The Working Group on Plants and Religion at the University of Florida (UF) is hosting a symposium entitled “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Plants and Religion,” to be held 15-17 December 2011. The event will be relatively small and informal, consisting of sessions on specific topics, as well as a planning session to guide the future efforts of the Working Group. The symposium will explore human-plant relationships in the realm of the sacred. Of special interest this year is the religious use of psychoactive plants. However, we have scheduled several sessions to encourage and welcome participants from a broad range of perspectives on the religious use of plants.
It is the intention of the Working Group to create a space at UF that can study the religious use of plants in order to allow for interdisciplinary work within UF, and to serve as a center for resources for, and collaboration with other scholars engaged in these endeavors at other institutions nationally and internationally.
The Working Group would like to invite you to come, participate, and help us plan for the future. The goal of the Working Group is to use this symposium to identify areas that are in need of further research, and topics/areas that colleagues feel are the most pressing for future work in the study of the religious use of plants. We want to position ourselves in critical sphere of research that can foster dialogue across disciplines and institutions, as well as draw incoming and prospective students into considering the religious use of plants and psychoactive plants, important areas of research.
Outline of Sessions
Healing Plants I
This session will cover the topics of shamanism and the ritual uses of plants and healing. Indigenous religious systems of the Amazon will be especially highlighted. The plants focused on will range from parika (Virola spp), ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis Caapi), chacruna (Psychotria Viridis), and tobacco (Nicotiana spp), among others.
Plants, Cosmology, and Art
This session will open onto notions of petroglyphs and other forms of shamanic art as they have been informed by the ritual use of plants. Plants will be discussed in terms of their cosmological positions as “world trees”, forms of axis mundi, sources of food and knowledge, among other common cosmological referents.
Healing Plants II
This session will expand on the the first healing session, moving into the discussion of plants as food, and medicine. Traditions ranging from Amazonian healing systems to Traditional Chinese and Indian (Asian) Medicine will be considered.
Movement and Destinations: Spatial Trajectories of Plants and Religion
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.
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 Religion
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.
Time and Place
The symposium is to begin on December 15th and run through the 17th. On the 15th and 16th the symposium will begin at 10am and run through 6:45pm, with breaks for coffee and lunch between each session. The 17th is expected only to last from 10am to 1pm, including closing remarks. The symposium will be held on the University of Florida campus, in space made available by the Department of Religion.
If you have questions, comments, concerns, or would just like to RSVP, please contact us at email@example.com.
Beatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. Since 2009, she has been a Research Associate at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University. She is also researcher with the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its site (http://www.neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, and one journal special edition. Her book, “A Reinvenção do Uso da Ayahuasca nos Centros Urbanos” (“The Reinvention of Ayahuasca Use in Urban Centers,” Mercado de Letras, 2004), was derived from her Master’s thesis, which received the prize for Best Master’s Thesis in Social Sciences from the National Association for Graduate Studies in Social Science (ANPOCS) in 2000. For more information, see: http://bialabate.net/
Edward MacRae was born in Sao Paulo, raised in Great Britain where he graduated in Social Psychology from the University of Sussex and received a master’s degree in Sociology of Latin America in the University of Essex. Back in Brazil, he studied anthropology in Unicamp and USP, where he finished the doctoral program in 1986 with the dissertation, “The militant homosexual in post-dictatorship Brazil.” Since then he has researched the topic of drugs, initially working for the Institute of Social Medicine and Criminology of the state of Sao Paulo – IMESC and in the Program for Orientation and Attendance of Drug-dependencies – PROAD/EPM. He was a member of the Sao Paulo State Narcotics Council. He is currently living in Salvador where he teaches anthropology in the Federal University of Bahia, and is a researcher associated to the Center for Drug Abuse Studies and Therapy – CETAD/UFBA. There, he teaches post-graduate courses on topics related to the social anthropology of drugs. He is currently a representative of the Ministry of Culture on the National Anti-Drugs Council – CONAD and member of the Scientific-Technical Advisory Chamber of the CONAD. He has written books on sexuality, social movements, and the socially integrated use of psychoactive substances and harm reduction associated to the use of drugs.
Guests and Participants
Bron Taylor – Department of Religion, University of Florida
Todd Swanson – Department of Religion, Arizona State University
Benjamin Hebblethwaite – Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
Andrew Tarter – Graduate Student; Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
Kerri Blumenthal – Graduate Student, Department of Religion, University of Florida
Clint Bland – Graduate Student, Department of Religion, University of Florida
Robin Wright – Member of the faculty, Department of Religion, University of Florida
James (Pete) Taylor – Graduate Student; Latin American Studies, University of Florida
Lucas de Biaji Moreira – Graduate Student, Department of Religion, University of Florida
Jaya Reddy – Graduate Student, Department of Religion, University of Florida
Marissa Molinar Anders – Comparative Art and Archeology
Support and Contribution
Department of Religion
Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida Research Foundation
Department of Anthropology
Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere
November 1st, 2011
Topic: Anthropology, Religion Tags: Symposium