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Cambridge Interfaith Programme

 

As we grapple with the pressing issues of water management and its impact on ecosystems, economies, and societies, this conference seeks to explore a transformative perspective.

This two-day conference is supported by a collaborative project exploring water efficiency in faith and diverse communities, funded by the Ofwat Innovation Fund.   

Practicalities: schedule, venue and registration

Schedule

Registration will open at 10:00 on day 1 (Monday 15 April), and the first day will close at approximately 17:00. There will be some additional evening activity for speakers, including an informal dinner.

The programme will resume at 10:00 on day 2 (Tuesday 16 April), finishing no later than 16:00. The final hour (15:00–16:00) will be a plenary discussion exploring next steps, with chance for attendees to share information about their own work in this space.

Venue

The conference will be held on site at the Faculty of Divinity, adjacent to West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BS. The venue is wheelchair accessible. The U1 and U2 bus services depart from Cambridge railway station at regular intervals, stopping nearby (disembark at University Library or Selwyn College stops) and at Madingley Park and Ride.

The University’s interactive map may assist you in planning, map.cam.ac.uk. Please note: this conference is on-site only. It is not possible to join or audit online.

Registration

Registration is a two-step process:

First, please complete the registration form (via Microsoft Forms), answering all required questions. After submitting the form, you will be redirected to the University of Cambridge’s online store, where you can pay the appropriate delegate fee. (There is no fee for invited speakers.)

Fees

Fees for this event are £50 (standard rate) or £20 (reduced rate: for students, local residents, and members of the Cambridge Interfaith Research Forum). 

The fees assist us in providing suitable catering, including a vegetarian lunch (with vegan and gluten free options) on both days of the conference, plus drinks and other refreshment at break times.

NB In the event that you need to cancel your registration, refunds are handled by the online store team. Please keep a copy of any communications with them for your records.

Accommodation is provided for non-local speakers only. (Please see separate communication.)

Conference description

Can diverse religious philosophies and practices offer lessons for sustainable water use? How can sacred knowledge inform water regulation, challenge existing legal frameworks, and raise public awareness about water scarcity?

Sustainability may require a reconceptualisation of water and an unlearning of the anthropocentric language of goods, services, and economic value. Can we turn to forms of sacred knowledge, old and new, to think water  ‘otherwise’, as a way out of the global grip of consumerism, expressed through a pervasive utilitarian perception of the world, in which water is but an instrumentalised resource to be efficiently extracted and absorbed? Could religious orientations, in their diversity, offer us conceptual and practical tools of being with water beyond ‘usage’ and ‘efficiency’, in ways that do not progressively deplete the earth and impoverish all that it holds?

Rituals, scriptures, and context-specific religiosities locate different answers to these questions, and so this conference invites ethnographic, theological, and historical analyses of water-human relations from across the world. Various studies have already portrayed waterworlds in which the human/nonhuman distinction is ungrammatical, in which the bodies of water have various agentive qualities, or come into focus as animate beings, in which water not only traverses political and religious boundaries but connects all domains of the social. Is a reparative genealogy of such connections, on a global scale, an appropriate answer to an already global anthropogenic environmental injury?

Being with Water Otherwise is a two-day conference organised by the Cambridge Interfaith Programme (CIP) in the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity. It is aligned with CIP’s involvement in the Ofwat-funded project Water efficiency in faith and diverse communities

The conference includes a keynote address from Professor Veronica Strang (Oxford), thematic panels, a Scriptural Reasoning session, and a combined book launch of recently published volumes on water and religion. 

The academic coordinator of the conference is Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović

Day 1 | Welcome and introductions

10:30 | Healing Water, Safet HadžiMuhamedović 

10:45 | Cambridge Interfaith Programme & Global Challenges, Esra Özyürek

Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović is an anthropologist of religion, politics and landscape. He is a researcher affiliated with Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge Interfaith Programme and the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge. He has taught anthropology at the universities of Cambridge, SOAS, Bristol, Goethe Frankfurt, and Goldsmiths. Safet’s ethnographic in the south Bosnian highlands considers the restoration of rituals in religiously plural communities after conflict. He has written Waiting for Elijah: Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape (2018) and is currently writing his second book on nationalism, more-than-human underworlds and a sinking river in Bosnia. 

Professor Esra Özyürek is the Academic Director of Cambridge Interfaith Programme and the Sultan Qaboos Professor in Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. She is an anthropologist and the author of Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey (Duke University Press 2007), Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion, and Conversion in the New Europe (Princeton University Press 2014), and Subcontractors of Guilt: Holocaust Memory and Muslim Belonging in Post-War Germany (Stanford University Press 2023).

 

Day 1, panel 1 | Vitality and movement

11:00 | Water as provocation: movement and transformation in the circumpolar North

Franz Krause 

Water, as a vital part of all organic life, is essential for human society and culture, too. Beyond its more immediate uses for drinking, hygiene and food production, water plays a fundamental role in the constitution of landscapes. Springs, wetlands, rivers, aquifers, humidity and precipitation are among the more transient aspects of a landscape, continually moving, shrinking, swelling, freezing or thawing. This presentation treats water as a provocation to ideas about solidity, stability and planning, sketching two cases from the Circumpolar North where water dynamics challenge boundaries, surfaces and predictions materially and conceptually.

Along the Kemi River in Finnish Lapland, the annual spring flood is an exciting, but fundamentally uncertain event. Masses of water that have accumulated as snow and ice over the long winter flood the river as the sun thaws the landscape. The timing and extent of the flood is a much discussed topic each year, not least among the managers of the extensive hydropower infrastructure along the river. Despite their massive dams and intricate information technologies, the flooding river poses a recurring challenge. Across the North Pole, the wet landscape of the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada freezes each winter and melts each summer. With a warming climate, the permafrost disintegrates, which accelerates erosion and jeopardises infrastructures and travel routes. Delta settlements are declared unviable as the mobile landscape jars with modern principles of fixed structures and places. The presentation illustrates how being with water otherwise in the Circumpolar North is a matter of movement and transformation.   

11:20 | On water and pilgrimage

Guy Hayward

What is pilgrimage? What societal problems does pilgrimage solve? What are the benefits of pilgrimage? How can pilgrimage facilitate cross-cultural spiritual practices? How does pilgrimage connect us with nature and water?

What are the pilgrim place categories? What do these places do? What does the archetype and the reality of a holy well make us feel? A few examples will be discussed, such as St Helen's Well in Hastings, St Anthony's Well in Forest of Dean and St Gwynfaen's Well on Anglesey.

What are the different types of pilgrim routes? How does the metaphor of life as a river from source to sea prepare us for death? What roles do history, myth and lore play? What is it like to walk for a week in the Lakes drinking only from mountain streams and brooks?

What is the British Pilgrimage Trust charity? What have we done so far? What do we hope to do? Who benefits? What is the future of pilgrimage? 
Some songs will be sung…

11:40–12:00 | Discussion 

About the panellists

Franz Krause is Professor of Environmental Anthropology at the University of Cologne. He has conducted ethnographic research on communal irrigation in the Philippines, transformations along a river in Finnish Lapland, memories of floods in England, life in an Estonian wetland, and “volatile waters” in a Canadian river delta. Franz is author of Thinking like a River: An Anthropology of Water and its Uses along the Kemi River, Northern Finland (transcript, 2023), co-author or Environmental Anthropology: Current Issues and Fields of Engagement (UTB, 2023), and co-editor of Delta Life: Exploring Dynamic Environments where Rivers meet the Sea (Berghahn, 2021).

Dr Guy Hayward is the Director of the British Pilgrimage Trust, which he co-founded in 2014 to promote 'bring your own beliefs' pilgrimage in Britain. He is co-author of Britain's Pilgrim Places, has been interviewed about modern pilgrimage for Netflix, BBC1 and BBC2 TV's 'Pilgrimage' and Channel 4’s 'Britain’s Ancient Tracks', contributes to BBC Radio 4 and has written for the Guardian and Spectator. Guy completed a PhD at Cambridge on how singing forms community, founded choralevensong.org and is half of musical comedy double act Bounder & Cad. He also sings sacred chants and folk songs as part of his guided pilgrimage events.

Day 1, panel 2 | Vulnerability and adaptation

12:00 | The socio-technical dynamics of water management in an age of climate emergency: insight from regional cases in Iran, Kenya, Tanzania and Bangladesh

Matthew Cotton

This paper synthesises research into community social structure, indigenous water management practices and the socio-technical dynamics of technology implementation across the nexus of water, energy and food – drawing insight from a range of published case studies. Reflection on community drought resilience, climate adaptive capacity, technological innovation and hydro-social relations is drawn from the qualitative study of: 1) indigenous water values and practices amongst community farmers in Jiroft county in Iran; 2) the development and implementation of novel agrivoltaic technologies in Kenya and Tanzania, and 3) place-based climate adaptation planning in the Kalapara region of Bangladesh. The aim in this paper is to draw together a narrative thread across these cases to build a broader commentary about the hydro-social dynamics, practices, socio-technical barriers, and social innovations to contemporary water management challenges in an era of global climate emergency. 

12:20 | We can be indigenous and modern! Legitimising river pollution using bricolage knowledge systems

Alesia Ofori

African Indigenous knowledge is often posed as a unified body of knowledge, undefiled and somewhat sanctimonious. When they do not appear so, it is claimed that African indigenous knowledge, particularly, has been ‘adulterated’ by Westernised ideologies from colonialism and modernisation. This perceived dichotomy, i.e., indigenous versus modern knowledge, often ignores the possibility of hybridised knowledge, a continuous and complicated everyday process whereby various forms of knowledge blend in space and time. This paper, therefore, argues that the existence of dichotomous and distinct forms of knowledge is a mirage. Rather, what may be termed indigenous is a co-produced knowledge by multiple actors and agents, having evolved through rigorous negotiations, legitimisation and politico-economic contestations. We make this point by analysing the bricolage processes of alteration and aggregation between ideologies perceived to be rooted in African indigenous knowledge systems, and modern, colonially rooted religious ideologies in a Ghanaian mining village. The paper highlights the importance of context in these discussions. Particularly in rapidly shifting socio-economic, political and cultural landscapes, indigenous knowledge as a distinct body of applicable knowledge remains contestable and complex and therefore solicits for intentional dissection and detangling.

12:40–13:00 | Discussion

About the panellists

Matthew Cotton is Professor of Environmental Justice and Public Policy in the Institute for Collective Place Leadership at Teesside University in the North East of England. His research explores the place-based context of environmental ethics and environmental justice across a range of cases across the nexus of water, energy and food research. His current research is funded by the Research England Development Fund, National Institute for Health Research, Nuclear Waste Services and the Global Challenges Research Fund. 

Dr Alesia Ofori is a Lecturer in Water, Society and Development at Cranfield University. She researches how political, economic, and socio-cultural processes occurring within and across local, meso and global levels impact resource use, development and governance. Her work draws extensively from post-colonial, critical feminist and political ecology scholarship to address how to work with political and power dynamics for sustainable resource governance, with a special interest in Water, Sanitation, Agriculture, Gender and Extractive Industries in the Sub-Saharan African region.

Lunch will be available after this session.

Day 1, panel 3 | Encounters and relations

14:00 | Water (based) kinship versus blood kinship: water–human relations in Mongolian Inner Asia

Sayana Namsaraeva 

This paper introduces the concept of ‘water-based’ kinship as a form of social relatedness among Mongolian speaking peoples of Inner Asia. Initially, formed around water-sharing of people ‘living along the same river’ (Mong. neg golyn-khiid) or ‘drinking water from the same water well’ (Mong. neg khudge-khiid), it signifies kin-like social ties based not only on shared residence, but also on kinship bonds based on shared liquid nourishing substances similar to what anthropological literature wrote about blood kinship and ‘milk kinship’ (e.g. Helen Lambert 2000, Peter Parkes 2005). Moreover, in this paper I will attempt to offer a broader consideration of water-based relatedness which goes beyond the human societies (such as neighbours and co-villagers) and also includes ‘water-based’ kinship with the ‘more-than-human’ worlds, namely with the local water-owning deities (Mong.- Tib. Lus). Drawing on recent ethnography and historical accounts from Buryatia in Eastern Siberia (Russia), it demonstrates how local societies imagine making extra-kins with water deities by using a religious concept of transmigration (Buddhist reincarnations) between humans and lus.

14:20 | Saltwater-Freshwater Lore

Gina Heathcote

In this research I explore the role of water in conceptions of human-water relations, community and kin in the vast regions of Northern Australia and the Torres Strait Islands and in the settler-colonial legal system of Australia. My research asks if developments with regard to recognition of sea rights for saltwater people in Northern Australia and the Torres Strait Islands has resonance for speaking about inland water in ways that are not tied to legal conceptions of land ownership and property as an economic resource. 

In part one, I examine recent jurisprudence in the Federal Court of Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples were acknowledged by the settler-colonial court system as having sea rights as part of a larger claim to Native Title. The articulation of story and of ‘reading’ or ‘knowing’ the ocean, water and sky within the evidence presented to the Court formed the basis of the judge’s acceptance of the legal claim to sea rights. I explore the ways in which thinking with water were heard and represented within the Australian settler-colonial legal system. 

In part two, I examine terraqueous articulations of human-water encounters and their potential to unsettle dominant conceptions of property and law. I draw on understandings of saltwater and freshwater peoples in Northern Australia and contrast these with existing legal claims to water. I argue that the understanding of saltwater peoples is always in relation to freshwater perspectives, challenging thinking on the complexity of human-water interactions in important ways. However, freshwater peoples have for the most part been relegated to outside of decision-making spaces in settler colonial policy. 

14:40–15:00 | Discussion

About the panellists

Dr Sayana Namsaraeva is a senior research associate at the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge, working on the ESRC-funded project ‘Resource frontiers: managing water on a trans-border Asian river’. She was awarded a PhD degree in Political and Cultural History of Pre-modern China at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Moscow, RAS), held research positions at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle, Germany) and taught as a lecturer at the Institute for Studies of Religions and the Central Asia at the University of Bern (Switzerland). Throughout her academic career, her research interests embrace a wide range of topics in Mongolian and China studies, Buryat Diasporas and Kinship, Continental Colonialism and Border Studies, with a particular attention to inner Asian borderlands. Her approach to these questions is cross-disciplinary, combining research methods and theories developed both by history and social anthropology. She teaches a course on ‘Borders and Borderlands in North Asia’ for the Inner Asia Paper at the Department of Social Anthropology. In an effort to address environmental challenges, she also pursues a practice-oriented agenda with a focus on natural resource management - transnational water resources. 

Professor Gina Heathcote is a feminist legal scholar who writes across collective security, gender and law, oceans governance and queer, posthuman feminist possibilities. Her work on water includes an entry in the More Posthuman Glossary (Braidotti, Jones and Klumbyte 2023) on Feminism and Oceans, a chapter titled ‘Terraqueous Feminisms and the International Law of the Sea’ in Arvidsson and Jones (eds) International Law and Posthuman Theory (Routledge 2024) and a chapter in Irini Papanicopulu's Gender and the Law of the Sea (Brill 2019) titled ‘Feminism and the Law of the Sea: a Preliminary Inquiry’. 

Day 1 | Keynote address: Divine alternatives

15:30 | Divine alternatives: water beings and their transformational potential in human-non-human relations

Professor Veronica Strang FAcSS

Expressing the ‘Nature worship’ that prevailed in early human societies, serpentine water deities swim in the deep history of religious systems around the world. Though culturally and historically specific, these powerful figures also reflect the consistent materialities of water and its essential role in sustaining life.

Water beings remain important in many place-based communities, exemplifying their egalitarian partnerships with the non-human domain. However, the fortunes of non-human deities in larger societies illustrate critical changes in human-environmental relations, showing how technological developments and growing human instrumentality, coupled with the emergence of religious and political hierarchies, have led to exploitative and unsustainable trajectories of environmental engagement.

Describing the findings of a major comparative study of water beings around the world (Strang 2023), this lecture illuminates an intriguing pattern of religious transformation. In many larger societies, serpentine water deities were semi-humanised, and then entirely humanised, or displaced by divinities in human form. With the rise of the major monotheisms, ‘Nature’ was alienated and feminised, supreme male Gods appropriated the role of controlling and supplying water and, in the assertion of human dominion, many long-venerated serpent beings were demonised and slain. 

The lecture proposes that these religious transformations reflect widening inequalities within societies and between human and non-human beings. It observes that today, in personifying and communicating the creative agency of the world’s most vital element, water divinities provide an alternate model: a way to rethink contemporary distributions of power and the way that humankind engages with water and ecosystems.  

Followed by discussion with Professor Strang. 

About the Keynote speaker

Professor Veronica Strang is a cultural anthropologist whose work is concerned with human-environmental relations, in particular societies’ engagements with water.

She has worked at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford University’s Environmental Change Unit; the University of Wales; Goldsmiths University; the University of Auckland, and Durham University, and has served as the Chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth.

In 2000 Veronica received a Royal Anthropological Institute Urgent Anthropology Fellowship, and in 2007 she was awarded an international water prize by UNESCO. In 2019 she was elected as Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. 

Her publications include The Meaning of Water (2004); Gardening the World: agency, identity and the ownership of water (2009); Ownership and Appropriation (2010); Water: nature and culture (2015) and Water Beings: from nature worship to the environmental crisis (2023).

Further details are available on her website: veronicastrang.com

Day 1 | Excursion and dinner

This portion of the programme is for speakers and the conference organisers. Details will be provided directly to those concerned.

(Events at the Faculty of Divinity will end at approximately 17:00.)

Day 2, panel 1 | The Cambridge Water project

10:00–10:45 | Water and/in religious relations

Chair: Iona C. Hine

Participants: Anastasia Badder, Mumin Islam, Ian Barker 

In 2023, South Staffs and Cambridge Water invited the Cambridge Interfaith Programme to participate in an Ofwat-funded project exploring “Water Efficiency in Faith and Diverse Communities”. Dr Badder led fieldwork with communities and interlocutors in and around Cambridge, reporting findings and recommendations in the report, Water and/in religious relations: a Cambridge study (January 2024).

This panel presents a summary of CIP’s research and invites water industry actors to kick off a discussion about the research process and findings, the project’s continuing work, the pitfalls and potentials of industry–academia collaboration around water sustainability, and multiple visions for ecological futures.

About the participants

Dr Iona Hine is Programme Manager for the Cambridge Interfaith Programme, guiding its work with external partners and facilitating knowledge exchange about matters inter-religious in and beyond the University of Cambridge—in which capacity, she participated in several water project events. As a researcher and para-academic, Iona has worked closely with scientists, engineers, medics, social scientists, digital humanists, historians and linguists, having personal expertise in text and translation. She has also worked in schools, shops and charitable societies. Iona co-convenes the Cambridge Interfaith Research Forum.

Dr Anastasia Badder is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Divinity and Cambridge Interfaith Programme at the University of Cambridge.  Trained as an anthropologist, Anastasia’s work is often interdisciplinary and committed to collaborative research, thinking, and theorizing.  Much of her work ethnographically explores Jewish lives and languages in Europe.  More recent projects delve into the materiality of interreligious encounters, including encounters with and oriented around the environment. 

Mumin Islam is Head of Price Review at South Staffs Water and Cambridge Water. Mumin has been working in the water sector for over 16 years undertaking various roles and is currently at South Staffs and Cambridge Water leading the next Price Review 2024 (PR24) – the company’s five-year business plan. Mumin was the main architect and project lead in the winning the Ofwat innovation bid, Water efficiency in faith and diverse communities. He has a strong passion for water efficiency and reducing waste in general and working with hard-to-reach communities, and is also currently a Non-Executive Director for Waterwise.

Professor Ian Barker is Vice President Environment of the Institute of Water. Ian is an independent consultant and internationally recognised authority on water policy, governance, regulation and management. Ian is an experienced executive and non-executive director and works at Board level and with senior management in the private sector, as well as with governments, regulators and water companies. He is an expert advisor to the OECD, and an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Water Systems; Fellow, Vice President Environment and Director at the Institute of Water; Director and Honorary Fellow of the Society for the Environment and a Chartered Environmentalist. In 2021 he was given the World Water Summit’s Global Water Excellence award.

A self-service refreshment trolley will be available from 10:45am and throughout the next session.

Day 2, workshop | Scriptural Reasoning with water

10:50–12:20 | An interactive text-based workshop

Coordinated by Dr Giles Waller (University of Cambridge).

The practice of Scriptural Reasoning enables persons of any faith or none to experience first-hand the process of reading and interpreting different religious texts. Guided by experienced facilitators from different faith backgrounds, we will study short passages from Jewish, Muslim and Christian scripture linked by a common theme: water. Together, we will consider how the presentation of water in these texts may influence the ways of imagining and interacting with water. 

This workshop will combine short introductions to the texts from the facilitators and small group discussion, to reflect on what resonates as we read or listen what each religious text says.

Facilitators: Giles Waller, Hina Khalid, and Tali Artman-Partock

About the facilitators

Dr Giles Waller is a Research Associate, based in the Faculty of Divinity and working closely with the Cambridge Interfaith Programme.

Hina Khalid is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Divinity. Her PhD offers a comparative exploration of the theology and poetry of Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). She is particularly interested in the possibilities of comparative theology across Islamic and Indic traditions, and in the ways that shared devotional idioms have formed in and across the Indian subcontinent. 

Dr Tali Artman Partock is Senior Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature at Leo Baeck college and Research Associate at the Universities of Cambridge and Leicester. She specializes in literary theory and midrash, and is particularly interested in Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity, the heritage of the Hellenistic era in rabbinic literature, and intersections of gender and law. Her book ‘When is it Rape? Personhood, Agency and Rabbinic Law’ is forthcoming in Routledge.

Day 2, panel 2 | Religion, ecology, activism

12:20–13:20 | Voices from Cambridge

Chair: Anastasia Badder 

Participants: Meg Clarke, James Murray White, Tilak Parekh, Jassar Mustafa, Tony Booth

This panel brings together researchers, practitioners, and activists working, living, and advocating at the intersections of faith and water. In enjoining these multiplex perspectives, this panel seeks to do two things:

First, it contends that an anthropology that stops at investigating watery religious worlds and does not think and theorize with religious actors is an incomplete project. This panel hopes to proceed from an assumption of collaboration with the aim of illustrating the potential and, indeed, necessity of a robust multi-expert conversation for meaningful ecological futures.

Second, this panel takes up the idea of the otherwise as not only an invitation to explore persistent commitments to radically different water relations, but a call to consider different ways in which we all as actors in this liquid space might come together in deep, sustained practices of otherwise waterworld building. Speakers will present their work in brief before engaging in a roundtable discussion focused on the motivations of their watery work, their hopes for future alliances, and potential lessons for sustainable practices in the water industry.

About the panellists

Dr Anastasia Badder is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Divinity and Cambridge Interfaith Programme at the University of Cambridge.  Trained as an anthropologist, Anastasia’s work is often interdisciplinary and committed to collaborative research, thinking, and theorizing.  Much of her work ethnographically explores Jewish lives and languages in Europe.  Some more recent projects delve into the materiality of interreligious encounters, including encounters with and oriented around the environment. 

Meg Clarke is a meditator, grower, wild swimmer, and gentle activist on behalf of nature and natural systems and recently trained as an End of Life Doula (eol-doula.uk). Born and brought up in Cambridge by country-born parents, she has always sought out wild and watery places in this city and nearby. Her work has been with and for people and the land, as a farm worker, carer, cook, social worker, latterly running her own bakery business. Currently a permaculture designer, completing garden design projects and work for Transition Cambridge, she has been a meditator and student of Buddhism for over 30 years, ‘growing up’ in the Theravada way of insight meditation and has recently committed to the Bodhisattva vow in the Tibetan Kagyu tradition. She is a founding co-director of Water Sensitive Cambridge (watersencam.co.uk).
 
James Murray White is a writer, filmmaker, and activist for the earth. His experience of travel, living in various deserts and mixed terrains, a Msc in Human Ecology, and his childhood growing up in a South Cambridgeshire village, has shaped his resolve to use all his skills in service: to water and it's flows, to habitats and liminal woodland spaces, and our human ability to engage with the more than human. Recent projects include 'Waterlight' a film exploring a poet's response to the River Mel (waterlightproject.org.uk), a documentary exploring the legacy of artist, poet, mystic William Blake (findingblake.org.uk), and co-creating the CIC Water Sensitive Cambridge. James has been lead researcher on the brand new documentary 6 Inches Of Soil (sixinchesofsoil.org), exploring soil health and regenerative agriculture practices in the UK, now  and he's currently creating a film about a new community project to restore a chalk stream that flows through the town of Newmarket to full glorious health: watch this space.’
 
Tilak Parekh is a PhD student in the Faculty of Divinity. His doctoral thesis focuses on the purpose, creation and impact of the Neasden Temple in northwest London—the first traditional Hindu temple built in the western world. Tilak’s research interests span sacred space, religious leadership, youth religiosity, and digital religion. He has a degree in Theology and Religion from Oxford, followed by an MPhil at Cambridge and an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL. Through his study of theology and anthropology, he engages in both intra-faith research in the Hindu community as well as in initiatives for inter-faith research.

Dr Yassar Mustafa is a consultant in anaesthesia and critical care. He was previously the president of the Cambridge University Wilderness Medicine Society. He is a mountain leader, a scout leader and teaches children bushcraft weekly. He is passionate about connecting children to the outdoors.
 
Tony Booth is a professor of education and environmental activist. He has written and taught about values-led educational development and inclusion and exclusion in education for forty-five years. He sees the pursuit of environmental sustainability as an imperative that must inform all education so educators can fulfill a duty of care towards future generations. He is on the steering committee of Friends of the River Cam and since 2021 has led the organisation of a festival to declare the river's rights on midsummer's day. He sees the recognition of nature rights as part of a process by which people can understand their place in nature and the consequences of environmental exploitation.

Lunch will be available after this session.

Day 2, panel 3 | Book reviews

14:20–15:00 | What can recent academic publications contribute to our knowledge of the relationship between water and religion?

Anastasia and Safet will lead this discussion. A list of publications will be made available. Authors and publishers are welcome to suggest items for consideration.

About the discussants

Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović is an anthropologist of religion, politics and landscape. He is a researcher affiliated with Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge Interfaith Programme and the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge. He has taught anthropology at the universities of Cambridge, SOAS, Bristol, Goethe Frankfurt, and Goldsmiths. Safet’s ethnographic research in the south Bosnian highlands considers the restoration of rituals in religiously plural communities after conflict. He has written Waiting for Elijah: Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape (2018) and is currently writing his second book on nationalism, more-than-human underworlds and a sinking river in Bosnia. 

Dr Anastasia Badder is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Divinity and Cambridge Interfaith Programme at the University of Cambridge.  Trained as an anthropologist, Anastasia’s work is often interdisciplinary and committed to collaborative research, thinking, and theorizing.  Much of work ethnographically explores Jewish lives and languages in Europe.  Some of her more recent projects delve into the materiality of interreligious encounters, including encounters with and oriented around the environment. 

Day 2, closing session | What next?

15:00–16:00 | Future synergies

Chairs: Iona Hine and Safet HadžiMuhamedović 

This session will provide information about forthcoming activities relating to water, climate and the environment. In addition to hearing directly from the Cambridge Interfaith Programme team, participants will be invited to mention other kindred projects, and to propose possible collaborations and extensions of the conference. 

Dr Iona Hine is Programme Manager for the Cambridge Interfaith Programme, guiding its work with external partners and facilitating knowledge exchange about matters inter-religious in and beyond the University of Cambridge—in which capacity, she participated in several water project events. As a researcher and para-academic, Iona has worked closely with scientists, engineers, medics, social scientists, digital humanists, historians and linguists, having personal expertise in text and translation. She has also worked in schools, shops and charitable societies. Iona co-convenes the Cambridge Interfaith Research Forum.

Dr Safet HadžiMuhamedović is an anthropologist of religion, politics and landscape. He is a researcher affiliated with Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge Interfaith Programme and the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge. He has taught anthropology at the universities of Cambridge, SOAS, Bristol, Goethe Frankfurt, and Goldsmiths. Safet’s ethnographic in the south Bosnian highlands considers the restoration of rituals in religiously plural communities after conflict. He has written Waiting for Elijah: Time and Encounter in a Bosnian Landscape (2018) and is currently writing his second book on nationalism, more-than-human underworlds and a sinking river in Bosnia. 

Documents to download

View and download an overview of the conference schedule (PDF).

Delegates may also be interested to read Dr Anastasia Badder’s research report, Water in/and religious relations: A Cambridge study (PDF).

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