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Amy Allocco

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Distinguished Emerging Scholar
Spence Pavilion-Religion/Phil. 209
2340 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244
aallocco@elon.edu (336) 278-6484

Brief Biography

Dr. Allocco joined the Elon faculty in 2009 after completing her dissertation in Emory University's Program in West & South Asian Religions in the Graduate Division of Religion.  She holds a Master’s of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School (2001) and a Bachelor’s degree from Colgate University (1997).  Dr. Allocco’s research focuses on contemporary Hindu ritual traditions in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, where she has been studying and conducting fieldwork for more than 15 years.  She specializes in performance and ritual studies and has developed a particular interest in gender and women’s religious roles and practices.  Her dissertation, titled “Snake Goddesses and Anthills: Modern Challenges and Women's Ritual Responses in Contemporary South India,” paired textual reading of Sanskrit and Tamil sources with more than a year of ethnographic research in its analysis of contemporary snake goddess traditions and the repertoire of ritual therapies performed to mitigate naga dosam (snake blemish), a malignant horoscopic condition understood to cause delayed marriage and infertility.  She is currently developing the materials from her dissertation into a first book project.  Broadly speaking, Dr. Allocco’s research is animated by an interest in the forms of religious change inspired by the new social and economic realities that characterize contemporary India, especially ritual innovation and the ways in which local goddesses may expand their repertoires to assume new ritual tasks.  She has also carried out extensive fieldwork in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on the expanding summer festival season dedicated to the Hindu Goddess in her many local forms, and is interested in highlighting the ways in which this festival context is transforming in response to shifting caste demographics at these goddess temples as well as to new modes of conspicuous consumption in Tamil religious life.  Allocco has been awarded fellowships by the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Fulbright International Institute for Education (IIE), and Fulbright-Hays to support her research and writing. In 2012 she earned Elon's College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.

Education

Ph.D., Emory University, 2009 (Program in West and South Asian Religions, Graduate Division of Religion)

  • Dissertation: “Snake Goddesses and Anthills: Modern Challenges and Women's Ritual Responses in Contemporary South India”
  • American Institute for Indian Studies Advanced Tamil Language Program, 2003 – 2004, Madurai, India

M.T.S., Harvard University, 2001 (South Asian Religions)

B.A. (with Honors), Colgate University, 1997 (Double Major: Philosophy and Religion; Asian Studies)

Employment History

  • Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University (2009 – present)
  • Faculty-in-Residence, Elon University Isabella Cannon International Pavilion (2010 – present)
  • Co-Director, Study Abroad Course in South India, Indian Lives/Indian Spaces, Maryville College (2010)
  • Adjunct Instructor, Maryville College (2008 – 2009) 
  • Instructor, Wofford College (2008)
  • Instructor, Emory University (2003)

Courses Taught

  • REL 460 Ghosts, Demons & Ancestors in Asian Religions (Asian Studies)
  • REL 360 Hindu Goddesses: From Myths to Movies (Women's & Gender Studies; Asian Studies)
  • REL 361 Women, Religion & Ethnography (Women's & Gender Studies; Asian Studies)
  • REL 362 Hindu Textual Traditions: Sacrifice, Duty & Devotion (Asian Studies)
  • REL 363 Women in Islam: Veneration, Veils & Voices (Women's & Gender Studies; Asian Studies)
  • REL 202 Hindu Traditions (Asian Studies)
  • REL 110 Religion in a Global Context (Women's & Gender Studies)
  • REL 102 World Religions
  • GST 207/REL 273 India's Identities: Religion, Caste & Gender in Contemporary South India Winter Term Study Abroad course

Leadership Positions

  • Chair, International Connections Committee, American Academy of Religion (2012 – present)
  • Book Prize Committee for Best Book in History/Ethnography, Society for Hindu-Christian Studies(2012 – present)
  • Chair of Nominations Committee, Society for Hindu-Christian Studies (2012 – 2013)
  • International Connections Committee, American Academy of Religion (2010 – 2012)
  • Board Member, Society for Hindu-Christian Studies (2010 – present)
  • Steering Committee, Comparative Studies in Hinduisms and Judaisms Group, American Academy of Religion (2010 – present)
  • Co-Chair, Religions of Asia Section, American Academy of Religion Southeast Region (2010 – present)
  • Journal Editorial Board, Indian Folklore Explorer (2007 – present)

     

Grants Awarded

Internal Grants

  • Summer Fellowship (2013)
  • Hultquist Fellowship, Elon University (2011)
  • Faculty Research and Development Grant, Elon University (2011)
  • Center for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning Travel Grant, Elon University (2011, 2012)

External Grants

  • American Association of University Women American Fellowship for Dissertation Completion (2008 –2009)
  • Emory University Writing Center Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2008 – 2009) declined
  • Emory University Professional Development Research Award (2008) for Sanskrit translations in India
  • American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Fellowship (2008) for follow-up dissertation research in India
  • American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Fellowship (2007) for dissertation research in India
  • Fund for International Graduate Research Dissertation Research Grant (2006) for research in India
  • Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (2005 – 2006) declined
  • Fulbright Institute of International Education Fellowship (2005 – 2006) declined
  • Fund for International Graduate Research Pre-Dissertation Grant (2005) to support research in India
  • Graduate Fellowship, Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University (2001 – 2003; 2004 – 2005; 2006 – 2008)
  • Summer Language/Research Grant, Emory University (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Teaching Grant (2003)
  • Emory College Online Grant (2003)
  • John and Ineke Carman Scholarship, Harvard University (2000)
  • Thomas J. Watson Research Fellowship: “Hindu Women’s Religious Practices in South India” (1997 – 1998) for a year of independent research on Hindu women’s rituals in India and one month in the UK
  • Asian Studies Award, Colgate University (1997) for highest GPA in concentration
  • Raphael Lemkin Essay Prize, Colgate University (1997) for an original research paper on the Holocaust
  • Konosioni Senior Honor Society, Colgate University (1996)
  • Humanities Research Grant, Colgate University (1996)
  • George Cobb Fellowship, Colgate University (1995, 1996)
  • Metropolitan Life Pathways Foundation Scholarship (1993 – 1997)

Publications

Book Projects in Progress

  • Co-editor with Brian K. Pennington, Ritual Innovation in South Asian Religions
  • Snake Goddesses and Anthills: Modern Challenges and Women's Ritual Responses in Contemporary South India (dissertation under revision as a book project)

Book Chapters

  • “Fear, Reverence, and Ambivalence: Divine Snakes in Contemporary South India” in Charming Beauties and Frightful Beasts: Non-Human Animals in South Asian Myth, Ritual and Folklore, eds. Fabrizio Ferrari and Thomas Dähnhardt (forthcoming, Equinox).
  • Nagas in the Kali Yuga: Reverence, Fear, and Karmic Retribution,” in Rethinking the Nonhuman: Asian and Comparative Perspectives, eds. Neil Dalal and Chlöe Taylor (submitted).
  • “Snake Goddess Traditions in Tamilnadu,” in Introducing Hinduism (Religion in Focus Series), ed. P. Pratap Kumar (forthcoming 2013, Acumen).
  • “Flower Showers for the Goddess: Borrowing, Modification, and Ritual Innovation in Tamil Nadu,” in Ritual Innovation in South Asia, eds. Amy L. Allocco and Brian K. Pennington (in progress).
  • “Ritual Negotiation and Collaboration in a Vow to Mariyamman” in Loksamskritibijnan: Sikader Sandhan (Folkloristics: In Search of Root), ed. Sk. Makbul Islam (Kolkata: Bangiya Sahitya Samsad, 2008).

Articles

  • "From Survival to Respect: The Narrative Performances and Ritual Authority of a Female Hindu Healer" (under review) 
  • “Cacophony or Coherence: Ethnographic Writing and Competing Claims to Ritual and Textual Authority.”  Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 21 (2009): 3-14.

Other Published Work

  • “Tradition Immediate and Nourishing” in The Colgate Scene 27:4 (1999).

Presentations

Conference Presentations

  • Book Panel on A. Whitney Sanford’s Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture
  • “The Blemish of ‘Modern Times’: Snakes, Planets, and the Kaliyugam,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL (2012)
  • "Earning Respect, Securing Survival: Gender Negotiations in a Tamil Healing Network,” The Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI (2011)
  • "Making Mountains out of Anthills at a South Indian Goddess Temple,” Fourth South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion Conference, Thimphu, Kingdom of Bhutan (2011)
  • Shakti and the Celibate Body,” American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region Annual Meeting, Louisville, KY (2011)
  • Nagas in the Kali Yuga: Reverence, Fear, and Karmic Retribution,” University of Alberta, Edmonton “Rethinking the Nonhuman: Asian, Continental, and Comparative Perspectives” Workshop (2010)
  • “‘With Drums We Call Him and With Our Tears We Keep Him’: Transforming Restless Spirits into Household Deities,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Montreal, QC (2009)
  • “'The Neem Tree is Parvati and the Peepal Tree is Shiva’: Tree Marriage as Ritual Remedy,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Montreal, QC (2009)
  • “Flower Showers for the Goddess: Borrowing, Modification, and Ritual Innovation in Tamil Nadu,”   Conference on the Study of Religions of India, Kalamazoo, MI (2009)
  • “Fertility and Auspiciousness on the Banks of the Kaveri,” Fourth Annual Tamil Conference, University of California at Berkeley (2008)
  •  “Living with the Goddess: Healing and Ritual Authority in South India,” American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA (2008)
  • “Encounters in Ethnography Today,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA (2007)
  • “Burning Demons, Channeling Goddesses: Multiple Constructions of Female Hair in Tamil Possession and Exorcism Contexts,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA (2007)
  • “Carrying Fire Pots for the Goddess: Mothers and Daughters in the Performance of a Vow for Mariyamman,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA (2005)
  • “Hungry Tuesdays and the Blessing of a Son,” American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA (2002)

Other Conference Participation

  • Respondent, "HIndu Narrative and Ritual: Seeing, Playing, Telling" panel for the Religions of Asia Section at American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region Annual Meeting, Greenville, SC (2013)
  • Panel Organizer, “’It’s the End of the World as We Know It’: Contemporary Understandings of the Kali Yuga” for the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL (2012)
  • Respondent, “The Aesthetics of Devotion” panel for the Religions of Asia Section at American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA (2012)
  • Respondent, “Animals and Religion – Beyond Sacrifice” panel for Animals and Religions Consultation and Comparative Studies in Hinduisms and Judaisms Group at American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2011)
  • Respondent, “Women’s Leadership, Embodied Dialogue Across Religions” panel for Comparative Studies in Hinduisms and Judaisms Group at American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Atlanta GA (2010)
  • Panel Organizer, “Performance as a Site for Hindu-Christian Encounter” for Society for Hindu-Christian Studies Annual Meeting at American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA (2010)
  • As Co-Chair of the Religions of Asia Section for the American Academy of Religion Southeastern Region (2010 – present) I am responsible for planning this section’s program for the Annual Meeting, which has included the following panels:
  1. Organizer and Panelist, Book Panel on A. Whitney Sanford’s Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture, Greenville, SC (2013)
  2. “Hindu Narrative and Ritual: Seeing, Playing, and Telling,” Greenville, SC (2013)
  3. “New Religion? Innovations, Renovations, Inventions & Renewals,” Greenville, SC (2013)
  4. “Religious Change: Practice, Beliefs, and Interpretations,” Greenville, SC (2013)
  5. “Visual and Material Cultures of Asia,” Greenville, SC (2013)
  6. Organizer, “The Aesthetics of Devotion,” Atlanta, GA (2012)
  7. “Asia from the Inside Out,” Atlanta, GA (2012)
  8. “Embodying Ethics:  Morality, Locality, and Relationality,” Atlanta, GA (2012)
  9. “Zen Poetry,” Atlanta, GA (2012)
  10. Organizer and Respondent, “Multiple Models of Translation: Texts, Theory, and Theology,” Louisville, KY (2011)
  11. Organizer, “Conceiving the Body in South and East Asian Religions,” Louisville, KY (2011)
  12. “Asian Religions and Ecology: Conflicts, Contexts, and Contributions,” Louisville, KY (2011)
  13. “New Perspectives on Merit in Buddhist Cultures: Textual, Ritual, Material, Social and Political Approaches,” Louisville, KY (2011)

Invited Lectures

  • “Visual Language, Architecture, and Memory in the Collages of a Contemporary Tamil Muslim Artist,” Dishman Museum, Lamar University (2011)
  • “Gender in Naga Dosham’s Ritual Repertoire,” Stella Maris College, Chennai, India (2011)
  • Panelist, “General Musharraf, President Musharraf: Context and Implications of Elon’s Convocation,” Elon University (2010)
  • “Inconsistency, Authority, and Ethnographic Writing,” Program for Ethnographic Research & Community Studies Brown Bag Lunch Series, Elon University (2010)
  •  “Demons, Deities, and Female Hair in Hindu Possession and Exorcism Rituals,” Elon University Religious Studies Departmental Colloquy (2009)
  • “Becoming the Goddess, Feeding the Goddess: Ethnography Among the Drummers, Priests, and Devotees of a Snake Goddess Temple in Chennai,” Indian Council for Historical Research, Gauhati University, India (2007)
  • Naga Puja, Naga Dosham,” Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, Chennai, India (2007)                 
  • “Blessings, Vows, and Possession in a South Indian Festival,” Colgate University Women’s Studies Series (2005)
  •  “A Year of My Own,” Colgate University Alumni Career Services Fellowship Speaker Series (2005)
  • “Gifting and Performed Transformation in a Sastyabda Purti Ritual,” Emory University Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion (2003)
  • “Hindu Women’s Religious Practices in South India,” Hamilton College; Colgate University; Vassar College (1998)

Guest Lectures

  • Panelist, “The Residential Campus Initiative,” September Numen-Lumen (2012)
  • Darsan and Multiplicity in Contemporary Hindu Traditions,” Elon University India Science & Development Study Abroad course (2011)
  • “Hinduism’s ‘Polytheistic Imagination,’” Elon University London Study Abroad course (2011)
  • Discussant, Women Without Men, Elon University Women’s & Gender Studies Film Series (2011)
  • “Life History Interviewing: Methods and Skills,” Elon Academy (2010)
  • Puja: Ritual Worship in Hindu India,” Elon University India Science Education & Development Study Abroad course (2010)
  • “Visual Forms and Religious Meanings of Ganga,” Elon University Religion and Art of Asia course (2009)
  • “Seeing the Divine in India,” Elon University India Science Education & Development Study Abroad course (2009)
  • “Draupadi’s Annual Festival in South India,” Maryville College Mahabharata course (2009)
  • “Accounting for Religion and Gender,” presentation to Elon University India Cohort of Periclean Scholars (2009) 
  • Discussant, They Call Me Muslim, Elon University Women’s & Gender Studies Film Series (2009)
  • Respondent to The Women’s Kingdom and Tillie Olsen: A Heart in Action, American Association of University Women Maryville Branch Women’s History Month FilmFest, Maryville College (2009)
  •  “An Introduction to Hindu Deities,” Maryville College Bollywood course (2008)
  • “Encountering the Divine in Everyday Hinduism,” Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (2008)
  •  “Marriage, Gender and the Indian Family,” Maryville College World Cultures: Indian Subcontinent course (2007)
  •  “Encountering the Gods in South Indian Hinduism,” University of West Georgia World Religions course (2006)
  •  “Approaches to the Study of Religion: Ethnography and Performance,” University of West Georgia Introduction to Religion course(2006)
  • Ticcatti: Caste and Gender in a Vow to Mariyamman,” Colgate University CORE India course (2005)
  • “Women's Oral Performances of the Ramayana,” Emory College Modern Hinduism course (2003)
  • “Ethnography and Tamil Rituals,” Emory College Interpreting Religions course (2002)

Professional Activities

  • Whistling Vivaldi Reading Group, Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) (2012)
  • Participant, ASIANetwork/Luce Foundation “International Service-Learning: Pedagogical and Logistical Challenges and Opportunities” Workshop (2012)
  • Undergraduate Research Mentoring Group, Elon University (2011 – 2012)
  • Mobile Tablet User’s Group, Elon University Teaching & Learning Technologies (2011 – 2012)
  • Participant, Elon University Grant Writing Workshop (2011)
  • Selected Participant, American Institute of Indian Studies “Transforming Your Dissertation into a Book” Workshop (2010)
  • Participant, American Academy of Religion “Three Religion Majors Meet in a Café …” Leadership Workshop (2009)
  • Research Assistant and Participant, American Academy of Religion/Ford Foundation "Contesting Religions/Religions Contested" Project (2004)
  • Participant, American Institute of Indian Studies Workshop on Islam in South Asia, New Delhi (2003)
  • Convener, Emory University Graduate Symposium on the Religious Traditions of West and South Asia (2002 – 2003)
  • Research Assistant and Presenter, Hindu Marital Arrangements Workshop and Book Project, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion, Emory University (2002 – 2003)
  • Research Assistant and Participant, American Academy of Religion/Ford Foundation "The Study of Religion in a Global Context" Project (2002)
  • Selected Participant, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar “Religious Conflict in South Asia and Nigeria” (2002)
  • Selected Participant, Wabash Center Seminar “Competing Jihads: War & the Religious Imagination” (2002)

Awards

The Excellence in Teaching Award, Elon University College of Arts and Sciences (2012)