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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091365/00001
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Title: Connections
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Department of Religion, University of Florida
Publisher: Department of Religion, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Creation Date: 2008
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
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A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

Travis Smith received an Internationalizing the Curriculum Award,
2008, sponsored by the UF International Center, to support the
UF in India Summer Abroad program that he developed with Anita
Anantharam (Women's Studies). In June and July 2008, Dr. Smith
and Dr. Anantharam, assisted by Religion graduate student Jimi Wil-
son, took twenty students from diverse departments for a six-week
course. Based at the Navdanya Bijavidyapeeth, a research institute and
organic farm nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the students
nourished themselves on locally cultivated, organic vegetarian fare,
engaged in daily farm work, and attended 11i, '1 i ..... in addi-
tion to trips outside the institute. Smith and Anantharam plan to offer
the course again next summer.

I'c ty INew I

Robert Kawashima co-edited a Festschrift, to which he contributed a chapter
as well, that was recently published: Phantom Sentences: Essays in Linguistics and
Literature Presented to Ann Banfield (co-edited with Gilles Philippe and Thelma
Sowley), Bern, Peter Lang, 2008. Dr. Kawashima also spoke at two conferences
on linguistics and literature over the spring and summer, in Paris and Berkeley.
Roman Loimeier visited Norway in September, to give a talk titled "What is
reform? The dynamics of Islamic reform in Africa," at the annual meeting of the
Nordic Network on Islam in Africa in Bergen.
Vasudha Narayanan published "'With the earth as a lamp and the sun as the
flame' Lighting Devotion in South India" in the International Journal of Hindu
I '-pnF-'.-'Verlag). In July, she presented a keynote address "Constructing
the cosmos, creating communities: Hindu temples from Angkor to Atlanta" for
the conference on The Public Representation of a Religion called Hinduism,
European Conference of Modern South Asian Studies, held at the University of
Manchester. In the fall, she gave talks at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco;
Rutgers University; Miami University, Ohio; and James Madison University,
Virginia. In December, she gave a talk on the relationship between Kanchipuram
and Kambuja (Cambodia) at the Prakriti Foundation, Chennai, India.
Jason Neelis has published several journal articles on his work on early Buddhist
manuscripts. Dr. Neelis also gave a presentation in June on "Domestication of
Gandharan Avadanas in British Library Kharosthi Manuscripts" for a panel on
Gandharan Manuscripts and Gandharan Buddhism at the 15th Conference of
the International Association of Buddhist Studies held in Atlanta.
Anna Peterson and Manuel Visquez have published Latin American Religions:
Histories and Documents in Context (New York University Press, 2008). Dr. Pe-
terson is also a co-principal investigator (PI) on a two-year grant from the Na-
tional Science Foundation to develop curriculum and teaching materials on the
ethics of sustainability, directed by Dr. Charles Kibert of the College of Building
Design & Construction.
Mario Poceski has published an article in the Journal of Chinese Religions, tied
"Lay Models of Engagement with Chan Teachings and Practices among the Li-
terati in Mid-Tang China." He is presently working on a new book, the Black-

well Companion to East and Inner Asian Buddhism, which will be published by
Blackwell. Dr. Poceski also gave an invited lecture at the University of Oslo on
"Monastic and Lay Practices in Classical Chan (Zen) Buddhism" in September.
Also in Norway, Dr. Poceski presented a paper at the International Conference
on Zen Texts as Public Documents, on the topic of "Popular Remembrances and
Literary Transfigurations of the Great Chan Teachers from the Tang Era."
Whitney Sanford discussed her recently published book c Krishna: Sound
Becomes '. in Paramanand' Poetry (SUNY, 2008) at Goering's Book Center
in Gainesville on October 29, 2008. Dr. Sanford traveled to Adelaide, Australia
to participate in a conference on "Globalising Religion and Culture in the Asia
Pacific" in December 2008. She also presented at the American Academy of
Religion annual meeting in Chicago. Dr. Sanford also recently received a grant
from the American Academy of Religion for her new project, "Gandhi's Envi-
ronmental Legacy: Food Democracy and Social Movements." Along with two
of our graduate students, Shreena Gandhi and Michael Gressett, Dr. Sanford
served on a (nearly) all-Gator panel at the Conference for the Study of Religion
in India in September at Marville College in Tennessee.
Zoharah Simmons has published two articles: "Martin Luther King Revisited:
A Black Power Feminist Pays Homage to the King," Journal of Feminist Stud-
ies in Religion (November 2008) and "From Muslims in America to American
Muslims," Journal ofIslamic Law & Culture (Winter 2008-2009).
Travis Smith presented a paper at an international conference on "Transforma-
tion and Transfer of Tantra/Tantrism in Asia and Beyond" in Berlin in Decem-
Manuel Visquez published an article on transnational religious networks in
Method and Theory in the Study ofReligion. In early Spring 2009, Rutgers Uni-
versity Press is publishing his co-edited volume titled To Take Place, which is
based on research on the religious lives of new Latino immigrants in Florida.
Robin Wright has published (with co-author Aparecida Vilaca) a book titled
Native Christians; he has also coordinated a forthcoming issue of the Journalfor
the Study ofReligion, Nature, and Culture on "The Religious Lives of Amazonian
Plants" (forthcoming, 2009).

Winter 2008-2009

Graduate Students Teaching at UF & Beyond

Many of our graduate students are teaching in our
department and elsewhere in the University of
Florida as well. They are teaching a wide range of
courses, including introductory courses in Islam,
North American religions, world religions, and
Asian religions. They have also taught more spe-
cialized classes on Religion and Nature in North
America, Religion, Ethics, and Nature, and Social
Ethics. Several of our graduate students have also
been teaching composition classes in the English
Department. While this teaching is part of their
professional development, it is also a great service
to our department and the university.
We are also proud of our students who have
positions outside UE Shreena Gandhi (Ph.D.,
Americas) is now in her third year as an Assistant
Professor in the Religion Department at Kalama-
zoo College in Michigan. GavinVan Horn (Ph.D.,
Nature) is the Brown Junior Visiting Professor in
Environmental Studies at Southwestern University
(Georgetown, TX). During this two-year position,
Gavin will contribute to Southwestern's growing
campus sustainability efforts and teach courses
such as Religion and Ecology and Environmental
Our graduate students continue to receive
recognition of their teaching excellence. Michael
Gressett (Ph.D., Asia) received a graduate stu-
dent teaching award last spring, and this semester,
Sean O'Neil (Ph.D., Americas) has been awarded
a Doctoral Student Teaching Award from UF's
Latin American Studies Center. Sean is teaching
his course on "Religion, Pluralism and Identity in
Latin America" during spring semester 2009.

Seth Bryant (M.A., Americas) presented a paper at
the annual conference of the John Whitmer His-
torical Association held in Voree, Wisconsin, which
received one of two 2008 Wildermuth Awards for
promising scholars of Latter Day Saint history.
Seth defended his Master's thesis in Fall 2008 and

is presently applying to Ph.D. programs.

Eleanor Finnegan (Ph.D., Nature) has published
a review of Islam and Ecology, edited by Richard
Foltz, Frederick M. Denny, and Azizan Bahauddin,
which will appear in Islamic Perspective.

Phillip Green (Ph.D., Asia) presented a paper
titled "The Avadana of Kacangala: A Tale of Fil-
ial Piety and Debt Reversal" at the 37th Annual
Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin
in October.

Nathan Herrod, a Ph.D. student in History with a
minor in Religion, presented a paper at the Florida
Society for the Social Sciences Conference in Oc-
tober in Gainesville.

Gayle Lasater (Ph.D., Americas) presented a pa-
per titled "Mormonism Comes to Santo Domingo:
Among Missionaries and Converts" at the meeting
of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in
Louisville in October.

Greg McElwain (Ph.D., Nature) received a re-
search assistantship from the Animals and Religion
Department of the Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS). He is also working with Anna Pe-
terson on the NSF grant on "Teaching Ethics in

Bridgette O'Brien (Ph.D., Nature) is working as a
consultant to secondary schools with the Council
for Spiritual and Ethical Education. She has pre-
sented several papers, at the Teaching the World's
Religions Institute in Washington, D.C. in July
and at the NCDS Campus Ministry Conference in
Boston in October.

Robin Globus (Ph.D., Nature) has received an
IGERT Fellowship. IGERT is an NSF funded pro-

gram focusing on interdisciplinary learning.

Lucas Johnston (Ph.D., Nature) has presented his
work at the Media, Spiritualities and Social Change
Conference in Colorado, the Society for the Study
of Religion, Nature and Culture conference in
Mexico, and will present at the International Con-
ference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic
and Social Sustainability in Mauritius in January
of 2009. He has recently completed an article for
the Encyclopedia of Sustainability on International
Commissions and Declarations, and is currently
at work on an article for Religion Compass and is
working on two chapters for an edited volume In-
herited Land: the Changing Grounds of Religion and

Todd Levasseur (Ph.D., Nature) was part of a
UF team that undertook a joint research project
through the Indo-U.S. Agricultural Knowledge
Initiative (AKI). This was a pilot study to incor-
porate gender analysis into scientific modeling of
agricultural cropping systems, with a specific fo-
cus on groundwater depletion. This brought the
humanities and social sciences together with the
natural sciences. Todd spent five weeks working
with Indian partners and researchers, along with
ten days of fieldwork in the Kothakunta watershed
in the Madak district, about 1.5 hours by car from
Hyderabad, the capitol ofAndhra Pradesh.

Grad Students at AAR: Several graduate students
presented papers at the American Academy of Re-
ligion meeting, including Leah Sarat, who spoke
on "Reinventing the Border: Religion, Tourism
and the U.S.-Mexico Frontier"; Bridgette O'Brien,
who coordinated a panel discussion on "Exploring
the Theoretical Underpinnings of a Green Peda-
gogy"; and Sam Snyder, who presented on "Ritual
and Restoration Ecology on Florida's Ocklawaha

Firs Ph.D 1 GradPe6~uates I

We are proud to announce the first two Ph.D.s
awarded in Religion from the University of Flor-
ida! Gavin Van Horn and Sam Snyder, both
students in Religion and Nature, defended their
dissertations early in Fall 2008 semester.

Gavin's dissertation is titled "Howling about the
Land: Religion, Social Space, and Wolf Rein-
troduction in the Southwestern United States."
Gavin's committee chair is Bron Taylor; other
members are Anna Peterson, Jack Davis (His-
tory), and Paul Waldau (Tufts University).

Sam's dissertation is titled "Casting for Conser-
vation: Religion, Popular Culture, and Politics
of River Restoration." Sam's committee chair is
Anna Peterson; other members are Bron Taylor,
Manuel Visquez, and Sid Dobrin (English).

1 IL ain (Tolch I

The next time you're surfing the web, visit the
department web site at www.religion.ufl.edu.
It's a great way to keep in touch with what is
happening in the department. Also, alumni are

encouraged to participate in the Department is free, and you may unsubscribe anytime you
of Religion alumni listserv. Alumni on this wish. If you wish to subscribe, send an e-mail to
list may post and receive e-mails to and from annenl@religion.ufl.edu. We hope you will join
other alumni and the department. This service us in conversation online!

Winter 2008-2009, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 2

11(6 CW'TI]uateiCC NewsI

Student Updates
Michael Garrett has been selected as a Fellow with
the Interfaith Youth Core for 2008-2009 ifyc.org>. This is an organization that deals heav-
ily with promoting Religious Pluralism and Inter-
faith Work Internationally. Mike hopes that with
their training, support, and resources combined
with his initiative, he can contribute to progressive
changes on campus over the next year. Mike is also
collaborating with the Dean of Students Office,
specifically Tamara Cohen, to form the first Uni-
versity of Florida Interfaith Council.

New Organization Formed
In fall 2008, undergraduate religion majors,
working with faculty mentor, Dr. Gwynn Kes-
sler, started the Society of Academic Religious
Studies (SOARS). The mission of SOARS is
to create a community atmosphere within the
department that fosters lively and meaningful
interaction between undergraduates. SOARS
serves as a vital source of information for stu-
dents new to the major or minor, providing
mentoring and practical information and ad-
vice regarding (among other things): the career
options open to majors of religion after they

Nila Raisz went to India last year to research a par-
ticular Hindu deity for her Undergraduate Honors
Thesis. According to Nila: "I quickly realized that
the people I was observing were as fascinated by me
as I was by them. Some journalists who spotted me
there while they were attending another function,
wrote a little blurb about me in the daily news-
paper, and the next day, one of the most famous
news anchors for that region came to interview
me for the evening news. During the interview,
we walked to the building where pilgrims shave

graduate; those steps to take in order to make
one an excellent candidate for acceptance into
masters or doctoral programs in Religious Stud-
ies; or even what classes to take in the coming
The members of SOARS hope that graduate
students and faculty will also participate in our
nascent community. Guest lectures from pro-
fessionals in the field that passionately describe
their current research projects will undoubt-
edly spark greater interest in Religious Stud-
ies among young Religion majors and minors.

their hair in offering, and I decided to immerse
myself in the experience and shave up as well. I ap-
peared in the news again 4 times, all during what I
thought was a humble undergraduate thesis."

SOARS also plays a positive role in the
larger Gainesville community, sponsoring inter-
religious panels and social justice projects. We
hope that alumni will be interested not only
in watching our organization grow, but also in
helping it to do so. If you would like to support
us, either by participating in our events or con-
tributing monetarily, please contact Taylor Sin-
cich (skateman@ufl.edu). SOARS meets every
Thursday evening; please contact Taylor Sincich
or Dr. Kessler for details.

IAlumnnIi New Vs

Charles Cannon (B.A. 1982), Director of Inci-
dent Management for Liberty Medical Supply,
Port St. Lucie, Florida, was recently appointed
Episcopal Deacon in Charge of two small mission
churches in Western Palm Beach County. St. John
the Apostle Episcopal Church is a 60-year-old
multi-cultural mission in Belle Glade, and Holy
Nativity Episcopal Church is a struggling 80-year-
old mission in Pahokee. Charles notes that "The
skills and talents honed while working in the fast
paced and ever-changing healthcare industry assist
me in exploring creative ideas about building and
sustaining mainstream churches in transitional

Bhakti Cohen (B.A. 1999) has opened a family
therapy private practice in the Duck Pond area of
Gainesville. She became a grandmother to Katie in
May and to another granddaughter in October.

Michael Franks (B.A. 2004) began graduate work
at the University of Chicago Divinity School this
fall. Michael writes: "I plan to focus much of my
studies in the general area of ethics, and predomi-
nantly the issues surrounding the two topics of
Christian Just War Theory and Christian Pacifism.
It is within this realm of theological ethics where
my main interest is found and where I plan to
frame my academic objectives here. I hope to ex-
plore what the Christian ethical tradition can offer
in terms of today's fast paced and quickly chang-
ing world where challenges like pre-emptive war,
violence, globalism and religious radicalism (to
name a few) affect everyone in one degree or an-
other." Upon completing his M.A., Michael plans
to apply to the Ph.D. program at the University
of Chicago.

Anne Raduns (B.A. 2000) is a partner in the Law
Firm of Appleget and Raduns, with a practice lim-
ited to family law. Anne also writes, "following in
my footstep, my daughter Jenna Raduns, has be-
gun her academic journey in the Religion Depart-
ment Summer of 2008."

Michelle Thresher Taylor (B.A. 1996) recently
started her "dream job" in the Appellate Section of
the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle
District of Florida. Michelle graduated from UF's
Law School in 2001.

Daniel Watkins (B.A. 2005) received his M.A.
in History at U.F last spring, and then moved
to Columbus, Ohio to begin a Ph.D. program in
Early Modern European History this fall. Daniel
was awarded the Graduate School's Distinguished
University Fellowship. He is studying French his-

426 4 V'Reitl nin IPracticeI

Vasudha Narayanan, Anna Peterson, Whitney
Sanford, and Manuel Visquez, working with Ani-
ta Anantharam (Women's Studies) and Philip Wil-
liams (Political Science), received a grant from the
UF International Center for a series of workshops

on "Global Religion in Practice." The program has
four central axes: ritual and performance; immi-
gration; food and agriculture; and everyday ethics.
The International Center grant will bring several
speakers to UF during the 2008-2009 academic

year to talk about ways to build programs in this
area, with a special focus on connections between
Latin America and South Asia. Visiting scholars
include Joyce Flueckiger (Emory), Tom Tweed
(Texas), and Norman Wirzba (Duke).

Winter 2008-2009, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 3

IFrome^i ] the ChIair I

t has been my privilege to serve as Interim Chair this year. As you will see from
this newsletter, our department is thriving with intellectual activities, and we
have much to celebrate. Gavin Van Horn and Sam Snyder were our first two
students to graduate from our Ph.D. program and are happily placed in other
Our faculty and graduate students have been teaching, publishing, and in-
volved in activities around the university. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing
features of our department is its connections with other program units within the
University of Florida. We work with several programs including the Centers for
Women's Studies and Gender Research; Jewish Studies; Latin American Studies;
African Studies; World Arts; Spirituality and Health; the School of Natural Re-
sources and Environment; the School of Music; and the Samuel P Ham Museum
ofArt. Several faculty members are also affiliated with the Center for the Study of
Hindu Traditions (CHiTra). These connections are deep and extensive; you will
see in this issue that Anna Peterson is a co-principal investigator along with Dr.
Charles Kibert of the College of Building Design & Construction on a grant from
the National Science Foundation to develop curriculum and teaching materials
on the ethics of sustainability; Whitney Sanford and one of our graduate students,
Todd LaVasseur, have been involved with an initiative headed by Dorota Ha-
man, Chair of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, working with integrating
gender and social issues in watershed management in the India-U.S. Agricultural
Knowledge Initiative (AKI); and our collaborations with the Samuel P Ham Mu-
seum of Art and the Center for World Arts continue to flourish. Bron Taylor's
work connects him with several units around the university; Gwynn Kessler and
Zoharah Simmons work with gender issues; Jason Neelis has courses cross listed
with History; and the list goes on.

And yet, despite this extended family, despite be-
ing included and being central to many conversations
around the university and community, we are a dis-
tinctive field and very much a department of Religion.
Connected with and contributing to conversations in
many fields and many disciplines, we are all still scholars
of Religion, with an identity distinct from others. The
mission statement of the American Academy of Reli-
gion captures the significance of the work we do in our department:
In a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and
economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individu-
als, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understand-
ing of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values. The American
Academy of Religion's mission is to promote such reflection through
excellence in scholarship and teaching in the field of religion.
Our strength comes from being connected both with other departments and with
connections within our own field. Critical reflection on religion from a multitude
of perspectives is the work our faculty and students are engaged in; and from this
newsletter, you will agree that we do it well!
Despite our many achievements, it has been a year of many challenges, pri-
marily fiscal. As many of you know, our department, our college, and our univer-
sity have been dealt major budget cuts. We are part of the "finance-demic" that
has affected much of the world. We thank our alumni, friends, and our advisory
board for their unstinted support over the last few years, and especially over the
last few months. There are rough times ahead, but we are in this together and will
emerge stronger after this storm.

Ul ^i Almn Lcu Funsdlc BHI w

The Department of Religion hopes to provide students with academic experi-
ences that will offer perspectives on religion's role in our everyday lives. We
hope that through an Alumni Lecture Series and other activities, both students
and alumni will gain insights from some of today's most brilliant minds. These
occasions will also offer the opportunity for today's classes to connect with those
who came before them.
Please consider a gift to the Department of Religion to support the depart-
ment's critical educational activities for those following in your footsteps. Please
complete the form and return to the address below. Thanks for your support!

Yes! I would like to support the Alumni Lecture Series! (Fund #00767)

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