Gibson Hall, S-065

Office Hours:

Tuesdays 2.15-3.15pm and by appointment

Willis Jenkins is Professor of Religion, Ethics, & Environment. He is author of two award-winning books, Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics & Christian Theology (Oxford 2008) and The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, & Religious Creativity (Georgetown 2013), which won an American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence. He is editor of a number of volumes including, with Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, the Routledge Handbook of Religion & Ecology (2017). At UVA, Jenkins convenes Environmental Humanities, is a Global Sustainability Fellow, serves on the leadership team of the Environmental Resilience Institute, and co-directs three transdisciplinary environmental humanities labs:

  • the Coastal Futures Conservatory, a listening-focused collaboration with Matthew Burtner (Music) and of the Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research site, seeking to integrate arts and sciences into coastal change research
  • the Water Justice Team of ERI’s Water Futures Initiative, a partnership with hydrologist Paolo D’Odorico (UCal-Berkeley), focused on integrating a wider range of values into water security assessments and on supporting multi-disciplinary research into local and regional water justice issues
  • Sanctuary Lab, co-directed with Martien Halvorson-Taylor and Kurtis Schaeffer of the Religious Studies department, convening researchers from arts, sciences, and humanities to collaboratively investigate how stresses of planetary change bear on places marked as sacred.

Research Interests

I work along several intersections of ethics, religious studies, and environmental humanities. I first trained in contemporary environmental ethics and in classical Christian theology, and my first book undertook comparative theological readings in the space of modern environmental questions. I continue to write occasionally about Christian theological interpretation of social and ecological issues, with recent essays on Laudato Si and post-humanist political theology.

More broadly, I am interested in roles of cultural imagination and normative inquiry in confronting ecological challenges. My second book explores those questions by arguing for a form of pragmatism in which ethical ideas and religious creativity have roles to play in driving cultural adaptation to sustainability challenges. I continue to have an interest in questions of method in religious ethics and in studying how religious traditions produce normative responses to unanticipated or unprecedented challenges, with recent essays on religious imaginations of mass extinction, on the turn to virtue in climate ethics, and on ways of researching religion and climate change.

Much of my current research arises from and for the environmental humanities labs I co-direct. From experiments in advancing transdisciplinary research on rapid environmental change by incorporating methods or the arts and knowledges of the humanities, I have written about climate engineering and about listening as model for arts/sciences/humanities collaboration. I have just begun a major project on shifting senses of the sacred in Anthropocene landscapes.

For access to publications, see https://virginia.academia.edu/WillisJenkins.