• RELG 100: Christianity and Colonialism

    From its beginnings, Christianity has been concerned with the making of new persons and worlds: the creation of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It has also maintained a tight relationship to power, empire, and the making of modernity. In this course we will investigate this relationship within the context of colonial projects in the Americas, Africa, India, and the Pacific. We will trace the making of modern selves from Columbus to the abolition (and remainders) of slavery, and from the arrival of Cook in the Sandwich Islands to the journals of missionaries and the contemporary fight for Hawaiian sovereignty.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2020 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 100: Religion and the American Landscape

    The American landscape has shaped and has been shaped by the religious imaginations, beliefs, and practices of diverse inhabitants. This course explores the variety of  ways of imagining relationships between land, community, and the sacred, and how religious traditions have been inscribed on land itself. Indigenous and Latino/a traditions will be considered, as will  Euro-American traditions ranging from Puritans, Mormons, immigrant farmers, utopian communities, and Deep Ecologists.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2020 · Michael McNally
  • RELG 110: Understanding Religion

    How can we best understand the role of religion in the world today, and how should we interpret the meaning of religious traditions — their texts and practices — in history and culture? This class takes an exciting tour through selected themes and puzzles related to the fascinating and diverse expressions of religion throughout the world. From politics and pop culture, to religious philosophies and spiritual practices, to rituals, scriptures, gender, religious authority, and more, students will explore how these issues emerge in a variety of religions, places, and historical moments in the U.S. and across the globe.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021 · Caleb Hendrickson, Michael McNally, Asuka Sango
  • RELG 120: Introduction to Judaism

    This course provides an overview of Judaism as a religion, exploring its history, modes of expression, and characteristic polarities as they have emerged in various times and places. The contours of classical Jewish life and thought are explored, as well as the crises, challenges, and choices confronting Jews and Judaism today. Our uniting theme will be the question of defining Jewishness: who gets to claim an identity as a Jew, and who has (and has had) the authority to decide who is and is not Jewish?

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 121: Introduction to Christianity

    This course will trace the history of Christianity from its origins in the villages of Palestine, to its emergence as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and through its evolution and expansion as the world’s largest religion. The course will focus on events, persons, and ideas that have had the greatest impact on the history of Christianity, and examine how this tradition has evolved in different ways in response to different needs, cultures, and tensions–political and otherwise–around the world. This is an introductory course. No familiarity with the Bible, Christianity, or the academic study of religion is presupposed. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 122: Introduction to Islam

    This course provides a general introduction to Islam, as a textual and lived tradition. Students will read from the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, engaging them both as historical resources and as dynamic and contested objects that have informed Muslim life in diverse ways throughout the centuries. Through following a thread from scripture, through the interpretive sciences (chiefly law and theology), and into an analysis of Muslim life in the contemporary world, students will explore answers Muslim thinkers have given to major questions of our shared existence, with both fidelity to the texts and flexibility to present demands. Though the focus of this course is not on Islam’s role in current events, through attaining a solid introduction to the tradition–its sociology, its history, and its modes of reasoning–students will attain the knowledge necessary to begin to engage those events with a critical and informed mind. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 130: Native American Religions

    This course explores the history and contemporary practice of Native American religious traditions, especially as they have developed amid colonization and resistance. While surveying a broad variety of ways that Native American traditions imagine land, community, and the sacred, the course focuses on the local traditions of the Ojibwe and Lakota communities. Materials include traditional beliefs and practices, the history of missions, intertribal new religious movements, and contemporary issues of treaty rights, religious freedom, and the revitalization of language and culture. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2020 · Michael McNally
  • RELG 140: Religion and American Culture

    This course explores the colorful, contested history of religion in American culture. While surveying the main contours of religion in the United States from the colonial era to the present, the course concentrates on a series of historical moments that reveal tensions between a quest for a (Protestant) American consensus and an abiding religious and cultural pluralism. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 150: Religions of India

    India is home to some of the world’s most vibrant religious practices. This course offers a survey of the origins and development of the major religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, and Sikhism. We will consider classical and historical texts along with ethnographies, modern and contemporary politics, and, most likely, site visits. Readings span the gamut–from Indian sources in English translation to news, novels, and poetry. Film and other media will also serve as fodder.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 152: Religions in Japanese Culture

    An introduction to the major religious traditions of Japan, from earliest times to the present. Combining thematic and historical approaches, this course will scrutinize both defining characteristics of, and interactions among, various religious traditions, including worship of the kami (local deities), Buddhism, shamanistic practices, Christianity, and new religious movements. We also will discuss issues crucial in the study of religion, such as the relation between religion and violence, gender, modernity, nationalism and war. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2020 · Asuka Sango
  • RELG 153: Introduction to Buddhism

    This course offers a survey of Buddhism from its inception in India some 2500 years ago to the present. We first address fundamental Buddhist ideas and practices, then their elaboration in the Mahayana and tantric movements, which emerged in the first millennium CE in India. We also consider the diffusion of Buddhism throughout Asia and to the West. Attention will be given to both continuity and diversity within Buddhism–to its commonalities and transformations in specific historical and cultural settings. We also will address philosophical, social, political, and ethical problems that are debated among Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism today. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 155: Hinduism: An Introduction

    Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion (or, as some prefer, “way of life”), with about 1.2 billion followers. It is also one of its oldest, with roots dating back at least 3500 years. “Hinduism,” however, is a loosely defined, even contested term, designating the wide variety of beliefs and practices of the majority of the people of South Asia. This survey course introduces students to this great variety, including social structures (such as the caste system), rituals and scriptures, mythologies and epics, philosophies, life practices, politics, poetry, sex, gender, Bollywood, and—lest we forget—some 330 million gods and goddesses.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2020, Spring 2021 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 161: The Jewish Bible

    This course explores the text known to scholars as the “Hebrew Bible,” to Jews as the “Tanakh,” and to Christians as the “Old Testament.” Composed, compiled, and redacted over a millennium, the Bible is a remarkably complex document that affords its readers the opportunity to ruminate on questions of divinity and humanity, judgment and redemption, slavery and bondage, history and memory, life and death. Through examining the contents and historical contexts of the Bible’s constituent parts, we will gain insight into how ancient and modern writers, readers, and thinkers dealt with these same questions. Requires no previous knowledge and will use sources in translation.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 162: Jesus, the Bible, and Christian Beginnings

    This course introduces students to the diverse literature and theologies of the New Testament and to the origins and social worlds of early Christianity. Possible topics include: Jesus and his message; Paul and women’s spiritual authority; non-canonical gospels (Mary, Thomas, Judas, etc.); relations between Christians and Jews in the first century; and conflict with empire. Attention is given to the interpretation of New Testament texts in their ancient historical setting, and to the various ways contemporary scholars and groups interpret the New Testament as a source for theological reflection.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 210: The Arts of Islam

    This course focuses on arts in different shapes and forms created by artists and artisans influenced by Islamic thought and culture across different times and places. The goal is to raise questions about the aesthetics, praxis, and politics of art and the possibilities it offers for navigating, negotiating with, and responding to local and global dynamics. We will look at a diverse range of artistic productions, including photographs in the museums of New York, illustrated fourteenth-century manuscripts of a wine-drinking ceremony in Herat, and graffiti on the streets of Cairo during the Arab spring.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 211: Race and Religion: Slavery, Colonialism, and their Afterlives

    This course examines the emergence and entanglement of “race” and “religion” as categories, especially in relation to slavery and colonialism, and with regard to the study of Islam as well as other traditions. By touching on themes in postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis, black liberation theology, and decolonial studies, we will ask questions such as: What is the relation between the invention of the “infidel” and the invention of the “negro”? How did the classification of non-Christians by missionaries help shape the emergence of racial “science”? Is the construction of the “enemy combatant” in our contemporary age of terror informed by the fifteenth century classification of natives as “savages”? 

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 215: Muslim Misfits: Islam and the Question of Orthodoxy

    “Islam began strange, and it will return to being strange in the same way as it began. So good tidings to the strange ones!” So goes a famous saying (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, placing the virtue of nonconformity to social norms at the very heart of what it means be Muslim. Islam’s beginnings as something strange and rebellious within the context of its polytheistic Arabian birthplace, and the virtue of truth over numbers more generally, is seen by many not only as a noble past from which Islam emerged, but its inevitable future as well. This course will examine several non-conformist movements throughout Islamic history. The movements will be discussed for their unique contributions to Islamic theology, practice and social life as well as in regards to what they tell us about the orthodoxies against which they came to rebel, all within the context of submission to a higher power and truth.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 217: Faith and Doubt in the Modern Age

    Is religion an illusion we create to explain what we don’t understand? An elaborate means to justify the violence we commit? Modern thinkers have put religion under the microscope and held faith to account. This class considers a number of historically significant critiques of religion in modern western thought and how those critiques have shaped the modern theological and literary imagination. Is God dead? Or only hiding–in aesthetic experience, solidarity with the suffering, projects of liberation, or the depths of human love?  

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2020 · Caleb Hendrickson
  • RELG 220: Justice and Responsibility

    How can we understand the demands of justice, the meaning of responsibility, and the relation of both to power and politics? This course draws heavily on Christian theology and modern European philosophy to explore a range of questions about religion, ethics, and society. Is pacifism, resistance, political force, or compromise the most appropriate way to bring justice to human relations? How should the ideals of faith inform questions about political authority, struggles for equality, and tolerance of difference? As we explore these topics, we encounter diverse models of human selfhood, moral obligation, and the role of religion in public life.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 221: Judaism and Gender

    Questions raised by feminism and gender studies have transformed religious traditions and dramatically changed the way scholars approach the study of religion. In this course, we will consider how reading Jewish tradition with attention to gender opens up new ways of understanding Jewish history, texts, theology and ritual. We will also consider how women and feminism have continually and newly envisioned Jewish life. We will interrogate how Jewish masculinity and femininity have been constituted through, reinforced by, and reclaimed/transformed in Jewish texts, law, prayer, theology, ethics and ritual, in communal as well as domestic contexts. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 222: Politics, Medicine, and the Self in Asian Religion

    What is a self? What does it mean for a person to be “in” the world? Is a person really a discrete entity, set apart from everything else? We will explore how Asian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism answer these questions and compare those answers to ones offered in the West. By drawing on a wide variety of sources including ancient texts, artworks, and architecture, we will examine how the idea of “self” acts as a lens through which Asian religions conceptualize health and disease, as well as political power and spiritual liberation. Topics will include yoga, medicine, kingship, sacrifice, and sorcery.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 223: Religion, Madness, and Modern Psychology

    Madness is one of the most socially and intellectually fraught notions today. At the same time, it has long been a vital lens for exploring the human mind. But what exactly is madness, and why do some people give it religious significance? This course traces the relationship between biomedical and spiritual understandings of madness. We will discuss debates about whether madness is a matter of biochemistry, religious experience, or disrupted social norms, as well as different forms of care (including psychopharmacology, psychoanalysis, spiritual care, and moral reform). Finally, we will consider what a cross-cultural perspective might add to these debates.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 224: Religion, Science, and the Modern Imagination

    This course explores the relationship between religion and science through a focus on imagination. Throughout history, science and medicine have animated the theological imagination (and vice-versa). In many shared cultural contexts, scientific and religious thought rely on shared conceptions of time, space, nature, and the infinite. We will examine images, analogies, and metaphors that both scientific and religious writing use to visualize unseen realities and to depict visible subjects. At the same time, we will use imagination as a lens to consider questions of power through examining assumptions about gender, race, and sex that undergird conceptions of the human self.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 225: Losing My Religion

    What happens when religion loses its plausibility–whether because of its lack of intellectual or moral credibility, or because it just doesn’t make sense of highly ambiguous or deeply troubling or powerfully novel experiences? This course explores how modern Western theologians and philosophers have grappled with the loss of traditional religious beliefs and categories. What is the appropriate response to losing one’s religion? It turns out that few abandon it altogether, but instead find new ways of naming the religious and the sacred, whether in relation to existential meaning, aesthetic experience, moral hope, prophetic insight, or passionate love.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 227: Liberation Theologies

    An introduction to liberationist thought, including black theology, Latin American liberation theology, and feminist theology through writings of various contemporary thinkers. Attention will be directed to theories of justice, power, and freedom. We will also examine the social settings out of which these thinkers have emerged, their critiques of “traditional” theologies, and the new vision of Christian life they have developed in recent decades. Previous study of Christianity is recommended but not required. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 228: Martyrdom

    What does it mean to be a martyr? How have various traditions understood bodily suffering, violence, and integrity in relation to gender, piety, the divine, empire, and conflicts with other groups? We will examine the noble death tradition in Greco-Roman antiquity, various Jewish and Christian martyrdom accounts, the artistic depiction of martyrdom, and the cultural function this material has had from antiquity into modernity. The course will also consider martyrdom in Islam and the rhetoric of persecution in contemporary religious and political events.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 229: Monks and Mystics

    Is mysticism just a religious word for what are actually natural, neurological processes? Is prayer a dressed-up form of positive thinking? Does mindfulness meditation have medical benefits, and should it be promoted by clinicians? Have monks been practicing a spirituality that science is now vindicating? Are these even the right questions to ask? This course offers a historical, comparative, and theoretical exploration of the techniques of rigorous bodily and mental discipline (asceticism) that humans in different cultural contexts have used as a strategy for union with the divine (mysticism). We will focus on ancient Jewish, Christian, and pagan texts that advocate ascetical practices for mastering the body’s passions, disciplining the imagination, and uncovering the deceits of the visible world, and we will trace the reception of these traditions in modern monastic and mystical movements. This course emphasizes close reading, active discussion, and critical reflection on constructions of the ideal body and the ideal mind in antiquity and the present day. Conditions permitting, there will be two field trips to monasteries in Minnesota. Each trip will take place on a weekend and will last for nearly a whole day.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 231: From Luther to Kierkegaard

    Martin Luther and the Reformation have often been understood as crucial factors in the rise of “modernity.” Yet, the Reformation was also a medieval event, and Luther was certainly a product of the late Middle Ages. This class focuses on the theology of the Protestant Reformation, and traces its legacy in the modern world. We read Luther, Calvin, and Anabaptists, exploring debates over politics, church authority, scripture, faith, and salvation. We then trace the appropriation of these ideas by modern thinkers, who draw upon the perceived individualism of the Reformers in their interpretations of religious experience, despair, freedom, and secularization.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 232: Queer Religion

    Passions, pleasures, ecstasies, and desires bear on religion and sexuality alike, but intersections and tensions between these two domains are complicated. This course wagers that bringing the hotly contested categories “queer” and “religion” together will illuminate the diverse range of bodies, activities, and identities that inhabit both. The course explores religion and sexuality in Modern Western thought, erotic elements in religious texts and art, and novels and narratives of religious belief and practice in queer lives. The course combines concrete cases with theoretical tools that queer and feminist scholars have used to analyze religious and sexual communities, bodies, and identities.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2021
  • RELG 233: Gender and Power in the Catholic Church

    How does power flow and concentrate within the Catholic Church? What are the gendered aspects of the structure, history, and theology of Catholicism? Through a combination of readings, discussions, and conversations with living figures, students will develop the ability to critically and empathetically interpret issues of gender, sexuality, and power in the Catholic Church, especially as these issues appear in official Vatican texts. Topics include: God, suffering, sacraments, salvation, damnation, celibacy, homosexuality, the family, saints, the ordination of women as priests, feminist theologies, canon law, the censuring of “heretical” theologians, Catholic hospital policy, and the clerical sex abuse crisis.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 234: Angels, Demons, and Evil

    Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen, period? Could angels and demons have something to do with it? This course asks how cosmology—an account of how the universe is put together and the different entities that inhabit it—can be an answer to the problem of evil and injustice. We will start with a historical investigation of the demonology and angelology of ancient pagan, Jewish, and Christian texts and then move into modern practices such as exorcism and magical realist literature. Along the way, we will keep asking how these systems justify the existence of evil and provide programs for dealing with it.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 235: Power, Resistance, and Sacred Texts

    What are the political implications of calling a book “sacred”? How does reading a sacred text, such as the Bible or Qur’an, become a subversive act? How does it become a strategy of domination? Focusing mainly (but not exclusively) on Judaism and Christianity, we will explore these questions through a variety of examples from acts of reading and textuality among rabbis and ancient Mediterranean bishops to politicians and political leaders in the U.S. today. We will consider not only how books are read, but also how they are banned, burned, put on trial, and used to divine the future. 

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 236: History of Antisemitism

    This course explores the historical, theological, and social foundations of the phenomena variously known as antisemitism, anti-Judaism, and Judeophobia. Starting in the Roman period, we will trace the discursive arc of Jews as problematic Others throughout history. Forever mindful that antisemitism is not just theoretical, we will also examine its specific manifestations in various historical contexts. We will also pay close attention to antisemtism’s relationship to other forms of oppression, bigotry, and discrimination.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 237: Yoga: Religion, History, Practice

    This class will immerse students in the study of yoga from its first textual representations to its current practice around the world. Transnationally, yoga has been unyoked from religion. But the Sanskrit root yuj means to “add,” “join,” or “unite”—and in Indian philosophy and practice it was: a method of devotion; a way to “yoke” the body/mind; a means to unite with Ultimate Reality; a form of concentration and meditation. We will concentrate on texts dating back thousands of years, from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to the Bhagavad Gita—and popular texts of today. Come prepared to wear loose clothing.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 238: The Sacred Body

    The human body has been a focus of reflection throughout history and across traditions. This course will draw particularly on Hawaiian, South Indian, Native American, Euro-American-Christian, and ecological approaches to “the sacred body,” from ancient to contemporary times. We will explore numerous ways of cultivating, imagining, representing, disciplining, inhabiting, and adorning the body–in daily life and in religious fields. Theoretically, we will consider the body in relation to gender, subjectivity, personhood, and performativity. We will also enjoy “live” visits ranging from a male Hawaiian hula halau (hula school), to a yoga teacher, and educational excursions in the Arb. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 239: Religion and the American Landscape

    The American landscape is rich in sacred places.  The religious imaginations, practices, and beliefs of its diverse inhabitants have shaped that landscape and been shaped by it. This course explores ways of imagining relationships between land, community, and the sacred, the mapping of religious traditions onto American land and cityscapes, and theories of sacred space and spatial practices. Topics include religious place-making practices of Indigenous, Latinx, and African Americans, as well as those of Euro-American communities from Puritans, Mormons, immigrant farmers.

    not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 240: Investing in God: American Religion and Economic Life

    What do economic practices like investing, shopping, and consuming have to do with American religion? This course takes up this question through exploration of economic practices in contemporary American religious communities and of secular notions of ritual, value, and desire that some argue fulfill needs traditionally met by religion. Topics include: prosperity gospel, religious investments, consumer rituals, God and the market, the commodification of “Eastern spirituality,” and global media and the performance of wealth.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 242: Oh My G*d: Christianity and Sexual Revolutions

    This course introduces students to Western Christianity by studying Christian movements, theologies, communities, eschatologies, and sensibilities through the lens of marriage, sexual revolutions, and counterrevolutions. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we will engage with scholarship from media theory, history, anthropology, sociology, and literary studies to consider the boundaries of “Christian traditions” and the transformation of religious and sexual cultures. While “sexuality” and “religion” are often imagined as oppositional social forces, this course will introduce students to a rich and complex range of practices, modes of embodiment, and territories of socio-cultural negotiation in which religion and sexuality are entangled, imagined, and co-constituted. 

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2020 · Elizabeth Dolfi
  • RELG 243: Native American Religious Freedom

    This course explores historical and legal contexts in which Native Americans have practiced their religions in the United States. Making reference to the cultural background of Native traditions, and the history of First Amendment law, the course explores landmark court cases in Sacred Lands, Peyotism, free exercise in prisons, and sacralized traditional practices (whaling, fishing, hunting) and critically examines the conceptual framework of “religion” as it has been applied to the practice of Native American traditions. Service projects will integrate academic learning and student involvement in matters of particular concern to contemporary native communities. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 245: Buddha

    Buddha, “the awakened,” is the ideal being–and state of being–in all Buddhist traditions. This course will explore the contours of the Buddha-ideal as revealed in legendary narratives, devotional poems, ritual texts, visionary accounts, philosophical treatises, meditation manuals, and artistic representations. We will draw primarily on classical South Asian and Tibetan sources from the Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric traditions, but also will consider East Asian (e.g., Pure Land and Zen) conceptions of Buddha and modern reinterpretations of the idea. In addition, we will compare Buddha with the “ideal being” of other traditions, e.g., Brahman, the Dao, and God. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 247: The Islamic Republic: Explorations in Religion and Nationalism

    This course examines processes of nation-building in the modern Middle East, when competing enterprises were at work to establish an “authentic national character” with a focus on religious identity. We will look at political essays, literary creations, images, and songs to study the diverse ways in which the nation is imagined and critiqued in the region, along with sources on modern political thought. Our primary countries of focus will be Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 249: Religion and American Public Life

    This course explores the contentious place of religion in American public life. What roles do religious organizations and religious motivations play in the public arenas of electoral politics, policy-making, schools, courts, social service delivery, media, and marketplace? What roles ought they play? In a pluralistic society, how are Americans to balance diverse moral positions with our shared civic life? Engaging the insights of sociologists of religion, legal scholars, ethicists, political theorists, and cultural critics this course will refine the language with which we address such broad questions. Students will apply those insights to focused critical analyses of issues they choose.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 254: Zen Buddhism

    An exploration of the “meditation” school of East Asian Buddhism. We will trace Zen back to its purported origins in India, through its development in China, while focusing on its history in Japan. In addition to its philosophy and practice, we will study its influence on various aspects of Japanese culture–ink painting, calligraphy, Noh theater, tea ceremony, samurai ethics, and martial arts. We will also consider Zen’s participation in Japan’s nationalism and wartime aggression as well as its place in America, where it has influenced art, literature, and religion for over a century. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 262: Islamic Africa

    This course rethinks how we understand Africa through attention to the role of Islam and Arabic culture in its past and present. Through religious texts, novels, and critical commentary from the continent, students will get a strong introduction to key trends in Islamic thought and activism, while exploring how attention to them might reshape our perceptions of both its history and present. Equally addressing Africa as geographic space and analytic category, we will examine its features–from the Sahara to the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, and beyond–not as barriers, but as sites of complex, creative and often fraught exchange with the broader Muslim world.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 263: Sufism

    From Rumi to the Whirling Dervishes, Islam’s Sufi mystical tradition has sparked the fascination of Western observers for many decades. Its music, its poetry and its esoteric sciences have been embraced as part of global heritage. However, where these colorful practices fit into the Islamic tradition is less well understood. This course will situate the Sufi tradition within Islam’s broader framework, tracing its development from an elite philosophical system to a mode of popular practice.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 264: Islamic Politics

    From the Islamic state to Islamic secularism, from progressivism to jihadism, this course examines a broad range of Islamic political thought and practice. Through exploring thinkers and movements both classical and modern who have shaped contemporary conversation, students will get beneath the headlines and come to a robust understanding of the role of Islam in modern politics across the globe.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 265: Religion and Violence: Hindus, Muslims, Jews

    Whether seen on TV screens or in history books, the horror of war, genocide, terrorism, communal violence, and land disputes often prompts the question: is religion the problem? Conversely, one may point to the peaceful aspirations and non-violent social movements that have been led by religious leaders, and motivated by religious philosophies and impulses and ask: can religion be the solution? This course will explore the complex, and sometimes paradoxical roles religious ideas, practices, communities, and leaders play in both the perpetuation and cessation of violence. Case studies will be drawn from Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish conflicts in recent history.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 268: The Perfumed Life: Islamic Sources of the Self

    This course will examine the multiple ways the ideal life has been imagined in the Muslim world, from antiquity to modernity, in both Shi‘i and Sunni renderings. Through putting biographical/auto-biographical narratives from the Muslim world into conversation with readings about the nature of selfhood and subjectivity that emerge in philosophy, psychology and anthropology, we will examine together what unique resources the Muslim tradition has to explore the self, its capabilities and its limits, and in what ways it participates in dilemmas shared across traditional boundaries. Rather than merely studying concepts of the self as they pass through history, this course will ask students to inhabit authors’ worldviews long enough to see how they might grapple with some of the most vexing and intractable issues of our time: from the nature of freedom and submission, to the politics of identity, to the boundaries between humans and their environment.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 270: Philosophy of Religion

    A study of classic issues in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. Possible topics include: the existence and nature of God; the status and nature of religious experience; the problem of evil; the meaning of faith, belief, and truth; definitions of the self and salvation; and the significance of religious pluralism for claims about truth and God. Readings are drawn from the work of modern and contemporary philosophers and theologians. Prerequisites: Previous work in religion or philosophy will be helpful but is not required. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 271: Religion and Critical Theory

    Is God dead? What have the great modern and postmodern thinkers done with religion? What is the function of our pleasures, desires, anxieties, and passions in relation to religion? This course explores the surprising ways in which religion becomes a resource for understanding the contradictions of modernity. We examine theories of history and time as well as critiques of capitalism in relation to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 273: Religious Approaches to Death

    As the inevitable conclusion of every human existence, our lives are profoundly shaped by death. Consequently, we are all in the process of approaching death—both our own and that of others. This course examines the stunning variety of ways in which humans have approached death and mortality throughout history and across the globe. We will (1) develop a vocabulary of human mortality and death that will allow us to (2) illuminate the structural and functional continuities/discontinuities present across human approaches to death and (3) think critically about mortality and death as we approach them in our own lives.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 274: Religion and Bioethics

    This class examines the ethical principles that often guide decision-making in health care. It focuses on principles espoused by many religious and humanistic traditions, within the context of a modern, pluralistic society. Using plentiful case studies, we consider a number of issues in bioethics, including assisted suicide; maternal-fetal relations; artificial reproduction, including human cloning; the use of human subjects in research; health care justice and reform; triage and allocation of sparse medical resources; and public health issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2021 · Caleb Hendrickson
  • RELG 276: Pilgrimage and Sacred Space in Japan Program: Field Studies Sacred Sites

    Students will do directed readings in order to design and conduct independent research and fieldwork projects that are related to Religion 279 but will require them to do an in-depth study of particular site(s).

    Prerequisites: Participation in OCS Religion in Kyoto program 3 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 279: Pilgrimage and Sacred Space in Japan Program: Pilgrimage & Sacred Space in Japan

    An introduction to the major religious traditions of Japan such as Shintō and Buddhism from earliest times to the present, focusing on pilgrimage and sacred space. Course material is drawn from a variety of primary sources in translation, as well as from Japanese films, anthropological accounts, historical studies, and other works of secondary scholarship. Students will go on field trips in and near Kyōto.

    Prerequisites: Participation in OCS Religion in Kyoto program 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 280: The Politics of Sex in Asian Religion

    This course will explore the intersection of religion, sex, and power, focusing on Asian religions. Key questions include: In what ways do religions normalize certain constructions of sex, gender, and sexuality while marking others deviant and unnatural? How do they teach us to perform (and sometimes to overcome) “masculinity” or “femininity”? We will probe these questions by studying both traditional and contemporary examples—such as abortion and reproductive politics in Buddhism, Confucian-influenced practice of foot-binding, Buddhist masculinities and male-love, sati (widow burning) and same-sex marriage in Hinduism, and the concept of a “third sex” in these traditions.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2020 · Asuka Sango
  • RELG 282: Samurai: Ethics of Death and Loyalty

    This course explores the history of samurai since the emergence of warrior class in medieval times, to the modern developments of samurai ethics as the icon of Japanese national identity. Focusing on its connection with Japanese religion and culture, we will investigate the origins of the purported samurai ideals of loyalty, honor, self-sacrifice, and death. In addition to regular class sessions, there will be a weekly kyudo (Japanese archery) practice on Wednesday evening (7-9 pm), which will enable students to study samurai history in context through gaining first-hand experience in the ritualized practice of kyudo.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 284: Art and Religion

    For much of recorded history, what we now call “art” and what we now call “religion” were inseparable. In the modern period, art and religion have gone their separate ways. What, if anything, continues to connect them? Is art inherently religious? Can religion be considered a form of art? In this class, we look at modern works of art (from Renaissance painting to contemporary performance art) alongside the sights and sounds of religion (including the symbols, rituals, and architecture of multiple religious traditions), seeking points of confluence and displacement between these apparently disparate areas of culture. 

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2021 · Caleb Hendrickson
  • RELG 287: Many Marys

    The history of Christianity usually focuses on Jesus: the stories and doctrines that have revolved around him. This course will focus on Mary and the many ways she has contributed to the various lived traditions of Christianity. We will, for example, consider the mother of Jesus (Miriam, as she was first called) as she has figured in literature, art, apparition, and ritual practice around the world. We will also consider Mary Magdalene, her foil, who appears in popular discourse from the Gnostic gospels to The Da Vinci Code. Case studies, texts, images, and film will be our fare.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2021 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 289: Global Religions in Minnesota

    Somali Muslims in Rice County? Hindus in Maple Grove? Hmong shamans in St. Paul hospitals? Sun Dances in Pipestone? In light of globalization, the religious landscape of Minnesota, like America more broadly, has become more visibly diverse. Lake Wobegon stereotypes aside, Minnesota has always been characterized by some diversity but the realities of immigration, dispossession, dislocation, economics, and technology have made religious diversity more pressing in its implications for every arena of civic and cultural life. This course bridges theoretical knowledge with engaged field research focused on how Midwestern contexts shape global religious communities and how these communities challenge and transform Minnesota. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2021 · Michael McNally
  • RELG 300: Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion

    What, exactly, is religion and what conditions of modernity have made it urgent to articulate such a question in the first place? Why does religion exert such force in human society and history? Is it an opiate of the masses or an illusion laden with human wish-fulfillment? Is it a social glue? A subjective experience of the sacred? Is it simply a universalized Protestant Christianity in disguise, useful in understanding, and colonizing, the non-Christian world? This seminar, for junior majors and advanced majors from related fields, explores generative theories from anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary studies, and the history of religions. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2021 · Michael McNally
  • RELG 322: Apocalypse How?

    When will the world end, and how? What’s wrong with the world—morally, politically, naturally—such that people have seen its destruction as necessary or inevitable? Are visions of “The End” a form of sophisticated resistance literature, aimed at oppressive systems of power? Or are they evidence of a disturbed mind disconnected from reality? This seminar takes a deep dive into the contours of apocalyptic thought, which in its most basic form is about unmasking the deceptions of the given world by revealing the secret workings of the universe. We will begin with the earliest apocalypses, found in ancient Jewish and Christian texts, and move into modern religious and “secular” visions of cosmic collapse. Our approach will be historical and comparative, and we will explore topics ranging from doomsday cults to climate catastrophe, visions of heaven to tours of hell, malevolent angels to meddling UFOs, all the while asking how the apocalyptic imagination creates, as one thinker put it, “another world to live in.”

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 329: Modernity and Tradition

    How do we define traditions if they change over time and are marked by internal conflict? Is there anything stable about a religious tradition—an essence, or a set of practices or beliefs that abide amidst diversity and mark it off from a surrounding culture or religion? How do people live out or re-invent their traditions in the modern world? In this seminar we explore questions about pluralism, identity, authority, and truth, and we examine the creative ways beliefs and practices change in relation to culture. We consider how traditions grapple with difference, especially regarding theology, ethics, law, and gender.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 344: Lived Religion in America

    The practices of popular, or local, or lived religion in American culture often blur the distinction between the sacred and profane and elude religious studies frameworks based on the narrative, theological, or institutional foundations of “official” religion. This course explores American religion primarily through the lens of the practices of lived religion with respect to ritual, the body, the life cycle, the market, leisure, and popular culture. Consideration of a wide range of topics, including ritual healing, Christmas, cremation, and Elvis, will nourish an ongoing discussion about how to make sense of lived religion. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 353: Saints, Goddesses, and Whores

    Saint or sinner? Goddess or demon? Perfect virgin or (im-)penitent whore? Repeatedly across cultures and religious traditions, the female figure has been split—in religious texts and practices as well as in popular culture and quotidian life. This course investigates the sexualization and/or containment of women—as female sexuality is often equated with danger—and the varied responses to such containment that often produce fascinating alternatives. Christian and Hindu traditions (sometimes overlapping) will serve as fields for case studies, including: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, mystics, Mother Theresa, Hindu goddesses and demonesses, bhakti poet-saints, politicians, and film divas.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 357: Televangelists and Cyber-Shaykhs: Explorations in Religion and Media

    Beyond the mystic ideal of approaching the divine without intermediary, all believers have encountered religious truth only by the use of certain material objects, certain media that act as tools to help the believer develop piety or communicate theological truth. This course is interested in these “in-betweens,” these media, objects and material that religious people use to approach the divine, as well as the impact of new medias (electronic or otherwise) on the development of modern religiosity. Students will be asked to roll-up their sleeves and delve into primary source material gathered from internet, television, popular literature and material culture.

    6 credits; Social Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 359: Buddhist Studies India Program: Buddhist Meditation Traditions

    Students will complement their understanding of Buddhist thought and culture through the study and practice of traditional meditation disciplines. This course emphasizes the history, characteristics, and approach of three distinct meditation traditions within Buddhism: Vipassana, Zazen, and Dzogchen. Meditation practice and instruction is led in the morning and evening six days a week by representatives of these traditions who possess a theoretical as well as practical understanding of their discipline. Lectures and discussions led by the program director complement and contextualize the three meditation traditions being studied.

    Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Carleton-Antioch Program required 8 credits; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2020 · Arthur McKeown
  • RELG 362: Spirit Possession

    This course considers spirit possession in relation to religion, gender, and agency. Through surveying a number of works on spirit possession–recent and past, theoretical and ethnographic–we will analyze representations of the female subject in particular and arguments about agency that attend these representations. This class will explicitly look at post-colonial accounts of spirit possession and compare them to Euro-American Christian conceptions of personhood. We will consider how these Euro-Christian conceptions might undergird secular-liberal constructions of agency, and contribute to feminist ideas about the proper female subject. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2020–2021
  • RELG 365: Mysticism

    Drawing from selected traditional texts and modern analyses, we will investigate the human encounter with ultimate reality. Questions we will consider include: What is the definition and typology of mysticism? Is mystical experience truly ineffable? What are its modes of expression? Do all mystics experience the same reality? Is unmediated experience possible? Do mystical experiences show us the truth? Is there a place for reason on a mystical path? What is the role of the body and brain in mystical practice? Does mystical experience make us good? Does it free us? Are mystics critics of institutional religion or social injustice? 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2021 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 399: Senior Research Seminar

    This seminar will acquaint students with research tools in various fields of religious studies, provide an opportunity to present and discuss research work in progress, hone writing skills, and improve oral presentation techniques. Prerequisites: Religion 300 and acceptance of proposal for senior integrative exercise and instructor permission. 6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2021 · Asuka Sango
  • RELG 400: Integrative Exercise

    3 credits; S/NC; offered Spring 2021 · Asuka Sango

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