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Anita Anantharam

Anita Anantharam joined the University of Florida’s Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research as Assistant Professor in 2006. Professor Anantharam did her undergraduate work in Women’s Studies at Columbia University, her MA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and received her Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests are in the fields of nationalism and feminism in South Asia and her current manuscript is a comparative study of anti-state poetry from India and Pakistan during key moments of religious revitilization in the twentieth century. She is the editor of Mahadevi Varma: Essays on Women,Culture, and Society, a volume of translations, and is currently working on a book titled Illuminating Feminism: Religion, Nation, and Poetry in South Asia.

Professor Anantharam’s areas of specialization include Transnational Feminism, Postcolonial Theory, Hindi and Urdu language and literature, and Marxist-feminist analyses of literary
and visual cultures of the South Asian Diaspora.

Vandana Baweja

Vandana Baweja joined the School of Architecture at UF in August 2009 as a tenure track assistant professor. Vandana was trained as an architect in New Delhi, India. She brings a wide range of work experience as an teacher, an architect, a graphic designer, a curator at the Goethe Institute in New Delhi presenting an exhibit on Berlin architecture, a short film producer for television features on architecture, and a free-lance columnist.

Her pedagogical experience has evolved through teaching at a range of schools in New Delhi, Michigan, and Oberlin. She taught at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi as a visiting faculty member; at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, as a teaching assistant; and at Oberlin College as a postdoctoral fellow.

Her pedagogical and scholarly interests are in the areas of history and theory of Sustainable Architecture; colonial South Asian architecture; and urbanism. Her doctoral dissertation titled A Pre-History of Green Architecture: Otto Koenigsberger and Tropical Architecture, from Princely Mysore to Post-Colonial London, historicizes Green Architecture in the intercolonial experiences of European diasporic architects, by tracing the genealogy of Green Architecture in the practice of Tropical Architecture. She has located one of the origins of Green Architecture in the networks of the British Empire and the histories of decolonization. Her doctoral dissertation draws upon South Asian colonial histories, the histories of modern architecture, and environmental histories of architecture.

She plans to teach courses on the global histories of Sustainable Architecture; Modern Indian Architecture; Colonial Architecture and Urbanism; and Cities of the World. She has presented several papers in conferences such as Society of Architectural Historians (SAH); International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE); Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

Jonathan Edelmann

Jonathan Edelmann (D.Phil., Oxford University, 2008) is Assistant Professor of Hinduism, Department of Religion, at the University of Florida. He is an editor for the International Journal of Hindu Studies and author of Hindu Theology and Biology with Oxford University Press, which won a John Templeton Foundation Award. Edelmann was a fellow with the American Academy of Religion for two years, held a Post-doctoral fellowship with Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, and was a Shackouls Honors College Faculty Fellow and Assistant Professor of Religion at Mississippi State University. His research is on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, an important source of culture, fine arts, philosophy, theology, and narrative in South Asia. He conducts research on the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava interpretation of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and related texts such as the Bhagavad Gītā and Upaniṣads. Edelmann is also interested in the manner in which Hindu thought might respond constructively to contemporary issues in the philosophy, with a special focus on issues of rationality and epistemology, philosophies of science, ecology, and conceptions of nature. He teaches in two areas: Religions of Asia and Religion and Nature, often emphasizing the philosophical underpinnings of religious traditions, especially with regard to conceptions of self, religious practice, and ultimate reality. He has published in a wide variety of leading academic journals in Religious Studies, Consciousness Studies, and Indology, for example the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion, and the Journal of the American Oriental Society.

Kathleen M. Erndl

Kathleen M. Erndl (Ph.D. ’87, University of Wisconsin, South Asian Language and Literature: Religions of South Asia) is an Associate Professor at Florida State University and holds a courtesy appointment with the Department of Religion/ CHiTra at UF. Dr Erndl teaches in the field of South Asian religions, especially Hinduism, as well as gender and religion, comparative studies, and Sanskrit. Professor Erndl’s publications include Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual and Symbol (Oxford, 1993), a co-edited collection of essays entitled Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (New York University Press and Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), and articles on Sakta traditions, spirit possession, women’s religious expressions, methodology, and gender issues in Hinduism. She is currently writing a book entitled The Play of the Mother: Women, Goddess Possession, and Power in Hinduism. Other research interests include interactions between Hinduism and Buddhism in India, cross-cultural appropriations of Indian goddesses in North America, and Hinduism in the Caribbean. Professor Erndl has been the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hayes, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Joan D. Frosch

Joan D. Frosch is Professor of Dance and Assistant Director of the School of Theatre and Dance, affiliate faculty of the Centers for African Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, and consultant for such agencies as the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. The 2003-2004 Gwendolen M. Carter Fellow in African Studies at the University of Florida, Professor Frosch is a dance ethnographer, Certified Laban Movement Analyst, choreographer and author. Co-director and co-founder of UF’s Center for World Arts (1996), a living laboratory exploring the interface of arts and culture, her research has attracted national and international funding, and numerous honors and awards, such as the national Lilly Fellowship for innovative curriculum in Dance in World Cultures, the National Endowment for the Arts (Dance-Creativity), and the Cologne Choreographers’ Forum for her choreography, China.

Professor Frosch is currently directing and producing an in-depth documentary on contemporary African choreographers entitled Contemporary African Dance: A Movement (R)evolution, featuring such artists and companies as Sello Pesa (South Africa), Jant-Bi (Senegal), Raiz de Polon (Cape Verde), Rary (Madagascar), Béatrice Kombé (Cote d’Ivoire), and Kongo Ba Téria (Burkina Faso), among many others. In collaboration with the Centers for African Studies and Latin American Studies, she has developed numerous other collaborations with international artists moving from “cultural traditions” to contemporary expression, including conferences on the subject, such as the recent Movement (R)evolution Dialogues: Contemporary Performance In and Of Africa, and programming including such artists as: Los Pregones, Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor, African-American Dance Ensemble, DanceBrazil, Menaka Thakkar Dance Company, Pepatian, Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, ODC San Francisco, Urban Bush Women, and, most recently TchéTché, of Cote d’Ivoire.

Professor Frosch trained at the School of Performing Arts, The Juiliard School, California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University and the Laban Institute of Movement Studies. She has taught on the faculties of the University of Maryland, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Wesleyan University, Rotterdamse Dansacademie in the Netherlands, the International School of Beijing, and founded and directed a summer performing arts program based at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. She has also served as Advisor to the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife African Immigrant Project, President of the Florida Dance Association, and currently serves on the board of directors of the Congress on Research in Dance. Professor Frosch is a founding member of the Africa Consortium, a national organization of curators, presenters, and scholars dedicated to the vigorous artistic exchange of contemporary African performance.

Vasudha Narayanan

Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor, Department of Religion, at the University of Florida and a past President of the American Academy of Religion (2001-2002).  She also serves as the Director of CHiTra.  Dr. Narayanan was educated at the Universities of Madras and Bombay in India, and at Harvard University. Her fields of interest are the Sri Vaishnava tradition and Hindu traditions in India, Cambodia and America.  She is currently working on Hindu temples and Vaishnava traditions in Cambodia.
She is the author or editor of seven books in addition to the six-volume Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism and over a hundred articles, chapters in books, and encyclopedia entries. Her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from several organizations including the Centre for Khmer Studies (2007); the American Council of Learned Societies (2004-2005); National Endowment for the Humanities(1987, 1989-90, and 1998-99), the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1991-92), the American Institute of Indian Studies/ Smithsonian, and the Social Science Research Council. She was the president of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies from 1996-1998.

Vasudha Narayanan’s recent books include:

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, volume 1-6 (associate editor)

  • The Life of Hinduism (2007) co-edited with John Stratton Hawley
  • Hinduism (2004) .

Articles and Chapters in books in the last two years include:

“The Hero at Play: Depictions of the Govardhana-Līlā story in Khmer art.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Vol. 23, no. 2, 131-147 (2015)

“The History of the Academic Study of Religion in Universities, Centers, and Institutes in India.”  Numen.  2015 Vol. 62, no. 1, 7-39

“Creating Realities, Communicating Dreams, Constructing Temple Lore: Anklets of the Goddess’s Feet at Thirmeeyachur.”  In Inventing and Reinventing the Goddess: Contemporary Iterations of Hindu Deities on the Move, ed. Sree Padma, Lantham, MD and London, UK: Lexington Books, 2014, 121-142

“Social and Bhakti Hierarchies in Interpreting the life of Tiruppan Alvar.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies Vol 22/ no 2 (Spring 2014), 221-246

“Who is the Strong-Armed Monkey who Churns the Ocean of Milk?” UDAYA: Journal of Khmer Studies, 11, 3-28, 2013 (publication date: 2014)


Allysa B. Peyton

Allysa B. Peyton is the Curatorial Associate for Asian Art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. From her first museum assignment in 1999, she has known that museums are the place for her. She received her B.A. in art (metal casting) from Michigan State University and her M.A. from the University of Miami in art history. Since 2008, she has co-curated and provided research support for exhibitions at the Harn, and co-curated an exhibition Temples and Festivals: A Celebration of Indian Art from the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art Collection with Vasudha Narayanan. One of the main goals behind her work on exhibitions is to make Asian art and culture accessible to a broad range of audiences, from the scholar to the casual museum visitor. Interdisciplinary exhibitions, online and digital components to exhibitions, and collaborations with libraries are important components in the exhibitions process. She is currently in the process of organizing an exhibition of South Asian painting, slated to open during the Spring 2013 semester.

Her research interests include Indian painting from 17th century to contemporary, the production and reception of illustrated manuscripts including ragamala paintings, the legacy of Roy C. Craven, imperial libraries of the Mughal empire, living traditions and their influence of folk art production, and the relationships between art of the subcontinent and the whole of Asia. In 2009, she authored the journal article Essential Treasures of Modern Indian Art: Works by Jamini Roy at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art with Jason Steuber. Last year, she published an exhibition and book review on Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior in the peer-reviewed publication of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. She also serves as the series co-editor of the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Manuscript Series, which is published by the University Press of Florida. She enjoys teaching 1-credit classes for the honors department (Un)common reading program (pdf) as her schedule allows.

She is a member of the American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study and awareness of the art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions.

Whitney Sanford

Whitney Sanford received her BA in English and Philosophy from Bowdoin College and M.A. and PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in north Indian devotional traditions.

She teaches and researches in two main areas: Religion and Nature and Religions of Asia. In the area of Religion and Nature, she focuses on religious attitudes towards agricultural sustainability, particularly in South Asia. Her second book, Transforming Agriculture: Hindu Narrative and Ecological Imagination, explores how Hindu agricultural narratives provide the foundation to expand the ecological imagination in terms and rethink agricultural practice. She conducted fieldwork in Baldeo, India, examining narratives and practices related to Balaram, a deity associated with agriculture. Current research interests include the relationship between agricultural biotechnology and forms of neo-colonialism, particularly in Latin America and India. Her new project “Gandhi’s Environmental Legacy: Food Sovereignty and Social Movements” investigates Gandhi’s influence on sustainability and food and water sovereignty movements.

In the Religions of Asia area, she focuses on Braj devotional traditions. Her first book Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes Sight in Paramanand’s Poetry (SUNY 2008) explores the role of devotional poetry in ritual practice. She has published articles in JAAR, International Journal of Hindu Studies and Alternative Krishnas, edited by Guy Beck (SUNY Press, 2005).

Additionally, she is interested in how participation in outdoor recreation activities functions as religious experience and to what extent this participation leads to a practiced environmental ethic.

Visiting Faculty from Oxford

Kenneth Valpey

Kenneth Valpey is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies who, in 2003, completed doctoral studies at Oxford University, on Vaishnava-Hindu temple ritual and its transplantation to western contexts (recently published by Routledge). Now acting as adjunct lecturer in the U.F. Religion department, his academic interests include Indian aesthetic theory, ritual studies, and Hindu traditions in relation to educational theory and practice.

Ravi M. Gupta

Ravi M. Gupta is assistant professor of religion at Centre College, Kentucky. He earned his doctorate in Hinduism from Oxford University and was visiting assistant professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Florida. He is the author of The Chaitanya Vaishnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami and has contributed articles to several journals and books in the field. His research interests include Sanskrit commentary, Vaishnava devotional traditions, and comparative theology.

Faculty Previously Associated with the Center

Amy Bard

Amy Bard earned her Ph.D. (2002), M. Phil., and M.A. from Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, and did undergraduate work at Bryn Mawr, Banaras Hindu University, and the University of Wisconsin. Bard works on literature and language use in both Hindi and Urdu, with particular attention to expressive traditions among women and to forms, including laments, that gained prominence in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and still have vibrant (often religiously based) performance contexts today.  Much of her research explores how gender, regional identity, or sectarian tensions mediate poetic production, appreciation, and meaning in contemporary south Asia.  She is also interested in the anthropology of emotion/affect.  Some of Bard’s newer research documents the construction of linguistic identity and heritage in areas within south Asia where speakers of “major” languages form minority communities.

Gene Thursby, Professor Emeritus

Gene Thursby has conducted archival and field research in India, Great Britain, and the United States at intervals during the last four decades on Fulbright-Hays and AIIS-Smithsonian Institution Fellowships and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of Hindu-Muslim Relations in British India (1975), The Sikhs (1992), articles in journals and in reference works, and chapters in edited books that include When Prophets Die (1991) and America’s Alternative Religions (1995). With Sushil Mittal, he co-edited The Hindu World (Routledge, 2004) and Religions of South Asia (Routledge, 2006).