Dr. J. Michael Utzinger
Elliott Associate Professor of Religion and Associate Dean of the Faculty
Serves as a moderator of the Southeastern Colloquium of American Religious Studies, which brings together American religion scholars.
Dr. Gerald T. Carney
Elliott Professor of Religion
B.A., Cathedral College, 1966; M.A., Fordham University, 1973; Ph.D., Fordham University, 1979.
Dr. Carney is a specialist in Hindu devotional practices, especially in Bengal Vaishnavism, a tradition which is associated with the 16th-century saint Caitanya. Carney contributed the article on Caitanya to the Thompson/Gale Encyclopedia of India, edited by Stanley Wolpert (2005). In support of effective teaching of Indian religions, he wrote the chapter on Hinduism and shorter notes on Jainism and Sikhism for the Wadsworth textbook Patterns of Religion (2nd ed., 2005).
Much of his current research program concerns Baba Premananda Bharati (1858- 1914), a Bengali Vaishnava missionary who brought this tradition to the West in 1902. In the course of this research, Carney has given eight papers and presentations at professional meetings about Baba Bharati's life and thought, and published five articles, including "A Patriot of the Old School-Baba Premananda Bharati on Indian Nationalism" in Contemporary Studies in Constructive Dharma II (2005). A seventy-page summary of Baba Bharati's life serves as introduction to the 2007 edition of the Baba's major literary work, Sree Krishna-The Lord of Love (1904). While Baba Bharati was a Hindu missionary to the West, Ronald Nixon (1898-1965), a World War I RAF pilot, became a student of Bengal Vaishnavism in India and ultimately a guru himself as Sri Krishna Prem.
Carney's analysis of Krishna Prem's The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita (1938) was published in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (Fall 2007) as part of an issue dedicated to Western commentators on that foundational Hindu text. The Bhagavad Gita was the subject of the Department of Religion's 2005 colloquium, which Carney taught.
From the time of his dissertation research, Carney has studied the role of Hindu drama and poetry, both in Sanskrit and in Hindi, in communicating the devotional tradition to various audiences, as well as in transforming individuals' lives by cultivating a profound religious sensibility called rasa. He presented a paper on rasa as a tool for interreligious understanding at the 2006 College Theology Society meeting and presented a paper on "Rasa as Foundation and Bridge" for Hindu religious life at the November 2007 Conference of the Dharma Association of North America, a professional forum that links academic scholars with the American Hindu community.
The process of documenting Hindu religious life and using photographic images to enrich both research and classroom teaching has been a focus of Carney's work since his first visit to India in 1980. Subsequent sabbatical and summer trips have afforded him a privileged opportunity to enter into the annual festival cycle and the daily rhythm of temple worship in Vrindaban, a pilgrimage center in north-central India. The photographs have been central to a series of academic presentations that he has given at the College Th eology Society and other professional groups.
Since 2004 his photographs of India have appeared in six group exhibits at the Lynchburg Academy of Fine Arts, Central Virginia Community College, the CJMW Architects Gallery, and the Bedford Public Library. One of the seven photographs exhibited under the title of Seeing Vrindavana 2004 at the College's Atkinson Museum in 2004-05, Yamuna Sunset, was selected for the 2005 Juried Photography Show at the Lynchburg Academy of Fine Arts.
In 2005 Carney presented a narrative, Seeing India, to the Blue Ridge Photographic Arts Society, and a solo exhibition of the images of India opened at the Merritt Gallery of Central Virginia Community College in the fall. During summer research trips to India in 2004 and 2006, Carney continued to document his study of the religious basis for water distribution; he presented a preliminary report on this research at the 2007 College Theology Society and will present a formal report at the 2008 Southeast Conference of Asian Studies.
During research in India in the summer of 2006, Carney also studied the social transformation of religious retreats called ashrams into luxury dwellings for India's emerging economic elite. Results of this work, "From Ashram to Condo: Transformation of a Religious Ideal," were presented at the 2007 Southeast Conference of Asian Studies and published in the Southeast Review of Asian Studies 2007. He expects that this process of documenting and presenting the living experience of Indian religious and cultural reality will continue to form an important part of his professional activity up to retirement and beyond.
Carney serves on the Ecumenical Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and participates in the annual Vaishnava-Christian Dialogue that is cosponsored by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Although not a specialist in Islam, he has been called upon on three occasions to give programs on that tradition for the Young Adult Ministry of the Richmond Diocese and recently gave the concluding talk at the 2007 Hampden-Sydney Alumni College on Christianity and Islam.