Cultural Anthropologist and Author of Paganistan to Speak

Dr. Murphy Pizza, cultural anthropologist and president of the Upper Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion will speak on “Encountering Contemporary Paganisms” on Oct. 19 at noon in the Anderson Student Center, Iversen Hearth Room.

No longer a region defined by Garrison Keillor’s quip that everyone is Lutheran, “even the Catholics,” Minneapolis-St. Paul is now home to over 30 mosques, 11 Hindu temples and one of the 10 largest synagogues in the United States. Situated at the center of the earth according to Dakota origin stories, the Cities reflect the rapidly growing religious diversity taking place in North American cities. With this growth comes the daily encounter between and among people of different religious identities.

“Encountering the Twin Cities Contemporary Pagan community – nicknamed 'Paganistan' by its members – opens up new avenues for interfaith dialogue with these often marginalized groups,” said Pizza, as a result of her ethnographic study of these communities.

It is set within the religiously unique tapestry of Minneapolis-St. Paul, a great northern pair of cities that has given rise to innovative new religious movements such as Eckankar, as well as being the home of well-represented indigenous traditions such as Dakota, Ojibwe and Hmong shamanism. This region also has one of the longest running Muslim-Christian dialogues in the country, boasting federally elected officials from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.

Pizza will teach about the lived experience of contemporary Paganisms and new religious movements, address some common misconceptions and stereotypes people have of these traditions and discuss her recent publication Paganistan: Contemporary Pagan Community in Minnesota's Twin Cities (Ashgate, 2014).

Pizza specializes in comparative religion and a background in studio art. Her teaching and academic background includes anthropology, ethnic studies, art, humanities, religion, philosophy, social action, natural and social sciences, and research methods. She is co-editor of The Brill Handbook of Contemporary Paganism (2009), and contributor to Sacred Schisms (Cambridge, 2009) and Nordic New Religions (Brill 2015). She regularly publishes and presents on New Religious Movements.

Free and open to the public, this session is the third in a year-long series of eight on Encountering Religious and Cultural Traditions: A Series Fostering Religious Literacy and Interreligious Understanding sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas. While this session focuses on contemporary Paganisms, other traditions in the series are Judaism, Islam, Secular Humanism, Hinduism, Dakota tradition, Chinese traditions and Buddhism.

This yearlong series aims to foster religious literacy and interreligious understanding by examining the world through the eyes of religious scholars and practitioners from various traditions. The presenters will share their own lived experiences of these traditions and also address common stereotypes and misconceptions.