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Face to Face Encounters: Theological and Ethical Reflections

Meet the Researcher

Andrew Shepherd photoDr Andrew Shepherd is a former Research & Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago. He is is the Co-Director of Christian conservation organisation, A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand, and also teaches theology and ethics for a range of NZ and US tertiary institutions. Recent publications include: The Gift of the Other: Levinas, Derrida, and a Theology of Hospitality (Eugene, OR.: Pickwick Publications, 2014) and Taking Rational Trouble Over the Mysteries (Eugene, OR.: Pickwick Publications, 2013) and Creation and Hope: Anticipation and Promise in Aotearoa, eds. Nicola Hoggard Creegan and Andrew Shepherd (Eugene, OR.: Pickwick Publications, forthcoming).

Project Description

While recent research in phenomenology and neurobiology has emphasised the critical role that facing the Other plays in the development of empathy and human ethics, we live in an age where inter-human relationships and engagement with the non-human world is often mediated by the use of digital technology. Within the arena of human conflict technological advances in weaponry have increased the distance between combatants, making face to face encounters between adversaries less likely than on previous battlefields. Further, the use of digital technology for propaganda purposes in the ongoing 'war on terror' further de-faces both perpetrators and victims of violence. Meanwhile, in every day life, surveillance and face-recognition technology is widely used to observe and monitor the movements of individual and populations.

What is the impact of this dominance of screens and the increasing presence of an 'omni-present seeing eye' on the shape of human relationships and our engagment with the world around us? How might a theological reflection on the importance of human faces shape our thinking and practice towards these technologies?

Recent work that flows out of this current research project:

  • Keynote Address at 'Hospitality: Engaging the Other', Thought Matters Conference, hosted by The Salvation Army Tri-Territorial Theological Forum of the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, Australia Eastern and Australia Southern Territories, Booth College of Mission, Upper Hutt, Sept 29th - Oct 21st, 2017.

Project events

27 May 2020 Dr Andrew Shepherd, ‘Facing, Naming and Engaging Cultures and Systems of Violence: Reading Mark 5:1-20 in a Military-Digital Complex Age’, at Faith Thinking on Zoom, University of Otago. 
11 Nov 2020 Flourishing futures – Theological conversations on important issues: ‘Students, citizens and surveillance: Technology, theology and the future of education and democracy’ . Public Event, Ramsay House, Victoria University of Wellington.

Publications

Shepherd, A. (2020, August). ‘"You have searched me & know me": Surrendering our freedom through surveillance’. Movement Online Blog, Anglican Diocese of Wellington. Retrieved from https://movementonline.org.nz/blog/11e0mwocbwsm5ywd7lcny3z0rnysvm

Shepherd, A. ‘Facing, Naming And Engaging Violence: Reading Mark 5:1-20 in a Military-Digital Complex Age’, Zadok Perspectives 149 (Summer 2020), pp.15-21.