UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA The Working Group on Plants and Religion December 15!17 2011 www.plants! and religion.org support@plants! and religion.org OUR PURPOSE The Working Group on Plants and Religion has been established to fill a gap in the current academic discourse, a systematic and holistic study of the ways in which Cultures uses plants for sacred purposes. Our Cohort seeks to establish an academic framework in order to facilitate cooperative scholarship and research in the area of plants and religion. Drawing from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives, The Working Group on Plants and Religion will present a holistic and progressive schema for innovative research. THE WORKING GROUP ON PLANTS & RELIGION University of Florida Department of Religion Gainesville, Florida 32611 The emphasis of the Conference is to highlight and explore the relationship of Humans and Plants in Spiritual and Sacred spheres. Of special interest this year is the cultural use of Psychoactive Plants. O BJECTIVES To serve as a forum for research and the organization of public events on the theme of th! interaction between human"plan# relationships and religion. A multi"disciplinary approach covering the fields of Anthropology of Religion, Psychobiology, Ethnobotany, History of Culture, Medicine, and Law. To organize and maintain a $ebsite dedicated to the research objectives that will serve to attract new contributors and to facilitate the interaction of researchers. To host a regular seminar series, inviting well"known professionals to present their work or new perspectives on the research area as a whole. To host both conferences and symposiums involving both international and nationally known researchers.
Featured Sessions Healing Plants This session covers shamanism and the ritual uses of plants and healing, focusing on indigenous religious systems of the Amazon. Plants discussed will include Parika Virola spp # Ayahuasca Banisteriopsis Caapi #, Chacruna Psychotria Viridis # Tobacco Nicotiana spp #, and others. Traditions ranging from Amazonian healing systems to Traditional Chinese and Indian Asian # Medicine will be considered. Movement & Destinations: Trajectories of Plants and Religio% This session will look at the ritual uses of plants and movement, especially in terms of pilgrimage, tourism, and the cultural migration, appropriation, and transformation of symbols. Ayahuasca tourism, the Huichol peyote hunt, and New Age uses of these plants will feature prominently in this session. Plants, Cosmology, and Ar# This sessions begins with a discussion of Biophilia as a vehicle to understanding the long!term relationship of Humans and Flora. Plants will be discussed in terms of their cosmological positions as "world trees," forms of axis mundi, and sources of food and knowledge. In addition, This session will look at petroglyphs and other forms of shamanic art as they have been informed by the ritual use of plants. The Religious Nature of Plants:Plants in Agriculture, Medicin! and Astrology This session will address the religious nature of plants in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Further, it will also include presentations on Religion and Agriculture in India and Plants as a link to explore the interactions of Systems of Knowledge "religion, medicine and astrology# in India. Environmentalism and Ethnobotany This session will attempt to bridge the gap between indigenous and mainstream discourses on plants $ especially in terms of ethnobotany $ and the discourse of plants in Environmentalism, Religion and Nature is a particularly rich and diverse topic, and the intersection of the religious use of plants with this discourse is central. Political and Legal Intersections of Plants and Religio% This session will look at questions of legality, policy and procedure surrounding the ritual use of plants. Cannabis, ayahuasca, peyote, coca, and many other plants face strict prohibitionist legislative agendas and rhetorical strategies, much of which is placed unquestioningly in terms of addiction and harm prevention. This session will aim to treat the subject beyond these common patterns of discourse. About the Symposium "Plants and Religion" is a diverse area of study, and one that is in need of a dedicated group of scholars looking at the commonalities and di! erences of human" plant relationships in ritual and religious contexts. The establishment of the Working Group on Plants and Religion is a step toward lling that gap. As a method of generating scholarship and research that will make a solid contribution to this goal. The Working Group is holding a small symposium of leading national and international scholars on psychoactive plants and religion. The Working Group feels that a discussion of psychoactive plants and their ritual and religious uses is a pressing issue, both in the academic sphere of social sciences and in public policy. Psychoactive plant use is embroiled in an ongoing global, hemispheric, national, and regional, discussion concerning drug and chemical use and abuse. At the heart of this broad topic is a debate about public safety and health and an urge to both minimize harm caused by substances while maximizing the benets of substances that are deemed su # ciently safe and necessary. All too often, this debate has revolved solely around medicinal and substance abuse contexts. While religious and ritual substance use may not be as prevalent as substance use in other contexts $ such as medical or recreational% it is nevertheless a critical piece of the overall picture. This situation has led to an overly" generalized perspective on substance use from the perspective of policy" makers that has largely excluded ritual and religious use of psychoactives from consideration.