Panel One: Food
1. Geoffrey Francis Barstow (Religious Studies, University of Virginia), "Vegetarianism and Animal Compassion in the Life and Works of the Eighteenth Century Tibetan Buddhist Master Jikme Lingpa"
Tibetan Buddhism has long argued for the sanctity of life, condemning the killing of humans and animals alike. For just as long, however, meat has been a staple of the Tibetan diet. Individual religious leaders have dealt with this tension in different ways, but few have done so as revealingly as the eighteenth century master Jikme Lingpa. In his religious and autobiographical writings, Jikme Lingpa draws on Buddhist ideals promoting compassion towards all beings, as well as his own unusually strong love of animals, to vehemently condemn the killing of animals for meat. Further, Jikme Lingpa argues that cultivating compassion towards animals can produce powerful soteriological experiences in a religious practitioner. He himself claims that the most important religious experience of his life came about not out of formal meditation or liturgy, but out of the spontaneous experience of compassion that arose at the sight of sheep lined up in a slaughterhouse. Despite the importance he places on animal compassion, however, Jikme Lingpa never fully endorses vegetarianism. While he does promote this practice, he also displays an awareness of how difficult it would be for the Tibetans in his audience to adopt a fully vegetarian diet. He thus takes pains to avoid mandating vegetarianism among his students, instead offering a variety of options that fall between the careless consumption of meat and a full vegetarian diet. In his refusal to unequivocally support vegetarianism, despite his strong affection for animals and the soteriological possibilities afforded by animal compassion, Jikme Lingpa offers unique insight into the tension between Tibetan Buddhism's emphasis on compassion and Tibetan culture's emphasis on a meat-based diet.
2. Sunder John Boopalan (Religion and Society Program, Princeton Theological Seminary), "Eat, Pray, Kill: Palate Politics, Religious Imploration and License for Violence"
India has had a tradition which has associated food habits with personality traits and character formation captured in the adage, "You are what you eat". What is further important to note is the moral implication that follows such socio-cultural beliefs. These associations, the degree of which varies from place to place, raise a number of issues that relate to the topic of this conference. The paper will use as a starting point for analysis the bans on cow-slaughter enacted in various states, sought in others, and the democratic opposition to such bans that point out the legitimization of violence through palate politics. While the ban on cow slaughter has been a contentious issue in a democratic state, recent legislative clauses seem to indirectly condone harassment by sanctioning "raids" on mere suspicion. The state of Karnataka, for instance, has proposed a "search and seizure" clause to already existing laws, and while it is yet to receive the Governor's assent, has proposed 7 years in prison for violation of the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010, making it increasingly difficult to determine the "certain conditions" under which slaughter is allowed. This palate politics that often follows 'religious' (and 'cultural') imploration often licenses violence; this is to be viewed critically in a country that is home to diverse communities that have historically and traditionally practiced the eating of various kinds of animals. In arguing this point, the paper seeks to re-examine the foundation of a democratic set-up and analyze the violence legitimized by referring to the eating habits of those who are deemed the "other" and seen as not embracing a full 'Indian' identity.
 http://www.indianexpress.com/news/some-ban-some-restrict-a-few-dont/895341 (accessed January 27, 2012).
3. Caroline DeVane (Comparative Studies, Harvard Divinity School), "Not a "Necessary" Killing': Meat, Marginalization, and Public Policy in Animal Sacrifice Cases in the United States"
The United States legal system is arguably capable of offering the tools, framework, and flexibility to protect the welfare of non-human animals. However, legal culture historically privileges the rights and welfare of the group with the most political and social leverage, none of which non-humans have without advocacy in our human system. The nuanced lenses of anthropology and religious studies are useful in approaching the complex political calculus of legal decisions around claims of inhumane treatment of non-human animals for food or religious ritual.
This thematic approach is particularly useful in understanding the public policy contradictions that are exposed by legal cases that sit at the intersection of non-human animal welfare, specifically the ritual killing of individual animals not for food, with the legally protected human right of freedom of religion. This paper examines three legal cases based on anti-cruelty statutes and other protections to stop animal sacrifice: one involving the sacrifice of chickens and other small animals by practitioners of Santeria in Florida; another involving the sacrifice of a puppy by a Hmong shaman in California; and a third, more recent case of a Northern Arapaho man in Wyoming killing a bald eagle, sparking a prolonged legal battle over Native Americans' access to bald eagles for ritual use. The bases on which these legal actions were brought against the use of animals for a primarily religious purpose rather than for food, are also ignored or exempted when it comes to the legal consideration of animals raised for food. For instance, many states offer exemptions based on "custom" to factory farms from the anti-cruelty statutes that were initially penned as protections for domesticated farm animals.
This paper discusses the complicated social realities that go hand-in-hand with the uneven application of protective legislation for non-human animals. The discussion examines the underlying issues at stake in each of these cases, not only in terms of the scholarship on animal sacrifice and the anthropology of dietary choice, but the public policy issues around non-human animals used for food at stake in each of these cases. Lastly, the paper considers the implications for the animal rights movement of putting in opposition the legal rights of marginalized human groups and the legal protection of non-human groups.
Panel Two: Ritual
1. Radhika Govindraja (Anthropology, Yale University), "Love and death: animal sacrifice and human-animal kinship in India's Central Himalayas"
The ritual sacrifice of goats, and at times buffaloes, is an important part of Hindu religious ceremonies in India's central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Ostensibly dedicated to gods and goddesses in lieu of human sacrifice, animals that are beheaded in temples are asked to consent to their death by means of an elaborate ritual process. Those who offer a sacrifice first induct a male goat into their exogamous lineage group (gotra), pleading with him to sacrifice himself on behalf of the family, thus winning them forgiveness for their sins. The goat is then sprinkled with a mixture of rice and water until he shakes, a sign that both he and the deity to whom he is being sacrificed have accepted the imminent death.
At a time when animal sacrifice is being heavily legislated by the state, urged on by animal rights activists who believe that the practice is barbaric and un-Hindu, Uttarakhandis who believe in the centrality of sacrifice to worship point to the kinship and love that is fostered between humans and animals in the process as a marker of its ability to form emotional bonds. 'What these animal rights people don't understand is that our love for animals, while different from theirs, is not any less', I was told by an angry attendee of a festival where the government had recently banned animal sacrifice. 'Not only do we worship the animal before sacrificing it, we also give it our family name. The meat is shared as prasad, food blessed by God. If that isn't love, what is?' It is these ideas of human-animal love and kinship as they are discussed and debated in the process of animal sacrifice, beginning with the rearing of an animal for sacrifice and culminating in its death and consumption, that I hope to explore in this paper.
2. Cengiz Haksoz (Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh), "Killing for Existence: Sacrifice Gatherings at the Demir Baba and Yenihan Baba Shrines in Bulgaria"
Sacrifice (kurban) practices are among commonly practiced rituals not only among Muslims but also among Christian Orthodox communities in the Balkans. Beside the sacred and symbolic meaning of these rituals, there are also important political pragmatism in the gathering around sacred sites and practicing kurban. From a minority point of view, one of these pragmatisms is to gather minority members not only to increase political and social solidarity feelings to one another, but also to show their existence. The Demir Baba shrine in northeast Bulgaria and the Yenihan Baba shrine in south Bulgaria are two of the most important places where Muslims, both Sunni and Alevi, and in all ethnic identities, such as Turks, Pomaks, and Roma, organize annual sacrifice (kurban) gatherings. In this paper, I will elaborate differences and similarities between the two sites and will discuss how a minority community uses sacred sites and sacrifice (kurban) gatherings around these sites as a "symbol of existence" in a predominantly Christian Orthodox country.
3. Andrew Macomber (Religion, Columbia University), "Mental Disruption or Political Disorder?: Fox-Possession in Meiji and Early-Modern Japan"
Professional clergy at modern-day religious sites enshrining the deity Inari discourage devotees from associating this god with foxes. While scholars have understood this priestly disdain for fox worship in terms of the broader currents of modernity-"enlightenment" movements to systematically erase any and all beliefs reeking of "superstition"-my contention is that we must look specifically to the phenomenon of fox-possession (kitsune-tsuki) which often occurred in contexts of Inari practices and sites. Not merely was belief in fox-possession branded irrational and unfit for the modern Japanese state; as psychiatry in Japan commenced with fieldwork on fox-possession itself, those who experienced it from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onward were labeled clinically delusional. In order to dissociate themselves from what had become known as "psychosis" (seishinbyo) and "brain-disease" (no-byo), priests attempted unsuccessfully to sever ties with the fox and the strange episodes it was believed to provoke. While my talk will provide the broader contours of this story seeking to further clarify the modern distaste for fox worship, my primary concern is to expose the socio-political meanings of fox-possession in the early-modern period (1600-1868) obscured or consciously erased from the official memory of Inari in these attempts to reduce Inari to a mental disturbance. Not only did fox-possession facilitate rapid growth of Inari worship sites in urban areas such as Edo, my research reveals that some daimyo (feudal lords) mobilized this happening to voice political concerns that might garner critique if explicitly expressed. By problematizing psychogenic interpretations of possession that only reiterate Meiji psychiatric formations, my early-modern case studies rethink the place of fox-possession in the history of Inari and question some of the ways that the fox and fox-related events have been represented and deployed in modern psychological and early-modern political contexts.
Panel Three: Boundaries
1. Gillian Chisom (History, University of California, Berkeley), "The Reformation of the Fences: Animals and the Theology of Grace in Early Modern England"
In The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy describes the English Reformation as "an attempt to redefine the boundaries of human community," referring primarily to the exclusion of the saints from the community of the living after the advent of Reformed theology. Duffy's insight, however, raises questions about how the Reformation affected broader cultural understandings of what constituted human community. England's adoption of a Calvinist worldview, indeed, resulted in new elucidations of the boundaries of humanness as part of a redefinition of the triangle of relationships between humans, God, and nonhuman nature, which included a reappraisal of the theological status of animals.
By analyzing a suggestive group of late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century English sermons which consider the possibility of animal redemption, this paper will seek to illuminate the boundaries of the new, Calvinist sacred universe which emerged in the post-Reformation period. In these preachers' theological paradigm, animals occupied an ambiguous space as both innocent and fallen: innocent of the sin which caused the corruption of all creatures, but fallen in that they also shared in that corruption. While some preachers argued that animals might continue to exist in the afterlife, the Calvinist theology of grace, in which the elect owe their status to the inexplicable will of a transcendent God, made it impossible for them to affirm creaturely redemption with any certainty. The inability of any creature, even an elect human, to mediate with God on any other creature's behalf eliminated sites of slippage which had existed within the pre-Reformation cult of the saints, significantly narrowing the possibilities for animal access to God.
2. Beatrice Marovich (Theology & Philosophy, Drew University's Graduate Division of Religion), "Little Bird in my Praying Hands: Rainer Maria Rilke & God's Animal Body"
In his eighth poem of the Duino Elegies Rainer Maria Rilke invokes the figure of "the Open"-a territory that humans cannot see, but animals can. The perversion of human perception, he writes, is that our eyes are "set around it" they "block the freedom of its going." This poetic critique of anthropocentric awareness has served as fodder for a number of philosophers (Martin Heidegger, Giorgio Agamben) as well as critical theorists (Eric Santner, in his On Creaturely Life ). What such analyses of animal life in Rilke's work miss, however, is the extent to which his emphasis on animality (or creatureliness) drives him to articulate a strange sort of theology.
In this paper I will bring to light the theological figure that Rilke poetically fabulates across several works-especially Stories of God and Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. What emerges in these tales is a divine figure, modeled after the patriarchal deity who makes so many colored appearances in the ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible. But-an important difference-this is a big old god with an animal body. Not only is his beard grizzly enough to stroke, but he is vulnerable enough to be wounded. Like other mortal, creaturely, bodies he is in need of comfort and support. More than that, this creaturely god is so mysteriously animalistic that he sometimes appears to change form and become more animal. He appears to become, for example, a live little bird, wriggling in the hands of a small child.
Finally, I will offer some reflections on how the creatureliness of this creator divine (this god with an animal body) troubles the logic of sovereignty that's embedded in the model of an omnipotent god, who transcends the creaturely mortality of the world.
3. DeVan Ard (Theology, University of Notre Dame), "Spenser at the Zoo: Virtue and the Animal Other in The Faerie Queene"
This paper argues that despite Edmund Spenser's oft-quoted aim to "fashion a gentleman or noble person" in his epic poem The Faerie Queene, which narrates the pursuit of Christian morality, the poem insistently returns to scenes of bodily metamorphosis that defy attempts to locate definitively the boundary dividing the human from the animal. Written at a high point of English humanism, which relied on a Christianized form of the classical scala naturae in order to rationalize humanity's ontological priority over animals, Spenser's poetry in fact seems unable to sustain the anthropocentrism implicit in its virtue ethic approach to morality. The paper's preliminary aim is to situate the poem within the contentious philosophical nexus that obtained in the Renaissance surrounding questions of human identity and subjectivity. This debate can be staged, for instance, between the epideictic humanism of Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man and the classical skepticism of Michel de Montaigne's Apology for Raymond Sebond, which takes up a long tradition of suspicion of human reason as the God-given source of ontological priority over animals. Spenser's poem steps into the debate, as this paper will briefly represent it, with a series of episodes that depict human-animal metamorphosis. These metamorphoses work both to reinforce Spenser's ideal of Christian, humanist virtue and subtly to undermine it. This paper will examine two of these episodes. By reading closely the reluctant transformation of the porcine Gryll into a human and the gradual transformation of Malbecco into the animalistic Gelosy, this paper demonstrates that the Renaissance imagination continued to rely on the interdependence of human and animal ontologies in order to fashion its ideal of the virtuous person.
Panel Four: Imagery
1. Steven Garfinkle (Religion, Columbia University), "Bull Pit: Animal Symbolism in the Cult of Mithras"
The Late Antique Roman "mystery" cult of the solar deity Mithras was saturated with animal symbolism. Despite originating in the East, Mithras was highly favored by the Roman army during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries. Mithras was the only non-Olympian god who was venerated inside the sacrosanct boundaries of the Roman army camp. Mithras shrines ("Mithraea") were typically enclosed in underground structures resembling a cave. In the center of every Mithraeum, between two rows of benches, stood a plaque or sculpture depicting a man in a Persian hat stabbing his sword into the side of a bull. A snake, scorpion, and a dog lap up the blood from the wound. Other than slight stylistic differences, the portrayal and possible re-enactment of the tauroctony ("bull-slaying") was universal within the cult. Most Mithraea contained additional scenic panels which vary by location. Many of these also utilize animal symbolism. Mithras initiates were inducted into one of seven graded ranks, two or three of which are associated with animals: the Lion and Raven ("corax"). (There is a third grade "nymphus," sometimes translated by scholars as "bee chrysalis," but more often as "Male-Bride.")
A strong gender component is also mapped onto the animal paradigms. Women- typically excluded from this cult of Roman soldiers- were referred to as "Hyenas." Scholars note that the animals used in the Mithraic grading system were renown in the ancient world for odd sexual practices; e.g., ancient encyclopedias report that the raven reproduced asexually and gave birth through the mouth. In what could be deemed a mythological rejection of the feminine, the god Mithras himself was said to have been born from a rock, and in other legends, reproduced by masturbating onto rocks.
Aside from dedicatory inscriptions and some graffiti, no known writings from professed Mithras followers have survived. Historians are left to interpret complicated archaeological artifacts in light of vague accounts from satirists (Apuleius), philosophers (Porphyry), and religious opponents. Viewed with one lens, the Mithras cult was a collaborative of blood-thirsty Roman soldiers slaughtering bulls in subterranean pits. Yet, Porphyry describes Mithras followers as vegetarians who allegorized the bull-slaying motif as representative of cosmic and celestial phenomenon. Church fathers (e.g., Jerome) found Mithraism so similar to Christianity (notably, a non-sacrificing religion) that it was deemed a Satanic imitation of the true faith meant to fool the unwary.
Due to the scarce and contradictory historical sources, deciphering the meaning of symbolic content is paramount to understanding the workings and beliefs of this cult. In the case of Mithras, determining the relationship of the cult to animals may be the key to unlocking a larger historical puzzle. In my talk, I would like to discuss some of the various ways scholars have interpreted the animal symbols, as well as present some new insight from possible references to Mithras in ancient rabbinic literature.
2. Jesse J. Rainbow (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University), "'Many Bulls Surround Me': Anthropomorphic War Animals and Theriomorphic Warriors in the Hebrew Bible
Descriptions of warfare in the Hebrew Bible are replete with literal and figurative references to animals. The horse-drawn chariot was the most fearsome weapon known in the ancient Near East, and in several of the ancient cultures with which the biblical Israelites came into conflict, enemy warriors either dressed themselves as animals or symbolically identified themselves with predatory animals through the enactment of elaborate ritual hunts. Biblical literature reflects the connection between warfare and animals in complex ways. In some cases, war animals are conceived of as combatant agents capable of anthropomorphic behaviors such as hostility, aggression, and heroism. In other cases animals are simply instruments or weapons wielded by human warriors. Human enemy combatants are identified with animals in ways that either valorize or dehumanize them, and in several cases the Israelite authors of biblical literature appear to co-opt and subvert the propagandistic animal imagery of their imperial adversaries (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon).
This paper considers six selected passages from the Hebrew Bible in the light of ancient Near Eastern texts and iconography, and attempts to define boundaries and categories within the continua described above. Ultimately, my goal is to complicate the interpretation of the relevant texts by showing that the deployment of animal imagery in an account of war serves a range of rhetorical functions. The paper builds on and expands my previous work on hunting, animals, warfare, and ethnic identity, including my unpublished conference paper "Royal Hunting in Ancient Israel: Did They Or Didn't They?" (2009) and a book chapter, "Sarah Saw A Hunter: The Venatic Motif in Genesis Rabbah 53:11" (2010).
3. Daniel C. Tate (Center For Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU), "Condors, Serpents, and Fleas: Indigenous Protest, Animal Symbolism, and Revolutionary Cosmology in 21st Century Andean Bolivia"
In this paper I examine the symbolic, analogical relationship between humans and animals in indigenous Aymara political and cosmological discourse during the 2000-2005 cycle of mass protest and insurgency in Andean Bolivia. I argue that the large-scale protests launched by Bolivia's indigenous movements over the ownership of natural resources (water, natural gas, coca leaf) from 2000 to 2005, not only challenged Bolivia's dominant neoliberal economic model and the political elites that imposed it through violence, but also elite Bolivia's dominant political-theological imaginary, which historically had excluded native indigenous cosmology and symbolic discourses from the national political sphere-and, at its worst, racialized the country's diverse indigenous majority as a mass of "beasts of burden." In Andean Bolivia, beginning in 2000, widespread indigenous rebellions against neoliberalism, state violence, and political-theological exclusion, also entailed a magnification of the Indian protestors' powers to symbolically articulate relations between animals and humans on their own terms-insurgents followed their "Mallku" or "Condor" leadership, staged mass protest actions called "plan flea" and "plan fox," and ultimately resurrected the spirit of the "resplendent serpent," Tupak Katari, the leader of a massive anti-colonial Indian revolt against Spanish rule in 1781. As such, the 2000-2005 cycle of indigenous rebellion and popular victory-(current Bolivian President, Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, was elected by an unprecedented landslide in 2005 following mass protests, making him the first indigenous head of state in South American history)-revealed the vital importance of a zoological, symbolic representation between animals and humans in subaltern Andean indigenous political discourse and protest-and likewise in indigenous cosmological thinking and practice. Indeed, indigenous movements speak of the current period of national indigenous political ascendancy in Bolivia as a "pachakuti" or a revolutionary, cyclical renewal of indigenous life-ways, spirituality, and time.
Building on some key works and debates among Andean ethno-historians, anthropologists, and historians, as well as using documents produced by indigenous movements, I seek to firstly demonstrate how a counter-hegemonic discursive blurring between animals and humans was, and continues to be, fundamental to this process of indigenous renewal in Bolivia; and secondly to address how analogical discourses of human animalization also saturate relations between Bolivia's dominant Europeanized sectors of society and the country's indigenous majority (and vice-versa), particularly during moments of crisis and rebellion, highlighting the formidable political-theological predicament in this transforming post-colonial society.