Section IX: Reimagining and Reinventing Bodily-Spiritual Health

Track 2: Rethinking “Sexuality”
(Gianluigi Gugliermetto)


Traditionally serving societal lineage and inheritance, with women’s non-reproductive sexual activity repressed, “sexuality” is understood today as a contribution to full self-expression and enjoyment. Whiteheadian thought offers ways to deconstruct “sexuality,” reframing ideas of eros, friendship, sexual relationships, and sexual identities, while making apparent the promises and pitfalls of the modern eroticized body in terms of violence, morality & religion.


Session #1: FRIDAY 2:00-3:30pm Interrogating “Nature”

Jake Erickson and Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Our first session investigates logics and norms that shape our perspectives on sexuality and ecology. We do so by interrogating the powerful modern logic of “Nature,” in particular. On one hand, human use of the idea of “Nature” has allowed us to separate ourselves from our ecological context. Nature is “out there” and separate from “culture,” and therefore uncivilized, threatening, “less than” human, to be controlled by humans. Ecology, matter, sexuality and embodied flesh simply don’t matter, the logic goes, because human beings aren’t really part of Nature. On the other hand, the modern concept of Nature has been used as a weapon against non-normative sexualities, seen as “unnatural” and “perverted.” If ideas have power, the idea of Nature powerfully regulates our perspectives on ecology and sexuality. This session will get us started talking about the complicated injustices that plague human ecology and sexuality.

Further Reading:

  • Timothy Morton, “Guest Column: Queer Ecology” PMLA. Volume 125, Number 2, March 2010.
  • Christiana Peppard, ““Denaturing Nature.” The Union Seminary Quarterly Review 63, nos. 1&2 (Spring/Summer 2011): 97-120.
  • Dan Spencer, Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic, Cleveland, OH: PilgrimPress, 1996.


Session #2 FRIDAY 4:00-5:30pm Joint session with the BODIES COUNT TRACK

Lisa da Silva, Kwazi Nkrumah, Gianluigi Gugliermetto

Bodies Count – Whose bodies count? Whose bodies don’t? Where are the bodies?

Through presentations and panel discussions we will consider how humans have become disconnected from the rest of nature the consequences for whose bodies count. We will be joined by members of the Sexuality track.


Session #3 SATURDAY 11:00am – 12:30pm Genealogies of Sexuality

Gianluigi Gugliermetto and Jared Vazquez

Many societies have tried to channel sexual activity, leading to strict control over the expression of sexuality by women and to strong opposition to forms of sexuality that did not lead to reproduction. Today, we think that the liberation of sexuality from oppression is a straightforward road, however bumpy, when we see it as a natural element of human life, i.e. as somehow naturally inscribed on the body. Michel Foucault has shown, however, that sexuality has a history, i.e. that the conception itself of what we call “sexual” is culturally defined. In this session, we will explore the constructed nature of “sexuality” and the effects of that construction both on the body as well as on ideologies about the natural order of the world.


Session #4 SATURDAY 2:00-3:30pm Bodies, Materiality, and An Ontology of Becoming

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza and Zairong Xiang

The question of sexuality is directly linked to the question of the body. How the body is perceived and theorized in different cultures determines how the “sexual” is conceived. In this session, following the previous discussion on Foucault’s notion of the historicized and constructed nature of sexuality, we propose to look specifically at the idea of “the body”, or precisely body’s “ontology of becoming” in the material-discursive body of Traditional Chinese Medicine and further to focus on the potentiality of conceiving body in material terms (over against the more popular conception of discursive bodies): As materiality plays a significant role in the nature of becoming, bodies become different and enflesh the capacity to shape and shift, or become in ontological terms. Likewise, when the term ‘body’ is disentangled from the anthropocene, bodies take on a new capacity, like the body-of-orifices in TCM, a body that invites plurality and multiplicity into the very nature of what it means to be a body and hence becoming commences.


Session #5 SATURDAY 4-6pm Sexual Identities and Ecopolitics

Jake Erickson and Brock Perry

Given our previous sessions on of the idea of “nature,” our tracking of the emergence of the concept of sexuality, and our rethinking of body, materiality, and becoming, this session explores the diverse kinds of sexual politics, assemblies, and coalitions that might emerge. We’ll look at contemporary examples of queer politics, ask what kinds of coalitions make a difference, and think about how our work in this conference might contribute to rethinking normative conceptions of Nature. We’ll think about the further political implications of queer bodies, queer politics of resistance, and queer alliances with ecojustice movements.

Further Media:

  • Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona and Bruce Erickson, eds Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010.
  • Halberstam, Judith. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham, NC: Duke University Press,2011.
  • Pride. Dir. Matthew Warchus. BBC Films, 2014. DVD.


Session #6 SUNDAY 11:00am – 12:30pm Eros and Whitehead: Decolonizing Desire?

Gianluigi Gugliermetto and Zairong Xiang

What are the sexual and ecological implications of an idea of the body that is intrinsically different from a modern and individualistic one? In this session, by establishing a relation between the idea the open body-of-orifices crystallized in the I-Ching (already discussed in session 3) and the basic premises of a Whiteheadian anthropology of desire, we will look into the possibilities for decolonizing desire itself.


Session #7 SUNDAY 2:00-3:30pm Space and eros in community

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza and Jared Vazquez

Given that we are intrinsically spatial beings, this session bears thinking about space and communities. In particular, the manner in which varying theologies about the natural world shape that particular community’s position towards and interaction with nature. By theologies we also mean broad, large scale denominational type theologies as well as the local theologies that emerge out of a community’s living together in a particular material geography. We anticipate achieving this through the lens of Edward Soja’s ‘Third Space.’ Third space requires an emancipatory praxis, a translation of knowledge into action in a conscious and consciously spatial effort to improve the world in significant ways. ( Soja, 22)


Session #8 SUNDAY 4:00-5:30pm Sexuality, Reproductivity and Survivability

Brock Perry



sexualityThis course meets the qualifications for the CEU hours listed below for LCSWs, MFTs, LPCs, &/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The Center for Creative Transformation is a registered CEU provider (PCE 1095) with the BBS. [Approval for Clinical Psychologist CE units is being sought but has not been granted as yet.] Please click here to go to the CEU Registration Page.