Sacred Ecology symposium to explore complex ritual sites around the world

Corinth excavations at Temple of Apollo (courtesy of American School of Classical Studies)

“Sacred Ecology: Landscape Transformations for Ritual Practice,” a symposium hosted by Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, takes place Friday, Aug. 30, at the Sarratt Student Center.

The symposium, which begins at 8:45 a.m. in Room 189, is the culmination of a Warren Center faculty fellows program that was co-directed by John Janusek, associate professor of anthropology; Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art and Asian studies; and Betsey Robinson, associate professor of history of art and classical studies.

The Sacred Ecology Fellows Program explored the various experiences of complex ritual sites around the world and across all periods of history. “‘Ecology’ implies a kind of multivariate system in which the environment is a significant force in shaping human institutions and experiences, and we wanted to bring the sacred into that,” said Robinson during a 2011 interview published in the Warren Center newsletter.

“[rquote]The transformation of the landscape actually works to help identify where these sacred places are located,” Miller noted[/rquote] during that same interview. Examples of “sacred ecology” in Nashville include the Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, according to Janusek. He explained that both are full of references to the history of country music.

Presenters during the one-day symposium include Veronica Della Dora, from the University of London’s Geography Department, who will address “Mountains and Vision: From Mount of Temptation to Mount Blanc,” and James Robson, of Harvard University’s East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, whose talk is titled “Confined in the Locus of the Sacred: From Sacred Sites to Insane Asylums in East Asia.” Also, Deena Ragavan, an independent scholar, will speak on “Constructed Landscapes: Sumerian Temples and the Natural World.” The concluding speaker is Lindsay Jones, Department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. He will discuss “A Southern Mexican ‘Cross of Miracles’: The Irony of an Anti-Tourist Site’s Debt to Tourism.”

For more information, contact the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at (615) 343-6060 or