TERA is a collective of five scholars and two artists working across Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean. It was convened to creatively reimagine the encounters between technology, ecology, religion, and art.
TERA began in 2021, with the leadership of Hillary Kaell. During 2022, the collective met online every month. At these meetings, each TERA member presented an artifact to the group—an online performance, an academic text, a sonic recording, an image, or anything else—and put these artifacts into conversation.
The method was an intentional subversion of nineteenth-century naturalist clubs and their cabinets of curiosity. In these clubs, European and Euro-American men presented collections of artifacts to each other as they categorized the world’s natural and human phenomena, including sacred items. In these spaces of elite knowledge making, technology, ecology, and religion collided.
From these clubs, TERA inherited an awareness of our intimacy with others: as scholars and artists, we never think alone. Yet TERA also deliberately subverted their ongoing legacy through its project of de-categorization. Rather than compiling artifacts to build existing classificatory systems, the goal was to let the artifacts spark new forms of collective thinking as active participants in our conversations. Rather than isolate one type of knowledge from another to refine professional ‘fields of expertise,’ we embraced multiple ways of knowing the world—from music composition to genetics, cultural critique to environmental studies, poetry to visual art.
In this website, we invite you to encounter and experience the artifacts we collected together. The website replicates TERA’s method of inquiry, providing multiple ways to navigate the artifacts. Read more where we explain about this website and teaching tools. Through its infrastructure, the website makes explicit the ways that knowledge systems are always processes. What we think is shaped by how we think. In navigating the website you become a member of TERA, querying as you collect, building and dismantling systems of thought.
Alejandro Escalante (PhD, UNC-Chapel Hill) is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. His work draws from Caribbean theory and philosophy and gender and sexuality studies, tracing the ways in which we make, re-make, and unmake ourselves as human. Inspired by the Jamaican philosopher and novelist Sylvia Wynter and French ethnographer Georges Bataille, Alejandro’s work explores the historical limitations of “Man” and tries to imagine otherwise. He is currently working on his first monograph, tentatively titled “Madness: Gender, Race, and Religion in Puerto Rico.” Previous work has been published in Transgender Studies Quarterly, Journal of Africana Religions, and Feminist Theology.
Amanda M. Nichols is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Environmental Studies Program at University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned her Ph.D. in 2021 from University of Florida. Her primary research, which falls at the intersections of environmental history and religious and gender studies, focuses on the contributions of women in the North American anti-nuclear movement. Amanda also serves as the Managing Editor of Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Treasurer for the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, and an editor for the Journal of Posthumanism.
Elonda Clay is the Director of the Library at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio and a PhD candidate in Theology and Religious Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her dissertation examines how direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry, genealogy television, and popular racialized notions of biology are mediated and remediated through popular entertainment media and the Internet. Her work has been supported by the American Society for Human Genetics, the Forum for Theological Education, the John Templeton Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the United Methodist Women of Color, GreenFaith Coalition for the Environment, and Research Institute for Philosophy Hannover.
Gabriel Dharmoo (PhD, Concordia University) has an artistic practice that encompasses music composition, vocal performance, and drag. Among the awards he has received are the Canada Council for the Arts Jules Léger Prize for his chamber work Wanmansho (2017) and the Conseil Québécois de la Musique Opus Award for his opera À chaque ventre son monstre (2018). Gabriel’s solo show Anthropologies imaginaires was awarded at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival (2015) and the SummerWorks Performance Festival (2016). His drag persona Bijuriya produces original music and performed the stage show Bijuriya (2022) at Montréal Arts Interculturels, the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival, the Music Gallery in Toronto, and Fluid Fest in Calgary.
Nadia Huggins was born in Trinidad and Tobago and grew up in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A self-taught artist, she works in photography and has built a body of images that are characterized by her observation of the everyday. Her work merges documentary and conceptual practices, which explore belonging, identity, and memory through a contemporary approach to re-presenting Caribbean landscapes and the sea. In 2023, her solo show Coral & Ash took place at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, NY, USA. Her work also forms part of the collection of The Wedge Collection (Toronto), The National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston), and The Art Museum of the Americas (Washington).
Judith Ellen Brunton is a scholar of religious studies and the environmental humanities, currently at Harvard University as a William Lyon Mackenzie King Postdoctoral Fellow in the Canada Program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Judith received her PhD from the University of Toronto in 2022. Her current book project takes an ethnographic and archival approach to explore how oil extraction shapes contemporary imaginaries of the good life in Alberta. Judith is broadly interested in questions of energy, land and labor, secularity and enchantment, religion-making, and method in the North American West.
Hillary Kaell is associate professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at McGill University, where she holds a William Dawson Research Chair. She is author of Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage (New York UP, 2014) and, most recently, Christian Globalism at Home: Child Sponsorship in the United States (Princeton, 2020), winner of the 2021 Schaff Prize from the American Society of Church History. Her current project explores spiritual and ecological change on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She serves as Director of TERA.
Primary funding for TERA comes from Hillary Kaell’s chair at McGill University, named after William Dawson, a key member of the Natural History Society of Montreal who founded the city’s first Natural History Museum in 1882. Dawson emblematizes the elite members of nineteenth-century naturalist clubs whose activities we evoke, and also intentionally subvert, in this collective project.
Want to cite this website? For text from the body of the website, like this page, the preferred citation is: “Name of page,” TERA collective, 2023. Accessed (date). URL. For artifact write ups, the preferred citation is: “Name of artifact,” curated by [name of TERA curator], TERA collective, 2023. Accessed (date). URL.