Ayres Awarded Grant to Explore Ecological Consciousness in Atlanta and Germany

February 25, 2021

Jennifer AyresAssociate Professor of Religious Education Jennifer R. Ayres has been awarded a Collaborative Research Grant from Emory’s Halle Institute for Global Research. Ayres and Bert Roebben, professor of religious education at the University of Bonn in Germany, will share the $30,000 award as they pursue their two-year project “Religion and the Cultivation of Ecological Consciousness: Place, Narrative, and Performance.”

“The cultivation of ecological concern is a profoundly local project, dependent on developing a strong sense of place and commitment,” Ayres says. “The climate crisis, however, is a profoundly global challenge, dependent on international cooperation and understanding. Our project will use transnational scholarly collaboration to develop a link between place-based local ecological practice and global cooperation for ecological change.”

Ayres and Roebben plan to travel to their respective partner institutions to explore the particular landscape of each place and how it’s incorporated into ecological learning in the institution. They’ll also develop a hybrid travel seminar and remote course on place, pilgrimage, and environmental consciousness for graduate students from both Emory and Bonn. A key element of the course will entail working with students to develop digital practices such as podcasts and documentary footage to strengthen international collaboration in place-based learning efforts.

“Our work seeks to respond to the fundamental tension between local and global responses to ecological challenges,” says Ayres. “We think that place-based pedagogy, when coupled with practices of pilgrimage and community formation in digital space, can play a role in cultivating locally-grounded and globally-responsive ecological consciousness,”

Ayres notes that the experiences and findings gleaned in their collaborative research will have broad impact, contributing to new scholarship in the fields of religious and theological education, as well as interdisciplinary research in religion and ecology.

“Ultimately, we’ll actually be testing a new approach to ecotheological education, implementing and evaluating—and eventually theorizing from—the best insights from theories of place and space, narrative, and performance,” she says.

The Halle Institute for Global Research at Emory University supports and promotes global research opportunities for faculty, students, and visiting scholars. It offers nine different Collaborative Research Grants, open to regular, continuing full-time faculty in all schools and disciplines. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for innovative collaborative research projects linking with faculty from one of the institute’s partner universities. The Collaborative Research Grants support the Halle Institute’s goal of fostering international research across all disciplines.