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: Fall 2005
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Volume ID: VID00006
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A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

Fall 2005

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faculty both within the department and across
the university to create a new field of study at
the intersection of religion, nature, and socie-
ty. Religion in the Americas, to be spotlighted
in our Spring 2006 newsletter, builds upon
strengths of department faculty and the
Center for Latin American Studies to envision
a doctoral program that looks at the broad
diversity of religious cultures in the Americas
from an hemispheric Dersoective. In this issue,

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President of the American Academy of
Religion and a scholar of Hinduism in India
and the Diaspora. Her recent work on the
contemporary transmission of Hindu culture
to America and the early movement of
Hinduism into Cambodia offers a new
approach to the study of Hindu traditions by
paying attention to their transnational trans-
formations. Last year, she founded the Center
for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra),
which we believe to be the first cen-
ter in this country dedicated to the
interdisciplinary study of Hindu
culture and traditions.
Like Vasudha Narayanan, our
two Buddhism scholars, Mario
Poceski andJason Neelis, were
trained in traditional Asian
Languages and Literature programs
(Mario at UCLA; Jason at the
University of Washington). Working
from this foundation, each is engag-
ing the cultural transmission of the

Buddhist tradition. Recently Mario has taught
"Buddhism in America" and soon will embark
on a fellowship to study the globalization of
Buddhism. Jason, in turn, is writing a book
on long distance trade and the transmission of
Buddhism during the first millennium of the
Common Era.
Richard Foltz, Islam, has parlayed his
History and Middle Eastern Studies training at
Harvard into a book on TI,. F. 1i. ( i,. Silk
Road. This study engages the ways in which very
early Hebraic and Iranian religions and later
Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and other tradi-
tions were fundamentally shaped and trans-
formed through their movement and interac-
tions along this road. Among his more recent
books is a study of the religions of Iran where
he argues for the influence of Iran in the
shaping of the world's religions.
Finally, Gene Thursby has brought his
graduate training at Duke in South Asian
Studies to bear on the study of new religious
movements in colonial and independent India
and their extension to North America.
Building upon the interdisciplinary
resources of the university's growing Asian
Studies Program, students in the Religions of
Asia track have the opportunity to study with
leading scholars pioneering new ways of
understanding and interpreting the religious
traditions of Asia as they move through Asia
and around the world.

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TIe CentiLle for thie Sl of Hind u Treadtins

She University of Florida recently created the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions
1 (CHiTra; a Sanskrit word which means "excellence," "distinguished," or "a work of art")
to encourage research, teaching, and public understanding of Hindu culture and traditions.
Housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the new center will bring together faculty
from across campus, collaborating extensively with the Center for Women's Studies and
Gender Research, the Department of African and Asian Languages and Literatures, the
Asian Studies Program, and the School of Theatre and Dance to focus on the globalizing,
transnational aspects of the Hindu traditions and encourage their study through interdisci-
plinary perspectives. "By gathering faculty and students with diverse interests and limited
resources from multiple units in the university, the center will get the synergy for organizing
programs and developing curriculum," says the center's director, Professor Vasudha
The creation of CHiTra was the idea of Dr. Narayanan, the former president of the
American Academy of Religion and a researcher of the Hindu traditions of India,
Cambodia, and America. "She has extensive connections internationally because of her
research, and in some ways her presence makes it possible for us to do this in ways we might
not be able to were she not here," says College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Associate Dean
for Centers, Institutes, and International Affairs Angel Kwolek-Folland.
Until now, the study of Hindu traditions and cultures has been done as part of area
studies programs. As part of the colonial legacy, Hinduism has largely been identified with
the Indian sub-continent, and its global presence is only now being studied. Textbooks, for
instance, have ignored the presence of Hindu traditions in South-East Asia for over 1500
years. After the nineteenth century, millions of Hindus have settled down in various parts of
the world (there are almost two million Hindus in the United States alone). Given the demo-
graphic changes, Dr. Narayanan has argued that it is time to rethink the area studies tem-
plates in a more innovative way. One result is the center's focus on the Hindu traditions in
South and South-East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and North America, and not just the
Indian sub-continent.
Through CHiTra, components of Hindu culture will eventually be taught in courses in
several colleges within the University of Florida. "We are particularly encouraging students
from the Business school and the College ofJournalism to take an introductory course in
Hindu culture" states Narayanan. With the Indian economy burgeoning and a billion con-
sumers strong, it seems very likely that many of these students will be doing business in the
sub-continent, and they need little persuasion to take this course. "In our first years," con-
tinues Narayanan, "we are also planning courses on dance." In the last ten years, students of
Indian origin have wanted to perform short pieces of classical or folk dance and theorize
about it. The center is also planning lectures connecting the study of Hindu traditions with
other fields such as Asian literature, environment, and health. "Teaching across disciplines,"
Narayanan believes, "carries the excitement of having students become aware of cultures, the-
oretical perspectives, and discourses to which they may not have been otherwise exposed."
Beyond the
University, CHiTra
is forging strong
international rela-
tionships. Two
Spost-doctoral stu-
dents from Oxford
University's Centre
for Hindu Studies
are teaching cours-
es in the
Department of
Religion this year.
Last December,
CHiTra collaborat-
ed with the France-

Florida Research Institute
at the University of Florida
to bring to UF Dr. Thierry
Zephir, a professor of
South and South-East
Asian Art at 1' Ecole du
Louvre in Paris. Dr. Zephir
gave a talk on iconography and bas-reliefs in
Cambodia, connecting some of them with
Sanskrit texts. The center is also working on a
formal connection with the Women's Studies
(Narivada) section of the Indira Gandhi
National Center for the Arts, the premier
Indian institute for classical studies, to pur-
sue joint research projects in India and
exchange visiting scholars.
The Gainesville community will benefit
from CHiTra by attending sponsored art
exhibits and dance and musical performances
offered in conjunction with the Center for
World Arts, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of
Art, and the Phillips Center for the
Performing Arts. CHiTra also aims to help
expand the Hindu Studies collection at UF's
Smathers Library.
The new center will not initially offer an
undergraduate major or minor, but will work
towards offering a certificate program. Its
first three courses are being offered this fall-
an honors course, Introduction to Hindu Culture,
taught by Narayanan; I.. ....., .,, in l taught
by graduate student Michael Gressett; and
Second- Year Sanskrit, taught by Govinda
Rangarajan, an adjunct professor who holds a
PhD in Sanskrit from Madras University in
India. In addition, this fall CHiTra has
sponsored several lectures on Hindu music,
literature, and the study of Hinduism in
America. Next semester, two faculty members
from Emory University will offer lectures and
visit with UF faculty in the department of
theater and dance to talk about how they
teach a full-semester course on Hinduism
and dance. In the spring, CHiTra will also
co-sponsor a lecture with the Religion and
Nature program.
Taken together, "the center promises to
provide important intellectual and artistic
leadership in the internationalization of the
university," saysJoan Frosch, professor and
assistant director of UF's School of Theatre
and Dance. "No US institution, as far as I
know, has such a center in place. I would
expect CHiTra to play an increasingly
national, if not international, role in the
understanding of Hindu culture, its tradi-
tions, and innovations.

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 2

A 'tI A ia i Faclt Proilei s

Vasudha Narayanan has been on our faculty
since 1982. A former president of the
American Academy of Religion and a lead-
ing voice in the study of Hindu traditions,
Vasudha has recently turned her attention to
the transmission of Hindu culture to
America and, more recently, Cambodia. In
Cambodia, Vasudha has been studying first
millennium CE inscriptions on Hindu tem-
ples. Through this fieldwork, she is now
documenting a process of cultural transmis-
sion that occurred first in Southeast Asia and
anticipates the contemporary globalization
of Hindu traditions. In Cambodia, relatively
minor Hindu stories became central, partic-
ular deities took on multiple meanings, and
many different deities inhabited the same

Gene Thursby came to the
University of Florida in
I970 following two years in
India conducting research
on a Fulbright Fellowship.
In India, he studied a 19th
century Hindu movement called Arya Samaj
that has been a major influence on educa-
tion and politics in northern India. His
research interests are primarily new religious
movements (NRMs)in colonial and inde-
pendent India, and as an extension of
India's influence elsewhere in the world.
Currently, Gene and Sushil Mittal (of
James Madison University) are editing: The
Hindu World (London: Routledge, 2004; New
Delhi: Foundation Press, 2005); 5.1,, I
South Asia (scheduled for publication in
2006); and A Handbook for Hindu Studies (in the
planning stage). Gene will retire from active
service at the University of Florida at the end
of 2007.

Richard Foltz came to the
Department in 2000 after
teaching at Columbia and
Brown Universities and
Gettysburg College and
earning his PhD in History
and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard in
1996. His wide-ranging interests include
religion and nature in Asia and the relation-

ship between religion and animals. Richard's
first book, 5.1, ,. i'r '.i h .- Overland Trade
and I, nli,.l ..- ,.,. Ie from Antiquiy to the Rfteenth
Century looks behind the romantic notions of
the colonial era and tells the story of how
cultural traditions, especially in the form of
religious ideas, accompanied merchants and
their goods along the overland Asian trade
routes in pre-modern times. The earliest
eastward movement of Hebraic and Iranian
religious ideas and practices along this road
was followed centuries later by the great mis-
sionary traditions of Buddhism,
Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam.
Richard argues that travel along this Silk
Road was both a formative and transforma-
tive rite of passage for these religions with
none of them emerging unchanged at the
end of the journey. More recently, his
Spiritual intheLandoftheNot.l. H .. i '..,*. t. .1.
the z ,1.i i. i.,, i demonstrates the variety of
ways the culture of Iran has influenced the
world's spectrum of religions. In so doing,
he traces the Iranian influence from the ori-
gin of Iran itself down to present day reli-
gious movements.

Mario Poceski joined
our faculty in 2001 fol-
lowing completion of his
graduate work at UCLA
and a year of teaching at
the University of Iowa.
His area of interest is Buddhist studies and
Chinese religions. At the age of 18, Mario
left his native Macedonia to become a monk
in a Buddhist monastery in Hong Kong.
There his interest gravitated toward the late
medieval "Golden Age" of Chinese
Buddhism. At UCLA this interest led to his
forthcoming book on "The Hongzhou
School and the Development of Buddhism
during the Mid-Tang Period." Mario's book
refutes the widely held view of the Hongzhou
school, and more broadly Chan Buddhism,
as an iconoclastic tradition that represented
a radically new departure from the beliefs
and practices of earlier Chinese Buddhism.
Last year, Mario held a Postdoctoral
Fellowship at Stanford University's Center
for East Asian Studies where he continued

his research on monasticism in medieval
China, gave lectures and organized a collo-
quium on religious pluralism in China.
During this time, he visited several monas-
teries in China and gave a lecture at Fudan
University in Shanghai. In May through
December of next year, he will be a Visiting
Research Fellowship in the Asia Research
Institute at the National University of
Singapore. There he will be pursuing his
new interest in the globalization of contem-
porary Chinese Buddhism.

Jason Neelis specializes in
South Asian Buddhist liter-
ature and epigraphy. He
received his Ph.D. in Asian
Languages and Literature
from the University of
Washington where he later became a post-
doctoral researcher for the Early Buddhist
Manuscripts project. Jason taught at Florida
State University and for Antioch College's
Buddhist Studies program in Bodh Gaya,
India, prior to coming to our department in
2003. His forthcoming book is on long-
distance trade and the transmission of
Buddhism during the first millennium of
the Common Era.
Jason's research centers upon rock
inscriptions written by travelers and inhabi-
tants who lived on the routes which connect-
ed the frontiers of northwestern India (now
Pakistan) and the Tarim Basin in western
China (Xinjiang province). Merchants and
Buddhist monks, missionaries, and pilgrims
used the routes. The inscriptions give schol-
ars an indication of where Buddhists were
actually going and what they were really
Currently, he is working on an edition
of avadana narratives written on first century
C.E birch-bark scrolls from ancient
Gandhara (northwestern Pakistan and east-
ern Afghanistan). These texts belong to a
collection of the oldest so-far discovered
Buddhist manuscripts. The scrolls tell schol-
ars what stories were being told and retold in
Buddhist monasteries in the early centuries
C.E. The aim of this research is to better
,,r,,,,.. l 1 .,-. 41

Fall 2005, Connedions, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of florida page 3

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 3

Hurri cane1 IKatiLn11adtI 1(osY

Professor Tim Cahill Our \\ay

The dispersal of the New Orleans population fol
lowing Hurricane Katrina resulted in the appear
ance in our department of Professor Tim Cahill
from that city's Loyola University. Dr. Cahill, a
religion professor who specializes in Asian reli
gions, evacuated to Vicksburg, Mississippi, but as
it became apparent that an early return was
unlikely, he made his way to family in the Tampa
area. Since Loyola of New Orleans will not re
open until the spring semester at the earliest, we
have had the privilege of Tim's presence in the
department where he has given several lectures
and made use of our libraries and offices.

BradleyAckroyd, 1.1 1 .. I ..' ... .)04). Brad
holds a BA in Religious Studies from Oakland
University. As an undergraduate, he was able to
work firsthand with local Hindus, Buddhists,
Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, and Baha'i, as well as the
diverse Christian andJewish communities. From
his time spent with the diasporic South Indian
community, he developed his primary interest in
contemporary Hindu practices, with a particular
emphasis on devotional forms of Shaiva worship.
His research interests include the historical devel
opments of Tamil bhakti and tantric practice, the
role of sacred geography and nature in devotional
worship, the process of localization as devotional
Hindu groups extend beyond South Asia, and
Hindu communities in cyberspace.

Shreena Gandhi, F-. i .. ..' .... ) 03).
Though formally in the Religion in the Americas
program, Shreena also has extensive interests in
the Religions of Asia doctoral track. She received
her BA in Religion from Swarthmore College,
where her research centered on Buddhist reli
gious narratives in Sri Lanka. In 2003, she

Asia Faculty Profiles, c
understand how Buddhism moves beyond
India and adapts itself to various cultural

Ravi Gupta recently received his D.Phil.
from Oxford University in Hindu Studies
and Sanskrit. His research focuses on the
Hindu devotional traditions and the philo-
sophical systems ofVedanta. Ravi completed
his B.A. in philosophy and his B.S. in

To date, Dr. Cahill has delivered three lec
tures to different gatherings of students and faculty
in the department. These include: "Stories from
Telugu Friends on Being Hindu" (Hindu Culture
course); "Throw Me Some Beads Krishna:
Observations on evolving Hindu traditions in New
Orleans" (Hinduism in America); and "Love,
Logic and the twin concepts of positive and nega
tive concordance" (Graduate Seminar).
Soon Dr. Cahill hopes to return to New
Orleans for a day or two to retrieve his academic
materials so that he may continue his research.
Through satellite photos, he believes that his

received her Masters of Theological Studies from
Harvard Divinity School. At Harvard Divinity,
she worked on the religions of Iran while a
research assistant for Dr. Lawrence Sullivan at the
Center for Studies of World Religions.
Currently, Shreena's interests include religions of
the Americas, Hinduism in diaspora, and the
study of material culture and religion.

Phillip Green, I.1 I .-. I ... ... )5). Phillip
Green received his undergraduate degree in com-
parative religion from the University of
\ ...' His current academic focus concerns
the early religious traditions of the Indian sub
continent. He also intends to explore the influ
ence of eastern religious traditions on modern
American culture and values.

MichaelJ. Gressett, F'. i ... ... ... -)0o3).
Michael graduated from the University of
California at Berkeley in Religious Studies and
took his master's degree from the University of
Florida in South Asian religious traditions with
an emphasis in Hinduism. His research interests

continued from page 3
Mathematics at his hometown's Boise State
University. From there, he pursued his
interest in Hindu Studies through Oxford's
Theology and Oriental Studies departments
and the Centre for Hindu Studies. The
Oxford Centre and The Center for the
Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) at the
University of Florida are the first centers in
the world dedicated to the academic study of
Hinduism in all of its dimensions (i.e. art,

home and office are still in decent condition.
Loyola University faculty have been commu-
nicating via an internet BLOG which has allowed
them to check in on university matters, policies
regarding students and faculty, and one another.
Since most of the freshman have either lost their
homes in and around New Orleans, or have since
transferred to other schools, Loyola's faculty are
unsure about spring's enrollment. Most of the
student housing has been destroyed, and many of
the -. of the students who have commuter sta
tus may not return to the area. Dr. Cahill believes
that enrollment could drop by one-third.

are Hindu traditions and new religious move
ments in America. He teaches Sanskrit for the
department. He has presented papers on his
research at two regional meetings of the
Association for Asian Studies.

Hye-Sook Kim, F..'' ... I.... ... _. .)5). Hye-Sook
received an undergraduate degree in comparative
religion from Dongguk University and a Master's
Degree in Anthropology with a focus on Popular
Buddhism at Seoul National University. She is cur
rently interested in Buddhist social values.

Sarah Spaid \! \ .. ..' .. .. Sarah gradu
ated magna cum laude from Wittenberg University
with a Bachelor of Arts degree in EastAsian Studies
and a minor in Dance. She spent the past two years
living in Japan observing religious activity while
teaching English at public high schools. Besides
foreign languages, her academic interests include
environmental conservation and the interaction of
different religious traditions in East and Southeast
Asian cultures. She is currently interested in the
Hindu performing arts in America.

ritual, language, etc.). Ravi is our link
between these two Centers. This year, he is
teaching courses in the Religions of India,
Religions of Asia, and Hindu Sacred Texts in
Ritual Contexts.

Dr. G. Rangarajan is teaching "Advanced
Sanskrit" in our department for a second
year. He received his doctorate in Sanskrit
from the University of Madras.

page 4 Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of florida

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 4

Asia Graduate Student Profiles

I Th JReligJion Departmnl Advisor\ Bioat

T he Religion Department enjoys the active support of an
Advisory Board of alumni and community leaders. One of only
two CLAS departments with an Advisory Board-psychology is the
other-and by far the longest standing, for more than two decades
the board has provided financial support, community outreach, and
a sounding board for the department as we have sought to meet our
academic mission and involve ourselves with the broader UF and
Florida community.
Created in the I980s by then Department Chair Austin Creel,
the Religion Department Advisory Board is led by Linda Wells. A
graduate of UF, attorney, and active member of the UF Foundation,
Linda has been instrumental in recruiting new board members, rais-
ing community awareness of the department's strengths, and has
been the key supporter of our new graduate program.
Like Linda, a number of the board's members were involved
and deeply influenced by the "Religion in Life" Week that was organ-
ized by the department's then leaders Delton Scudder and Austin
Creel during the 1950s and early I960s. During that week, impor-
tant religious leaders, such as Victor Frankl andJames Gustafson,
came to campus to deliver major addresses on such salient topics as
"Finding Purpose for Living" and "The Real Conflict Between
Science and Religion" and joined with department faculty and stu-
dents in leading discussions and seminars throughout the campus.
Attorney Vernon Swartsel and Methodist ministers Dick Petry and
Gene Zimmerman are some of the then UF students and now board
members who trace their involvement with the department to those
halcyon days. These too are board members who have supported the
department's effort to revive elements of this fabled 'Week" through
the creation of an Alumni Lecture Series, which every year will bring
to campus a major religious leader to speak to critical issues in con-
temporary religious life. Though still in the planning stages, it is
hoped thatJim Wallis, best-selling author of God's Politics, will inaugu-
rate this new series in the spring.
Ethics is another area of interest for the Advisory Board. Just
over three years ago, UF alumnus, doctor and long-time board
member Perry Foote made a pledge for an endowment in ethics that
resulted in the hiring of Bron Taylor to the Samuel S. Hill Chair in
Christian Ethics. Named after his good friend and now retired fac-
ulty member Sam Hill, Perry has long shared Sam's conviction that
the teaching of ethics to undergraduates is critical to the formation
of young men and women in their preparation for their life after
college. UF alumnus and accountant Ralph Nicosia is similarly
deeply concerned about the erosion of moral values in corporate
America. He especially supports the department's efforts to teach
ethics to undergraduates. With the advice and support of the board,
the department is now taking steps to create an Ethics minor/certifi-
cate, which will be made available to undergraduates in majors across
the university and will take advantage of course offerings in the
Business School and Philosophy, as well as the department.
Outreach to our increasingly diverse Florida community is
another area of board interest. UF alumnus Joan Levin has played a
key role in supporting the new campus Hillel House and lectures in
Jacksonville by faculty from the Center forJewish Studies. Recent UF
religion major and new board member Audra Berg is interested in
the Department's outreach beyond Florida to NewYork City, where

she works for aJewish philanthropic organization. Long-term board
member Helen Godwin has supported Department led programs in
the Jacksonville area. New Board member Dick Petry is especially
interested in the board and department providing "bridges of
understanding" between people from different ethnic, racial, and
religious backgrounds. Finally, Mumtaz Ladak has been a member of
the board since the early 1990s. She is the mother of a recent UF
graduate, an Orlando area businesswoman, and a leader of the rap-
idly growing mid-Florida Muslim community. Recently, Mumtaz has
been exploring with the department the possibility of creating a
"Center for the Study of Muslim Civilizations" here at UF.
In recent years, the board has increased its activity in response
to these emerging interests and the dynamic growth and develop-
ment of the department. Through Linda's leadership, board mem-
bership hopes to continue to grow and diversify. As we envision the
future, the department will continue to look to the board to provide
critical support, outreach, and advice as we together move forward in
our efforts to become both a leading academic center for the study of
religion and one that remains responsive to the needs of our stu-
dents and the surrounding Florida and national community.

Alumni Lecture Fund
he Department of Religion hopes to provide students with academy
ic experiences 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 oppor
tunity 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
footsteps. 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 $
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.
PO Box 14425
Gainesville FL 32604-2425

Fall 2005, Connedions, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of florida page 5

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 5

So far this fall the Department has been privileged to host these visiting lecturers.

Kristina Tiedje
On Tuesday, September 6, the Florida
Organization on Religion, Environmental
Sciences and Technology (FOREST), part of
our Religion and Nature graduate track,
sponsored the visit of Dr. Kristina Tiedje,
an anthropologist from the University of
Lyon, France. Dr. Tiedje gave a lecture enti-
tled "Cultural and Spiritual Values of Nature
for Understanding Health and Healing: The
Teyomi and Other Spirits in Nahua Etiology"
and participated in a lunch conversation. A
cultural anthropologist with a specialization
in environmental anthropology, Dr. Tiedje's
research focuses on human-environmental
interactions in Central Mexico. There she
has examined how capitalism, development,
Christianity, and tourism impact indigenous
lifeways and their religious, social, and eco-
logical knowledge and practices. Dr. Tiedje's
talk was also supported by the International
Center, Anthropology, and the Religion

William Jordan
On Monday, September 12, FOREST, our
own Society for Nature, Religion, and
Ethics, and the UFWetlands Club sponsored
the visit of Dr. William Jordan. Called by
writer Michael Pollan the "leading visionary"
of the ecological restoration movement, Dr.
Jordan has been developing and articulating
ideas about the value of restoration and its
importance as a conservation strategy for
more than a quarter of a century. At the
University of Wisconsin Arboretum in
Madison, where he was public outreach
manager from 1977 to 2000, Jordan was
responsible for the re-visioning of the mis-
sion of the Arboretum and the re-direction
of its research, education, and public out-
reach programs. In 1981, he founded
"Ecological Restoration," the first journal in
this area, which he edited for 20 years. He
was a founding member of the Society for
Ecological Restoration International, and is

currently director of the New Academy for
Nature and Culture and Co-director of the
Institute for Nature and Culture at DePaul
University in Chicago. His book, The Sunflower
Forest: Ec I .I..1 I t ,, i....1,1,. IVew Communion
with Nature, was published by the University of
California Press in 2003. Dr. Jordan's talk
was entitled "Getting Beyond Ethics: A dis-
cussion of the shame-and-performance
model of value and value creation."

Heike Behrend
On Thursday, October 6, the Departments
of Religion, Anthropology, and the Center
for African Studies sponsored a lecture on
"Spirit Mediumship and the (Technical)
Media of Spirits" by Dr. Heike Behrend,
professor of anthropology and director of
the Institute of African Studies at the
University of Cologne, Germany. Dr.
Behrend's lecture investigated the relation-
ship between religious change and war in
Uganda. She is the author of Alice Lakwena and
the Holy Spirits: War in Northern Uganda, 1986-97
(1999) and co-editor of Spirit Possession,
f .1. ,,t, andPowerinAfrica (I999).

Bharat Gupt
On Thursday, October II, the Department
of Religion, the Center for the Study of
Hindu Traditions (CHiTra), and the Asian
Studies Program sponsored two presenta-
tions by Dr. Bharat Gupt, Associate
Professor of English at Delhi University. Dr.
Gupt has worked extensively on drama and
theater in Ancient Greece and music and
dance in Ancient India. He is the author of
Dramatic Concepts: Greek and Indian (1994) and
Natyashastra, Chapter 28: Ancient Scales ofIndian Music
(1996). Dr. Gupt's lecture on "Indian
Music" discussed similarities between the
classical music of India and that of ancient
Greece and Persia, while highlighting the
ways that new technologies and new patron-
age now challenge the art of India music. His
second lecture on "The Treatise of Dance

(Natya Sastra) and the Erotic (Sringara) tra-
dition in Hinduism" explores Sringara, the
notion that all thought and feeling is rooted
in desire, and its implications for the prac-
tice of Hinduism.

Rev. Jianhu
On Thursday, October 27, the Department
sponsored a lecture on "Trends in
Contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism" by
Rev. Jianhu, the abbot of Chung Tai Zen
Center in Sunnyvale, California. Rev.
Jianhu also gave a presentation in Dr.
Poceski's Buddhist Meditation class entitled
"The Practice of Chan/Zen Meditation."
Rev. Jianhu came to the United States as a
teenager and later received a doctorate in
Computer Science from the University of
California, San Diego. In pursuit of a more
meaningful existence, he entered monastic
life in Taiwan. He was previously a dean of
the Buddhist Institute at Chung Tai
Monastery, Taiwan, and the founding abbot
of Buddha Gate Monastery in Lafayette,

Dorothy C. Wong
On November 15, The Department of
Religion and the Asian Studies Program
sponsored a lecture, "Reassessing the Horyu-
ji Wall Paintings in Their Contexts" by Dr.
Dorothy Wong, Associate Professor of Art
History at the University of Virginia. Dr.
Wong is the author of Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist
and Buddhist Use ofa Symbolic Form. The lecture
examined the wall paintings inside the
Kondo or Main Hall of Horyu-ji, Japan
(finished circa 690-710), and placed them
into the broader contexts of an emerging
international Tang Buddhist art. She argued
that by the time the wall paintings at Horyu-
ji were completed, Japan was on the cusp of
fully participating in an international art

page 6 Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of florida

page 6

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

JIFculL\ CNews

Leah Hochman (Boston University, 2000)
delivered a public lecture this October,
"Reading Faces, Reading Souls: Jews,
Lavater, and Physiognomy in Modern
Europe," sponsored by the Center ofJewish
Studies where she holds a joint appoint-
ment. The lecture grows out of her current
work on the concepts of the ugly and ugli-
ness in I8th and 19th century European
thought and their relationship to social poli-
cy making in the late Enlightenment.

Shaya Isenberg (Harvard, 1968) has happily
returned to full time teaching after his years
as chair of the department. He continues as
associate director of the UF Center for
Spirituality and Health. He also continues
his research on the comparative study of
mystical consciousness and on 20th century
Hasidic thought.

James Mueller (Duke, 1986) is continuing
as an Associate Dean with primary responsi-
bilities for space and facilities, affirmative
action, enrollment management, conflict of
interest, scheduling, and as the College's
representative to the Historic Preservation

Vasudha Narayanan's (Bombay, 1978) latest
bookA HundredAutumns to Live: An Introduction to
Hindu Traditions is in press with Oxford, and
Hinduism (Oxford 2004) recently came out in
a French edition.

Jason Neelis (Washington, 2001) has given
invited lectures at the University of Toronto
and the University of Texas at Austin and
delivered papers at the Conferences of the
International Association of Buddhist
Studies in London and the Annual South
Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

Anna Peterson's (Chicago, 1991) most
recent book, Seeds ofthe -,il 1,, Utopian

Communities in the Americas, has just been pub-
lished by Oxford University Press. In
October, she gave an invited presentation,
"Talking the Walk: A Practice-Based
Environmental Ethic as Grounds for
Hope," at Drew University School of
Theology. Currently, she is working on a
new project on consumption and environ-
mental ethics.

Mario Poceski (UCLA, 2000) has recently
given invited lectures at Stanford, Fudan
University in Shanghai, and the University
of North Florida and published two articles
on the Chan School of Buddhism.

Jalane Schmidt (Harvard, 2005) defended
her dissertation, "Cuba's Rival Rituals: 20th
c. Festivals for the Virgin of Charity and the
Contested Streets of the 'Nation'" in May
and was awarded the M.A. and Ph.D. in the
Study of Religion in November. She is cur-
rently on a two-year fellowship in the
Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty
Diversity at the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. Jalane recently conducted
two months of field research in Cuba and is
now revising her dissertation for publica-
tion. She will deliver a paper on the interac-
tions between tourism, field researchers, and
local Cuban religions at the "Black Diaspora
Performance" conference at Northwestern
University in November.

Leo Sandgren (University of North
Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1998) is working on a
politico-religious history ofJewish and
Christian self-definition as the People of
God during the first six centuries of the
Common Era.

Zoharah Simmons (Temple, 2002) con-
tinues work on her book project, "The
Islamic Law of Personal Status and Its
Contemporary Impact on Women in

Jordan." She has recently delivered invited
lectures at Western College in Miami, Ohio,
Furman University, and spoke on Christian-
Muslim reconciliation at Trinity Church in
NewYork City.

Gene Thursby (Duke, 1972) spoke on All-
India Radio earlier this year in connection
with the publication of a South Asian edition
of the book, The Hindu World.

Bron Taylor (Southern California, 1988)
has recently delivered invited lectures to the
European Science Foundation in Germany,
the Council for Spiritual and Ethical
Education in Washington, D.C. at Stetson
University, and to the Askew Institute on
Politics and Society here at UF. This year, he
is leading an initiative to create a Society for
the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture,
with a corresponding journal. At AAR in
November, he will present a paper, "Surfing
into Spirituality," during a session organized
by religion graduate student Samuel Snyder.

Manuel Vasquez (Temple, 1994) has been
awarded a three-year University of Florida
Research Foundation Professorship. He also
received a new grant from the Ford
Foundation ($15o,ooo) to initiate phase II
of his collaborative project (with Philip
Williams) on Latino religion and migration
in the South. He is currently working on a
book tentatively titled "Religion and
Contemporary Social Theory," which is
under contract with Oxford University Press.

Robin Wright (Stanford, 1981) has recently
joined our faculty from Brazil's State
University of Campinas. Aworld-renowned
expert on indigenous religions, this spring
he will be teaching a graduate seminar on
"Indigenous Religions" and an undergradu-
ate course on "Myth and Ritual."

>(IL\cety Lor thie Stu1dyi] (f 'Religion, Naur & ulture

This September, nineteen scholars from
diverse disciplines gathered in Cocoa Beach,
Florida, to discuss the creation of a new
Society for the Study of Religion, Nature,
and Culture. Since the early 1990s, there
has been a growing need among scholars for
a society that would facilitate regular, inter-
disciplinary discussion and research on the
relationships among human beings and their

diverse cultures, environments, and reli-
gious beliefs and practices. Led by Bron
Taylor and assisted by the department's reli-
gion and nature graduate students, this
planning meeting worked toward establish-
ing such a society by reaching a consensus on
its mission statement and purpose, establish-
ing a tentative infrastructure including draft
bylaws and administrative structure, and

establishing an interim leadership.
The University of Florida will act as the
administrative hub of the Society and is
looking forward to hosting the inaugural
kickoff conference with the theme
"Exploring Religion, Nature, and Culture,"
to be held April 6-9, 2005.

Fall 2005, Connedions, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of florida page 7

Fall 2005, Connections, A Newsletter of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida

page 7

The Bog Frogs Take the Field
"I say Bog, you say Frogs
Bog: ?
Go Frogs!"
his fall, the department's graduate students, staff, and facul-
ty have organized a coed softball team affectionately known
as the "Bog Frogs." Pressed by the need to come up with a suit-
able totem to rally around, we turned to the Religion and Nature
graduate students who then worked their way through a list of
Florida's endangered species to come up with a suitable team
symbol. Decked out in yellow shirts with green lettering and a
happy, jumping frog on the front, the "Frogs" take the field every
Thursday night in the "C" level coed league at the Diamond
Sports Park. Now halfway through league play, the team appears
to have effectively lulled oppos-
ing teams into a false sense of
confidence. We have yet to win.
Yet there is improvement every
game and a light at the end of
the season-where movement
down to "D" league offers hope
for the future. -

he 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" letter we sent in July are
already on this list. For others who wish to subscribe, either send
an email to anewman@ or subscribe yourself
directly by sending an email to alumni-religion- In the body of your message, type: sub-
scribe end. We hope you will join us in conversation online!


Department of Religion
107 Anderson Hall
P. O. Box 117410
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 326II-740I
Telephone: 352-392-1625
Fax: 352-392-7395


Thanks to graduate student Hilit ; .. .. ,,i,,,,, Il fthe information
forthis newsletter. Thanks too, to our ... }.. .. .. ,1,., .1...
Armas and our newly promoted senior secretary Anne Newmanfor their excellent
work in support of the department.

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