An associate professor of religious studies, Allocco discussed her research on death rituals and gender at renowned universities.
Amy L. Allocco, an associate professor of religious studies and the director of the Multifaith Scholars program at Elon University, delivered an invited lecture at the University of Madras in Chennai, India this January.
Her presentation titled “Dead Women as Family Gods in Tamil Nadu: An Ethnographic Approach to Tamil Rituals" foregrounded one case study drawn from her recent fieldwork on Hindu ceremonies to propitiate deceased relatives. Allocco highlighted the nexus of kinship dynamics, ritual obligations, and familial tensions that are inherent to this ritual context and discussed the mutual relationships that link kin network, place, space, and landscape in light of South India’s increasing urbanization.
The lecture was attended by 60 graduate students and faculty members from across the university and sparked lively exchange about the gendered dimensions of these rituals.
Allocco’s talk was co-sponsored by the university’s Departments of Women’s Studies and the Christian Studies as part of an event intended to publicize the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the latter department and Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society (CSRCS).
This lecture followed the successful international conference mounted under the theme “To Take Place: Culture, Religion, and Home-making in and beyond South Asia” that Allocco co-organized at the University of Madras in 2016 and that the CSRCS co-sponsored.
While at the University in January Allocco met with Bharathi Harishankar, the newly appointed director of the International Center of the University of Madras, who expressed her enthusiastic support for the memorandum of understanding and the ways that the two universities might imagine additional, future collaborations under its auspices.
The University of Madras was founded in 1857. Its original buildings are among the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture in the world, and its iconic campus buildings stand across the street from the bustling public beachfront and the Bay of Bengal. It has 73 academic departments and offers several different degrees in the study of religion.
Allocco’s other invited lecture, “Religious Practices and Women’s Empowerment: Perspectives on Menstrual Practices,” was presented at Stella Maris College, an institution with an arts and science focus that is regarded as one of Chennai’s most prestigious women’s colleges. She spoke to advanced students and faculty in the Social Work department about a range of gendered social and religious practices from Hindu, Muslim, and Christian traditions in South Asia.
Allocco's lecture came at the invitation of Sandra Joseph, an associate professor of social work who served as an important conversation partner during her Fulbright-supported ethnographic research in 2016. Her presentation drew on feminist standpoint theory in order to explore issues at the intersection of gender, health and wellness, particularly those associated with menstruation.
Founded at India’s independence in 1947, Stella Maris has 5000 students from diverse backgrounds and focuses on its mission of higher education of women and social development. Its leafy campus is located in Mylapore, one of the city’s oldest and most dynamic neighborhoods.