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Conference Details: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Religion and Plants, 15-17 December

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Editor’s Note: Points readers who have followed our coverage this fall of ayahuasca, mushrooms, and other psychoactive plants will be excited to learn the details of the first annual conference sponsored by the Working Group on Plants and Religion at the University of Florida, which will take place next week (15-17 Dec.).  As we noted in an earlier post, two eminent Latin American scholars will grace this conference.  The keynote address, “Legal Issues in the Ritual Use of Ayahuasca in Brazil,” by Professor Edward MacRae of the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil, will be at 4:30 on Thursday the 15th in 219 Anderson Hall.  Beatriz Caiuby Labate, currently of the University of Heidelberg, will be present to offer questions and comments at all the sessions, and will lead the plenary on the morning of Saturday the 17th.  The complete schedule of conference events is available here.

Conference Participants Include:

Benjamin Hebblethwaite   Assistant Professor of Haitian Creole, Haitian & Francophone Studies, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of Florida.

Bron Taylor   Professor of Religion, University of Florida.  Bron Taylor is the editor of Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, and an active contributor to the Encyclopedia of Religion & Nature and The International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.

Growing Stories (U. Press of Kentucky, 2009)

Whitney Sanford   Associate Professor of Religion, University of Florida.  Dr. Sanford teaches and researches two main areas: Religion and Nature, and Religions of Asia.  She focuses on environmental movements of the global South and religious attitudes towards agricultural sustainability.  She will discuss her recent book Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture.

Christopher A. Wright Independent Scholar of religions and professional photographer.  Mr. Wright holds an M.A. in Religion from  Hartford Seminary and did his doctoral thesis research on Mesoamerican art of the sacred, at University of Montreal.  A survivor of a Mucopolysaccharidosis (also known as Morquio’s Disease), a rare genetic disorder that affects all weight-bearing joints, Dr. Wright has long been an advocate of the use of cannabis sativa for medicinal purposes.

Robin M. Wright   Associate Professor of Religion, University of Florida.  Dr. Wright specializes in Indigenous Religions, Amerindian Religions of South America, and the Anthropology of Religion. He has worked with South American shamans since the 1970s; his Mysteries of the Jaguar Shamans is  forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press.  A leading supporter of research into psychoactive substances in plants, Dr. Wright, like his brother Christopher, suffers from Morquio’s Disease.

Tod Swanson   Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University.  Tod Swanson grew up in a Kichwa Indian community in the highlands of Ecuador.  The Director of a Summer Field School  in the Ecuadorean Amazon, he has realized many years of studies of ethnobotany and native relations to plants, not exclusively to ayahuasca.

Lao-Tai Blanket Detail, Northern Thailand

Ellison Banks Findly   Professor of Religion & Asian Studies, Trinity College, Hartford, CT.   Dr. Findly’s areas of research include the religious history of Hinduism and Buddhism (texts and art) and contemporary Gandhian thought in India.  She is currently working on Southeast Asian religious textiles (Lao-Tai).  A prolific scholar, she will discuss one of her books, Plant Lives: Borderline Beings in Indian Tradition.

William Vickers   Retired Professor  of Anthropology & Ecology, Florida International University.  Dr. Vickers is a specialist in the cultures of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Bob Linde   An Acupuncture Physician and Registered Herbalist (AHG),  Bob Linde is the founder and President of Acupuncture & Herbal Therapies.

Andrew Tarter   Ph.D. student, University of Florida.  An assistant to Dr. Hebblethwaite, Mr. Tarter has an expertise in Haitian Vodu.

Jaya Reddy   Ph. D. student, Department of Religion, University of Florida.  Jaya Reddy’s research focuses on the use of plants in religion, medicine, and astrology in India.

Lucas Moreira   M.A. candidate, Department of Religion, University of Florida.  Mr. Moreira studies public policy and legislation on psychoactive plants.

Marissa Molnar   M.A. candidate, Department of Art & Archaeology, prospective Ph.D. student in Religion or Anthropology, University of Florida. Rock Art, Cosmology, and Plants have been the focus of Ms. Molnar’s studies thus far.

Chumash Rock Art, Painted Cave State Historic Park, California

James Taylor   M.A. candidate, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida.  Mr. Taylor’s interests include the trajectories and destinations of plants; fieldwork  on the Napo river, and the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Clint Bland   Ph.D. student in Religion, University of Florida. Mr. Bland is at work on a study of a peyote cult among devotees of New Age spirituality.

Kerri Blumenthal   Ph.D. student in Religion, University of Florida.  Ms. Blumenthal’s M.A. thesis focused of a peyote cult.


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