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Aminah Al-Attas Bradford

Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Dunn Lab & the Public Science Cluster


Dr. Bradford is an Arab-American scholar of religion and Christian thought. What is she doing in an ecology lab? A unifying inter-religious belief, that humans do not exist without God, is sometimes forgotten—but most religious traditions have scarcely begun to think that humans don’t exist without their microbiome. Christianity is no exception. Given Christian power in the US, this is to the detriment of all. Christian thought is hardly set up to engage humanity’s multi-species, symbiotic reality. What microbes blend together (nature-culture, animal-human, me-you), Christian thinkers typically keep apart. Doing religious studies alert to boundary-breeching microbial science does cause trouble for religion and vice versa, but Bradford is convinced it’s only a good kind of trouble.

Working at the intersections of religion, microbiology, ecology and race, she investigates the historical entanglement of disease theories, public health strategy, Christian thought, and coloniality to cultivate ecological wisdom, scientific engagement and the pursuit of environmental justice in religious contexts. Bradford asks questions like, what happens when a religious tradition that believes God became human is confronted with a science that says humans are an emerging amalgam of species?  Is the Christian God microbial? What happens when Christian thought’s “rational human subject” turns out to be colonized by tiny “irrational” animals? How might microbiome science reform Christian thought that often disrupts engagement of science and is complicit in exploitative and exclusionary ways of being? How have the historical entanglement of epidemiology, coloniality and Christian teaching contributed to the disease of both body and planet, the disproportionate effects of which are born by black and brown communities? How has demonizing the microbe paved the way for oppression of those deemed sub-human? Further, how might ancient theological texts become tools for historians of science? How did pre-pasteurian Christians think about yeast? How do scientists convey vital discovery to a religious tradition whose relationship to science is fraught? Could science and religious thought be symbiotic?

From the lab, Bradford co-organizes an interdisciplinary, international group of scholars, artists and activists who explore “big ideas” through multiple lenses, including public health, industry, fermentation, human futures and climate change adaptation. She is currently writing a theology of human holobionts to reconfigure religious ways of knowing and reflecting the divine as symbiotic to cultivate ecological empathy and antiracist postures in the Eurowestern Church. Bradford is also the director of the Center for Wellbeing and Contemplative Practice and the College Chaplain at Salem College and partners with the Berggruen Institute where she collaborates to develop non-athropocentric multispecies ways of governing.


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