Group Title: Connections : a newsletter for the Department of Religion at the University of Florida
Title: Connections
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Title: Connections
Series Title: Connections
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Language: English
Creator: Department of Religion, University of Florida
Publisher: Department of Religion, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: Summer 2008
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Volume ID: VID00008
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A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

Summer 2008

, i r ,:. .m ~rn .r ,In rl'k, -_-.'. .. . r..
higher Education have underscored the
need for humanities faculty to engage in
collaborative, cross-disciplinary work that
reaches out across the college, nation, and
beyond. Religion departments, as part of the
humanities, need to make clear their central
importance to higher education and the
larger society by making our work part of
the conversation. This is the direction of our
During the past academic year we have
made a commitment to making general
education courses in religion available to many
more undergraduates. Large, introductory
courses in Religion, World Religions, Judaism,
Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, Islam,
Religions of Asia, Buddhism, Hinduism,
American Religious History, and Religion and
the Environment are now offered nearly every
semester. As our inaugural Alumni Lecturer,
Boston University Professor Stephen Prothero,
proclaimed to over 200 undergraduates in
University Auditorium this last November,
not knowing about religion threatens our
ability to understand and participate in civil
society (see page 7).
In this issue of Connections, are recent
examples of our faculty and graduate students
collaborating with faculty on this and other
campuses, and internationally to address such

I, r rr, .'11 Ii I1 .- 1 I 1v. I II i l-lli 1 l-lY r i l I 'I
(page 5), creationism (page 6), and the trans-
formation of Hinduism (page 5). At different
times during the year, symposia devoted to
water disputes, gender, and the environment
(page 4) as well as sustained inquiry into the
role of historical memory in the transmission
of Chinese Buddhism (page 4) held center
Our most public moment came in the
late fall when Manuel Vasquez appeared on
Bill Moyers'Journalto discuss his path-break-
ing work on religion and Latin American
immigration (page 4). Internationally, Bron
Taylor participated in a presentation at the
United Nations on sustainable development
as part of his work as a core member of the
Oslo Sustainability Initiative. Bron's efforts to
engage public conversation on religion and
nature can best be explored through www. (page 2).
This issue marks several passages. Soon
we will be embarking on
a search for an endowed
professorship in Islam as the Religit
result of a gift that honors humai
the memory and legacy of
Izzat Hasan Sheikh (page 2). central
This gift will strengthen our tion al
efforts to understand and
St our w
explain the contemporary

challenges and opportunities of the Islamic
world. This spring marks the retirement of our
beloved elder professors, Gene Thursby and
Shaya Isenberg, each of whom has taught for
more than thirty-five years in the department
(page 3). Finally, this August I pass the baton
of chairmanship on to our Distinguished
Professor Vasudha Narayanan. It has been
a pleasure to take my turn in chairing the
department. I look forward to Vasu's able

n departments, as part of the
cities, need to make clear their
I importance to higher educa-
nd the larger society by making
rk part of the conversation.

INTu I ssu

From the Chair ........................ ................................... 1
Izzat Hasan Sheikh Endowed Professorship.................................... 2
Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture ..................... 2
Gene Thursby and Shaya Isenberg Retire........................................... 3
Manuel Vasquez Appears on Bill Moyers' Journal............................ 4
Symposium on Chinese Buddhism......................... ............... 4
Water, Gender and Equity in India.............................. .............. 4
Rethinking Environmental Values, Consumption and Desire............. 5

CHiTra Turns Three ............................... ........................ 5
Pasta Monster Receives Academic Attention ......................................6
Graduate Students Shine at Academic Conferences...........................
Jaberg Award.............................. .............................7
N icosia Aw ard.................................................... ........................ 7
Alumni Lecture: What Every American
Needs to Know About Religion........................ .......... .............. 7
Faculty Books.............................. ............................. 8

by ),,id H, /-1vn

""""' ""'

m vsatlu ml ani She nikh Enduowed LflL* 1 Professorshcuip

W Te are pleased to announce the creation of this new professor-
W ship in the Department of Religion that honors the memory
and legacy of Izzat Hasan Sheikh. Funded by a gift from her family,
the professorship seeks to promote the study of the Islamic world, its
religious beliefs, social and moral values, cultural traditions, and con-
temporary challenges and opportunities.
Izzat Hasan Sheikh was born in rural India. In her youth, she
faced tremendous hardships and adversity, including the loss of both
of her parents at an early age, the lack of a formal education, and
enduring migration from India to Pakistan amidst the turmoil of the
1947 religious partition of both countries. She approached these hard-
ships with a resolve to succeed by teaching herself English, acquiring a
position as a single woman working for the customs and immigration
service in the newly formed Pakistani government, and continuing to
work while raising her two children after emigrating with her husband
to the United States in 1960. Mrs. Sheikh and her family settled in
Gainesville in 1971, where she resided until her death in 2006. She
was committed to raising her family in the United States knowing that
this country presented the best opportunities for education, advance-
ment and success. She worked to maintain her cultural identity, yet
knew that assimilation into western culture was necessary to be suc-
During her 35 years of residence in Gainesville, Mrs. Sheikh
had strong ties to the University of Florida and the greater Gainesville
community. Her husband received his PhD in Environmental Engi-
neering from UE Her son obtained his undergraduate and medical
degree from UE Her daughter obtained her law degree from UE In
2007, her granddaughter became the third generation enrolled at UF
when she entered the freshman class.
Dr. and Mrs. Sheikh, upon their arrival in 1971, constituted only
a handful of Muslim families living in Gainesville. With no center in
which to meet, worship and interact, she opened her home to all in
the Islamic community. She helped to organize on-campus Islamic
gatherings and celebrations at the Reitz Union, which eventually led
to the establishment of two off-campus Islamic centers of worship and
cultural exchange. She dedicated countless hours and dollars to edu-
cating children and adults alike in Islam, as well as in the importance
of their assimilation and interaction with their greater community.
She firmly believed that her faith obligated her to enhance the quality

of her community, and she worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. In
her later years, she came to be recognized as the matriarch of the local
Islamic community
Mrs. Sheikh was deeply troubled by the rising tide of Islamic
fundamentalism that adulterated the peaceful and loving way of life
she recognized to be at the core of her Islamic faith and life. She also
believed that only through commitment to a life of peace, harmony
and devotion to the will of God as the basic foundations of Islam
could both Muslims and non-Muslims come to see that Islam and
Western society had more similarities than differences. It is the belief
of the donors in establishing this professorship that understanding,
tolerance and cooperation spearheaded by scholarly inquiries are
essential conditions for breaking down barriers of misconception and
discrimination, and advancing the welfare of all peoples.

j (0

B ron Taylor edits the Journalfor the Study of Religion, Nature and
Culture with the able assistance of several faculty and graduate
students. The second issue focuses on astrology, religion, and nature,
including both historical articles and an examination of how astro-
logical nature religion is changing in the environmental age. Another
religion faculty member, Robin Wright, is developing a future issue
exploring plants, religion, and nature, which he will guest edit.
Taylor also leads the International Society for the Study ofReligion,
Nature and Culture (the ISSRNC), which is the journal's academic
sponsor. The Society held its second international meeting in Morelia,
Mexico, in January 2008. It again drew over 150 scholars from
around the world and included presentations from Professors Taylor
and Whitney Sanford and UF graduate students Gavin Van Horn,
Luke Johnston, Robin Globus, Joe Witt, Todd Levasseur, Amanda
Holmes, and Reyda Taylor. The next meeting will be in July 2009, in
the Netherlands.

In addition to these initiatives, this year, fac-
ulty members Taylor, Wright, and Sanford with
significant contributions from graduate students
Samuel Snyder, Luke Johnston, and other UF
faculty and programs, received a grant from the
Metanexus Institute's Global Network Initiative
Continuation Program, for "Religion, Science, &
Nature: A Proposal for a Multi-Year Forum and
Research Initiative." Metanexus will contribute
$45,000 and, with matching from a host of co-sponsors including the
department, the pledged funds are $116,000. A first fruit of this effort
was a workshop this spring entitled "Next Steps in Empirical Religion
& Nature Research," directed by Professor Jim. Proctor, Director of
the Environmental Studies Program at Lewis & Clark College.
Information about these initiatives and related publications can
be found at

page 2 Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 2

Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

Gene I V1Vsbt\ & Shy Ise Vnbergc Retire

T is year Gene Thursby and Shaya Isenberg are retiring from the
Department, each after more than thirty-five years of service.
Gene arrived in the summer of 1970, fresh from two years in
India where a Fulbright Fellowship enabled him to complete the
archival and field research for his doctorate at Duke University. While
overseas, Gene had the unusual distinction of being the department's
only faculty member to be hired sight unseen from halfway around
the world. Shaya Isenberg came to us in 1973, after completing his
doctorate at Harvard University and teaching at Duke and Princeton.
UF hired him to teach Humanities in the (no longer existing) Univer-
sity College as well as in the department.
The UF to which Gene and Shaya came was far different from
today's University. The academic calendar was on the quarter system.
The Department of Religion served undergraduate general education,
recruited few majors, and had no graduate program. On the other
hand, the University was smaller, less rule-bound, and encouraged
innovative teaching. Shaya was part of an interdisciplinary team of
teachers who created the Integrative Studies Program. A fine example of
this program's curriculum was the "Worlds of Consciousness" course
that Shaya co-taught with psychiatrist Gilbert Milner from the Col-
lege of Medicine and physicist Joseph Rosenshein. Shaya went on to
expand his teaching contributions beyond the classroom. He joined
Sid Homan of English in convincing then President Robert Marston
to launch a President' Scholars program in which faculty became
teachers to their colleagues, students, and community members across
many areas of interest. Gene served as one of the first faculty partici-
pants in the Minority Mentoring program, and both he and Shaya were
involved for many years in teaching gifted undergraduates through the
Honors College. Completing the circle of innovative activities, Shaya
and Gene co-taught an updated version of "Worlds of Consciousness"
in their final years as faculty members.
Shaya helped to develop several other programs at UE He served
as the founding associate director of Jewish Studies, and in its early days
was active in fund-raising along with colleague Barry Mesch. The two
succeeded in bringing a major Judaica Library to UE Later, during
Shaya's tenure as chair, the department grew considerably and created
its innovative doctoral program. Across disciplinary fields within the
college, Shaya worked with others to create the Humanities Center.
Across the boundaries of several colleges, he actively enlisted colleagues
to develop what is now the University's Center for Spirituality and
Among their other outreach activities, Shaya and Gene taught
in summer institutes for high school teachers that were sponsored by
the National Endowment for the Humanities. Equally important,
they participated as students in the National Endowment's sum-
mer seminars for college and university faculty-the two of them in a
seminar directed by Huston Smith in Berkeley and Gene in one under
the direction of James Dittes at Yale. Gene also was an "early adopter"
of computer-networked techniques for teaching, and the college
acknowledged his innovative use of email lists and the Internet with a
teaching award. Beyond the university, he has maintained the World
Wide Web Virtual Library site.
At the American Academy of Religion, the major professional
society for religion scholars, Gene and Shaya have presented papers
individually and together and helped to create program units for the
Academy on topics such as Perennial Philosophy, Mysticism, and
New Religious Movements. Papers they presented there and else-
where at various international scholarly conferences have resulted in
several individual and co-authored journal articles as well as the book

that Shaya co-edited with Robert Carter on The Ideal in the World'
Religions. One of the international conferences took Shaya to India,
where Gene has returned several times over the years. These visits al-
lowed him to turn his doctoral thesis on Hindu-Muslim relations into
a book, to prepare a monograph on the Sikh tradition, and to make
contributions to encyclopedias and chapters in edited books. Gene's
collaboration with Sushil Mittal, a former member of the department
and now the director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Non-
violence at James Madison University, has produced three co-edited
books on India's religions.
Now reaching mature ages themselves, both Shaya and Gene
have written about the perspectives on aging found in the world's
major religions, some of which they published in the Haudbook ofthe
Humanities andAging. Shaya also serves on the editorial board of the
Journal ofReligion, Spirituality r&Aging. His work with Rabbi Zalman
Schachter-Shalomi has included intensive study and teaching on the
possibility that aging can become a wisdom-generating process, and
Shaya's apprenticeship to Reb Zalman as a wise elder in the Jewish
Renewal Movement continues to be multi-dimensional. It involves
not only aging but the translation of mystical texts, meditation, and
exploration of new forms of religious and spiritual practice. Gene does
not plan to publish more about aging, at any rate not until he has
absorbed lessons taught him over the years by his recently deceased
eldest friend, the British architect and mystic Douglas Harding
How will they be spending their time after retirement? Shaya and
his wife and partner Bahira will be active, as they have been for many
years, in leading workshops and teaching about the conscious aging
movement across the country. Shaya will also continue as a faculty
member for the rabbinic program that serves Jewish Renewal. Gene
will be corresponding with scholars and editing their articles for the
Indian Traditions section of the online journal Religion Compass. He
will continue to review books for the American Library Association
publication Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, and along
with his partner Pam Hunt, he will be learning more about environ-
mentally sensitive methods of landscape gardening.
Of course, neither Shaya nor Gene expects to stop working. They
will keep on learning and sharing their knowledge as lifelong educa-

Summr 208,Conectons A ewsette oftheDeprtmnt f Rligon a th Unverityof lor dap geI

Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 3

Mani' uel Vasue Appal onfk~ B]lM CS)m]ilI i[S\L Cill llyrs jou]nalh

anuel Vasquez was invited to appear on
the popular PBS program BillMoyers
Journal this last fall to discuss his research on
transnational immigration among immigrant
populations. "Today's immigrants are able
to have dual loyalties," he explained to Bill
Moyers. "One can have roots in the country
of settlement, but also one can still have ties
with your home country"
Dr. Vasquez's current project, a three-
year-long Ford Foundation study entitled,
"Latino Immigrants in the New South,"

examines the migration experiences and
religious lives of Guatemalans, Mexicans and
Brazilians in and around the Atlanta met-
ropolitan area. He calls this form of study,
the "politics of encounter" or "what happens
when you have immigrants coming in,
changing the racial dynamics of a particular
Among the many issues discussed by
Dr. Vasquez in this wide-ranging program
was the need for Americans to acknowl-
edge that not only have we always been an

immigrant nation but '*
that our "strength is
this diversity." Indeed,
much of "the rhetoric
on illegal immigration is
really going at the heart
of this narrative that
we tell ourselves about
America. We need to
resolve that tension."
For more information about the broad-
cast, visit the Moyers Website at

Sympoll]lIs)ium lil ChK)IR]Mines t J'Duddl i r] hiny.

Shis spring, Mario Poceski organized a
symposium entitled "Remembering
the Past & Reshaping the Future: Roles of
Historical Memory & Narration in Chinese
Buddhism." Sponsored by the University
of Florida's Center for the Humanities and
the Public Sphere, the conference brought
together four scholars of Chinese Buddhism
to explore the construction of historical nar-
ratives. Buddhist writers constitute historical
narratives by selectively remembering or re-
imagining their tradition's past in response

to specific institutional developments or
changing socio-religious predicaments.
The traditions of Buddhist historiogra-
phy-which played important roles in the
demarcation of orthodoxy and the reshap-
ing of religious identities-were thereby as
concerned with legitimizing the present and
reshaping the future of as they were with
formulating accurate accounts of past events.
Addressing this issue at four different histori-
cal junctures and with a focus on the Chan
(or Zen) school were Mario Poceski, Albert

Welter (University of
Winnipeg), Miriam
Levering (University of
Tennessee), and Jiang
Wu (University of
Arizona). The lectures
and closing reception
were well attended by a
cross-section of under-
graduates, graduate students, and faculty.

siWater,~116 WSllIi Gede and Ellquity'sin Imdiah~~

During this academic year, Whitney
Sanford (Religion), Vasudha Narayanan
(Religion), and Anita Anantharam (Women's
Studies), coordinated symposia and lectures
on the critical problem of gender, water, and
equity in India. Funded by the University of
Florida's Water Institute, the series brought
together scholars from various disciplines
to participate in discussions on water and
society and how these issues emerge on the
Indian sub-continent. Lectures and symposia
included the following:

River Goddesses, River Linking: From Sacred to
Transferable Waters
Kelley Alley, Anrl-i. p. 1..; ,, Auburn Univer-
Dr. Alley outlined the Hindu reverence for
key river Goddesses in India and connected
faith, ritual, social organization and politi-
cal movements to illustrate the centrality of
sacred water to everyday life.

Symposium on Religion, Culture and Water
Aaron Wolf, Department of Geosciences,

Oregon State University
Dr. Wolf examined the process of environ-
mental conflict resolution, particularly as
related to shared water resources. Why do
countries resolve water disputes, even when
"rationality" dictates that they should not?
Dr. Wolf's research centers on the process of
transformation in negotiations the specific
moment in time at which parties move from
thinking of themselves as representing coun-
tries to perceiving more broadly the needs of
all stakeholders within a basin.

Symposium on Gender, Water and Development
Sara Ahmed, Institute for Social and Envi-
ronmental Transition (ISET-USA)
Dr. Ahmed focused on women's participa-
tion in water user committees with as part
of a larger program on decentralization and
gender rights in South Asia, Africa and Latin
Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute for
Studies in Development, Environment, and
Dr. Gleick addressed the critical connections
between water and human health, sustainable

water use, privatization and globalization, and
international conflicts over water resources.

Dams, Development and Equity
Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic
Growth, Delhi, India
Dr. Baviskar focused on environmental
politics, with a particular interest in social
inequality and natural resources conflicts,
environmental and indigenous social move-
ments, and urban environmental politics in
South Asia.

Water in the Karakorum
Hermann Kreutzmann, Geography, Free
University, Berlin
Dr. Kreutzmann spoke on relationships
between the distribution of water and reli-
gion, languages, politics, globalization, and
development issues in the high mountain
environments of Pakistan. By introducing
an holistic approach to irrigation and water
management, Dr. Kreutzmann illustrated
the impact of hydraulic resources for survival
strategies in the Karakoram.

page4Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 4

Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

T is year Anna Peterson brought to
Campus three leading scholars to
discuss environmental values. Funded by
the University of Florida's Center for the
Humanities and the Public Sphere, the series
is part of a larger project on environmental
values and practice, coordinated by Peterson
and Les Thiele (Political Science).
In November, Wes Jackson, President
of the Land Institute, gave a talk entitled
"What Will the Ecosphere Require of Us?" A
plant geneticist by training, Jackson helped
establish and chaired one of the first envi-

rhe Center for the Study of Hindu
I Traditions (CHiTra) turned three years
of age this March. The Center was created to
encourage the research, teaching, and public
understanding of Hindu culture and tradi-
tions (see Connections Fall 2005). CHiTra
emphasizes the interdisciplinary study of
Hindu traditions in many parts of the world.
In the last three years CHiTra has focused
on many facets of Hindu culture-music,
dance, architecture, environment, texts, and
rituals. In 2007-2008, CHiTra co-sponsored
a series of lectures with the Water Institute
to explore the connections between culture,
water disputes and problems, and the envi-
ronment (see page 4).
In March 2008, CHiTra hosted two
major symposia "An Ocean of Devotion"
(coordinated by Professors Amy Bard,
Jason Neelis, and Travis Smith) and "Eat-
ing Cultures" (convened by Professors Anita
Anantharam and Whitney Sanford). These
symposia were co-sponsored by the Center
for the Humanities, the Center for Women's
Studies and Gender Research, and the Ham
Museum of Art.
Professor John Stratton Hawley
(Barnard/ Columbia) gave the keynote ad-
dress for "An Ocean of Devotion." Scholars
who presented papers included Professors
Jim Lochtefeld (Carthage College), Tim
Lubin (Washington and Lee University),
Travis Smith (University of Florida), Davesh
Soneji (McGill University), Kelly Pemberton
(George Washington University) and Gur-
inder Singh Mann (University of California,
Santa Barbara).
Professors Mark Juergensmeyer (Univer-
sity of California, Santa Barbara), Whitney

ronmental studies programs in the U.S. (at
California State University-Sacramento). In
1976, he returned to his native Kansas, where
he founded the Land Institute, whose mission
entails research in natural systems agriculture
as well as environmental education.
In January, Michael Maniates of Allegh-
eny College, spoke on "Environmentalism,
Sacrifice, and Desire." Maniates is co-editor
of the award-winning volume "Rethinking
Consumption," and is presently working on
the environmental politics of sacrifice.
Finally in February Rebecca Gould of

Sanford (University of Florida),
and Laurie Patton (Emory) ad-
dressed issues of gender, social
justice, and food connected
with the Hindu Traditions in
the symposium on "Eating
In addition to these sym-
posia, this year CHiTra hosted
several other scholars and
performers. Nathan McGov-
ern (University of California,
Santa Barbara) gave a lecture
on "Brahma in Thailand:
Buddhists worshipping a
Hindu God?" Cynthia Snodgrass (University
of Stirling, Scotland) spoke on "Gandhi's
Weapons ofTruth and Non-Violence: The
Power of Sung-Prayers and Ritual" and gave
a musical lecture demonstration. Professor
Linda Barnes (Boston University School
of Medicine) gave a lecture on "Integrative
Medicine in America: Hindu and Chinese
Healing Traditions."
Madhu Purnima Kishwar, noted writer
and activist on women's rights gave a power-
ful lecture on "The Potential and Limitations
of Law as an Instrument of Social Reform."
Faculty and students from the Levin College
of Law and many other parts of the university
attended the lecture.
Many of the speakers spoke in un-
dergraduate and graduate classes, and met
students informally over meals. CHiTra
talks have attracted people from all over the
campus and from the community.
A fundraiser in December 2007 was
made possible by three very generous artists.
Mrs Vaijayanthi Gopinath, a well-known

Middlebury College,
addressed "Environ-
mentalism, Consump-
tion, and Simplicity."
Gould is the author
of Living With Nature,
on homesteading as
spiritual practice.
All three speakers
met with students and interested faculty in a
variety of settings in addition to their lectures

singer of the Hindustani style of classical
Indian music, gave a scintillating perfor-
mance. Professor Tanmay Lele accompanied
her on tabla and Venkatesh Srinivasan on
the harmonium. This performance and the
exemplary generosity of many community
members enabled CHiTra to start a modest
endowment fund for Classical Indian Music.
We will soon be collaborating with the ethno-
musicologists in our School of Music for
future programs.
A major activity of CHiTra this year has
been the co-sponsorship of an exhibit with
the Ham Museum of Art. Also called "An
Ocean of Devotion," it showcased beautiful
icons and paintings from the 3rd Century
CE (Mathura period Vishnu) to 20th century
Jamini Roy paintings. Jason Steuber (Cofrin
Curator of Asian Art) and Vasudha Naray-
anan curated this exhibit, which will be on
display till mid-October.
Finally, Professors Travis Smith (Reli-
gion) and Anita Anantharam (Women's Stud-
ies) this summer have started the first ever UF
study abroad program in India!

Summr 208,Conectons A ewsette oftheDeprtmnt f Rligon a th Unverityof lor dap geI


Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 5

CH1'Tra Turns Three

Religion graduate students Sam Snyder,
ucas Johnston, and Gavin Van Horn
garnered media attention at last fall's annual
meeting of the American Academy of
Religion with their forum on a satirical pseu-
do-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster,
whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs
but also raises serious questions about the
essence of religion.
Supporters of intelligent design hold
that the order and complexity of the universe
is so great that science alone cannot explain it.
The concept's critics see it as faith masquerad-
ing as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate
named Bobby Henderson stepped into the
debate by sending a letter to the Kansas
School Board. With tongue in cheek, he pur-
ported to speak for 10 million followers of a
being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster-
and demanded equal time for their views.
Between the lines, the point of the letter
was that there is no more scientific basis for
intelligent design than there is for the idea an
omniscient creature made of pasta created the
universe. So, if intelligent design supporters
could demand equal time in a science class,
why not anyone else?

While recognizing that their forum was
a little light by the standards of the American
Academy of Religion, our three graduate
students also insisted that it was more than a
Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti
Monster and its followers cuts to the heart
of one of the thorniest questions in religious
studies: What defines a religion? Does it
require "genuine" theological beliefs? Is it
simply a set of rituals joining together a com-
munity? Further, what is the role of religion
in popular culture? Each of our graduate
students' papers addressed these critical issues.

Graduate li iiii~i~i 1 S udents~J Shin] ati1WiI] Acdei]ccau~ Confere~ Inces

T his year many of our graduate students
presented papers at local, national and
international conferences. Here is a partial
listing of these conference papers.

Annual Meeting of the American Academy of
Religion in San Diego, California
Eleanor Finnegan, "Representin' Women: Islamic
Hip Hop's Accounts ofWomen's Bodies,"
Islam Section.
Lucas E Johnston, "Pirates Can Predict the
Weather: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and
the Nature ofTruthiness," Religion and Popu-
lar Culture Group.
Gayle Lassater, "Nineteenth Century North
American Brethren in Latin America and the
Caribbean: Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's
Witnesses," New Religious Movements
Sam Snyder, "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce:
The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Impli-
cations for Theorizing Religion," Religion and
Popular Culture Group.
Gavin Van Horn, "Noodling Around with
Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor,
and the Noodly Master," Religion and Popular
Culture Group.

Annual Meeting of the Latin American Studies
Association in Montreal, Canada
Rose Caraway, "Protestant Identity and Worship
in Contemporary Cuba." Panel on "Protes-
tants and Political Struggle."
Sean O'Neil, "Latin America's Via Media? Con-
vergent Christianity and a Global Network of
Similarities." Panel on "New Evangelicalisms
in Latin America."

Annual Meeting of the International Society for
the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture
in Morelia, Mexico
Robin Globus, "'There's Hope, But Not For Us':

Theorizing Environmental Apocalypticism."
Lucas E Johnston, "We Are All Related: The
Function of Myth in the Sustainability Move-
Todd Levasseur, "The Cosmovision of Pramod
Parajuli: Theoretical Reflections."
GavinVan Horn, "The Value of a Wilderness
Icon: Re-enchanting Nature by Re-imagining
Joseph Witt, "'The Earth is God's Body:'
Evangelical Christianity and Resistance to
Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia."

Additional National Conferences and Invited
Eleanor Finnegan, "Islam and the Inner-City:
Understanding Five Percenter Hip-Hop's Ac-
counts of the Environment," Middle Eastern
Studies Club, Hunter College.
Phillip Green, "Perfect Wives Make the Best
Nuns," South Asian Studies Association
Conference on The East and West Entwined,
Claremont, California.
Lucas E Johnston, "Refining Definitions of
Religion for a Global Community" American
Anthropological Association, Washington,
..... ~1 Related' (for Better or for Worse):
Image Events, Interconnection and 'Intertwin-
gling' in Sustainability Movements," Media,
Spiritualities and Social Change Conference,
Boulder, CO.
Todd Levasseur, "Is Trash Hybrid?" Global Stud-
ies Conference, Chicago.
- "We Are What We Don't Eat: Worms, Bacte-
ria, and the Soil Around Us" at The Wormy
Corpus: Worms, Parasites and the Body in
Religion, Medicine, and History Conference,
Boston University.
Bridgette O'Brien, "Going Green: Reflections on
Religious and Ecological Literacy in Secondary
School Curriculums," Conference on Teaching

the World's Religions: Texts and Traditions,
San Anselmo, CA.
Sam Snyder, "New Watersheds of Religion and
Nature: Rethinking the Field through Values
and Practice." Department of Philosophy and
Religious Studies, University of North Texas,
Denton, Texas.
Chungwhan Sung, "Knowledge and the Buddha's
authority in Dharmakirti's theory of knowl-
edge," 6th Buddhist Studies Graduate Student
Conference. Los Angeles, CA.
Hilit Surowitz, "La Nacion: Recreating Jewish
Identity, and Community in the Atlantic
World," Biennial Conference on the History
of Religion, Boston College.

Local Conferences
Eleanor Finnegan, "The Role of the Islamic
Tradition in Water Issues: Focus on America
and Beyond," Water Institute Symposium,
University of Florida.
- "Growing Identity: An Overview of Muslim
Agricultural Communities in America," Sev-
enth Annual Graduate Student Symposium in
Religious Studies, Florida State University.
Sean O'Neil, "Borders of the Cross: Christian
Hybridity in a Pan-Latino Congregation," 3rd
Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Hispanic/
Latin American Literatures, Linguistics and
Cultures: El arte de (con)vivir/The art of
(co)existence, Department of Romance Lan-
guages and Literatures, University of Florida.
Sam Snyder, "Dammed Debate: Religion, Values,
and Environmental Conflict on the Ockla-
waha River," Water Institute Symposium,
University of Florida.
Hilit Surowitz, "The Symbolic Power of Blood-
Letting: Picart's La Circoncision des Juifs
Portugais, 'For the Life of the Flesh Is in the
Blood,'" conference on The Significance of
Blood in Jewish History & Culture, University
of Florida.

page 6Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

Pasta Monster Receives Academic Attention

page 6

Surnmer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

ince, 2001, the Department of Religion has chosen annual recipi-
ents of the Russell Lowell Jaberg Award for Academic Excellence.
Dr. Russell Lowell Jaberg, a retired University of Florida humanities
professor, devoted his life to his love of religion and -1.....;,. This
memorial award was created in his honor.
The winner of this year's award is Meredith Butler. Meredith will

T his year the department inaugurated the Ralph Nicosia Ethics
I Award. Ralph Nicosia is a UF graduate and member of our
department's Advisory Board, who has a particular interest in religious
ethics. Undergraduate candidates for this award were asked to submit
an original essay on one of the following topics: environmental sus-
tainability, social justice and human dignity, political agency and faith
based initiative, violence, gender in/equality, interfaith relations, or
We were happy to receive several submissions, all of which were
quite impressive (well-written, articulate, clearly wrestling with the
issues). Although we liked all the essays, our consensus winner was the

be entering an MA. program at Brandeis University in the fall. In
addition, there were three runners-up: Amol Purandare is going on to
medical school at Florida State; Aaron Wessling is entering the MA.
program in Religions of Western Antiquity also at Florida State Uni-
versity; and Brigitte Silver will be attending the University of Virginia
School of Law. Congratulations to these four outstanding students!

paper written by Hilary D'Angelo, who wrote on gender inequality in
Islam and (Orthodox) Judaism.
Hilary D'Angelo is a fourth year student majoring in Religion
and English. She is an Anderson Scholar with High Distinction,
a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and has been named to the Dean's
and President's Lists. She was recently granted a University Scholars
Program award to research the ways conceptions and constructions
of femininity and masculinity are applied to Jews in 19th century
German literature to discredit Jewish national, civic, political, and
social aspirations. That research will become part of her Senior Honors
Thesis in Religion. Congratulations to Hilary!

AlumIW lecture: Wih Every\ American

n November, Boston University Religion Professor Steve Prothero
delivered the annual Alumni Lecture to over 200 students, faculty,
and community members in the University Auditorium.
College students might remember Prothero from his appear-
ance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," while religion scholars
know him best for his contributions to academia, including the New
York Times best seller Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to
Know-and Doesn't.

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
department's critical educational activities for those following in your foot-
steps. Please complete the form and return to the address below. Thanks for
your support!
David Hackett, Chair

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

Amount: (please circle)
$1000 $500 $250 $100 $50

In his talk, Prothero discussed how not knowing about religion
threatens our ability to understand and participate in civil society.
Whether or not we ourselves are religious, Prothero told his attentive
audience, the more we learn about religion, the less likely we will be
to surrender our voices-through our lack of religious knowledge-to
political leaders who frequently understand their actions in a religious

Please choose a payment method:
Credit Card
Type: VISA MasterCard Discover
Exp. Date: /

Please make checks payable to UF Foundation, Inc.
City: State: ZIP:

Please complete the above form and return it to: College of Liberal Arts &
Sciences, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, University of Florida
Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville FL 32604-2425

Summer 2008, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida page 7

xxussell Lowell Jaberg Award

xxalph Nicosia Ethics Award

Alumni Lecture Fund

Faut Boo N inks

Studying Hinduism: Key Concepts
and Methods, edited by Sushil Mit-
tal and Gene Thursby (London and
New York: Routledge, 2007). This
is the third in a series of books from
Routledge that are edited by Sushil
Mittal, who was a member of the
department in 1998-1999 and is
now at James Madison University,
and Gene Thursby who retired
recently after teaching for 37 years n
in the department (see page 3). The v.ft t .
first of these books is a large refer- -4 4 .
ence work titled The Hindu World bd + 14
(2004). The second is a textbook,
Religions ofSouth Asia (2006), that
introduces traditions that have
made a home in India whatever
their place of origin. Studying Hinduism is a more compact reference
work that uses a prismatic approach to identify twenty-eight potentially
helpful ways to enter into the study of Hindu traditions, practices, and
institutions. Taken together, the three books have brought together
chapters specially written for them by sixty-two highly qualified authors
from around the globe as part of an effort to provide clearly formulated
and currently relevant perspectives on the rich and complex culture of
the Indian subcontinent.

Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes I
Sight in Paramanand'si .i A SING NG L, KRISHNA
Whitney Sanford (State ia sra r
of New York Press). Sin i.
introduces Paramanand oe .
north India's greatest m,. d I c p r-
saints, whose poetry has I- ,, .'r, _'
from the sixteenth centil., rI rl,
present in ritual service r. rI, Hi.,I
deity Krishna. Whitney 5 L, i; .,d
examines how hearing impL, o r bi n,,..
poetry in ritual context e -.. i- -
threshold for devotees b r. .., rlk,.
world and Krishna's divine, ., 1.1
To "see Krishna" is aprii L, -..1 ..
the devotee, and Param in i.1 .d il,
constructs a vision thro., -.- ...
Sanford employs the dual strategies
of interpreting Paramanand's poems-which sing the cycles of Krishna's
activities-and illustrating the importance of their ritual contexts. This
approach offers insight into the nature of the devotional experience that
is not accessible by simply studying the poetry or rituals in isolation. San-
ford shows that the significance of Paramanand's poetry lies not only in
its beauty and historical importance but finally in its capacity to permit
the devotee to see through the ephemeral world into Krishna's world.

Sitay Ini To(uch0

The next time you're surfing the web, visit the department web site
at 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 of religion alumni list service. Alumni
on this list may post and receive e-mails to and from other alumni and
the department. This service is free, and you may unsubscribe anytime

you wish. Those of you who responded to our "getting in touch" let-
ter we sent several years ago are already on this list. For others who
wish to subscribe, either send an e-mail to
or subscribe yourself directly by sending an e-mail to alumni-religion- In the body of your message, type: subscribe end.
We hope you will join us in conversation online!

Department of Religion
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
107 Anderson Hall
P.O. Box 117410
Gainesville, FL 32611-7410
Telephone: 352-392-1625
Fax: 352-392-7395



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