• 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, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 100: Re-Imagining God

    How have religious thinkers interrogated the concept “God” in response to the intellectual challenges and political crises of the modern world? In this class, we consider how mass suffering, racial injustice, political oppression, ecological concerns, and religious pluralism have prompted theologians to redefine the very meaning of the word “God” and the nature of God’s power, agency, and relationship to human communities. We also examine the definitions of power, truth, and human fulfillment embedded in these theologies, as well as their interpretations of suffering, faith, meaning, and resilience. Readings draw primarily from Christianity, and also from Judaism.

    6 credits; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Lori Pearson
  • 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, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023, Winter 2024, Spring 2024 · Lori Pearson, Michael McNally, Sonja Anderson
  • RELG 111: Introduction to the Qur’an

    This course aims to introduce students to the Qur’an as the sacred text of Islam. It assumes no background in Islamic Studies nor does it introduce students to the religion of Islam. Rather it familiarizes students with one of the most widely read, dynamic, and influential texts in human history. Topics in the course include the history of the Qur’an and its codex, the Qur’an’s literary style and structure, its references to other religions, its commentarial tradition, and its roles and significance in Muslims’ devotional, social, and political lives.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 120: Introduction to Judaism

    What is Judaism? Who are Jewish people? What are Jewish texts, practices, ideas? What ripples have Jewish people, texts, practices, and ideas caused beyond their sphere? These questions will animate our study as we touch on specific points in over three millennia of history. We will immerse ourselves in Jewish texts, historic events, and cultural moments, trying to understand them on their own terms. At the same time, we will analyze them using key concepts such as ‘tradition,’ ‘culture,’ ‘power,’ and ‘diaspora.’ We will explore how ‘Jewishness’ has been constructed by different stakeholders, each claiming the authority to define it.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Laura Levitt
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 122: Introduction to Islam

    This course is a general introduction to Islam as a prophetic religious tradition. It explores the different ways Muslims have interpreted and put into practice the prophetic message of Muhammad through analyses of varying theological, legal, political, mystical, and literary writings as well as through Muslims’ lived histories. These analyses aim for students to develop a framework for explaining the sources and vocabularies through which historically specific human experiences and understandings of the world have been signified as Islamic. The course will focus primarily on the early and modern periods of Islamic history.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Kambiz GhaneaBassiri
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Michael McNally
  • 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, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · 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; offered Spring 2024 · Asuka Sango
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 162: Jesus, the Bible, and Christian Beginnings

    Who was Jesus? What’s in the Bible? How did Christianity begin? This course is an introduction to the ancient Jewish texts that became the Christian New Testament, as well as other texts that did not make it into the Bible. We will take a historical approach, situating this literature within the Roman Empire of the first century, and we will also learn about how modern readers have interpreted it. Along the way, we will pay special attention to two topics of enduring political debate: (1) Whether the Bible supports oppression or liberation and (2) What the Bible says about gender and sexuality.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Sonja Anderson
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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”? 

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 212: Black Religious Thought

    Although Black thinkers are well-known for discussing religion, the relationship between Blackness and religious thought is ambiguous. Much like religion can be understood in numerous ways, so does “Black” carry several meanings. In this course, we will investigate this ambiguity by unpacking how Black thinkers have expanded upon, reimagined, and rejected various forms of religious practices, beliefs, and institutions. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which these engagements are shaped by thinkers’ identification with, definition of, and politics surrounding Blackness and the African diaspora. The syllabus may include Baldwin, Hurston, Malcolm X, and Cone.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Paul Cato
  • RELG 213: Religion, Medicine, and Healing

    How do religion and medicine approach the healing of disease and distress? Are religion and medicine complementary or do they conflict? Is medicine a more evolved form of religion, shorn of superstition and pseudoscience? This course explores religious and cultural models of health and techniques for achieving it, from ancient Greece to Christian monasteries to modern mindfulness and self-care programs. We will consider ethical quandaries about death, bodily suffering, mental illness, miraculous cures, and individual agency, all the while seeking to avoid simplistic narratives of rationality and irrationality.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 214: Irish Studies In Ireland Program: Sacred Place & Pilgrimage in Ireland

    Encounters with the sacred on the landscape present a through line of Irish religion: pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian. Holy mountains, islands, stones, and wells materialize the sacred and organize the practices of lived religion. Such places are also charged sites of historical memory, colonization, and resistance. Long wellsprings of Irish cultural nationalism, they now capture spiritual imaginations of global seekers of earth-based spirituality. Through readings, field visits, and walking several pilgrimage routes, this course explores narratives and practices of sacred places, engages the blurry boundary between the sacred/secular entailed in pilgrimage, and queries the modern romance with “Celtic Spirituality.”

    Prerequisites: Participation in Ireland Program not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 216: Irish Studies in Ireland Program: Becoming Ireland: Nature, Culture, and Religion in Irish History

    The past is a strong presence in Ireland. People live with Iron Age tombs and medieval sculptures in their backyards. Modern identities are negotiated through memories of Ireland becoming Celtic, or Christian, or colonized. Understanding modern traditions about these changes requires investigation of how such features of “being Irish” played out long ago. This course explores foundations of modern Ireland though an archaeological tour of key moments in ancient Ireland, with emphasis on changes in sacred landscapes from period to period. The course involves readings, material culture studies, and experience at archaeological sites, including active excavations.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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?  

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 218: The Body in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

    Mind and body are often considered separate but not equal; the mind gives commands to the body and the body complies. Exploring the ways the three religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam think about the body will deepen our understanding of the mind-body relationship. We will ask questions such as: How does the body direct the mind? How do religious practices discipline the body and the mind, and how do habits of body and mind change the forms and meanings of these practices? Gender, sexuality, sensuality, and bodily function will be major axes of analysis.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 219: Religious Law, Il/Legal Religions

    The concept of law plays a central role in religion, and the concept of religion plays a central role in law. We often use the word ‘law’ to describe obligatory religious practices. But is that ‘law,’ as compared with state law? Legal systems in the U.S. and Europe make laws that protect religious people, and that protect governments from religion. But what does ‘religion’ mean in a legal context? And how do implicit notions of religious law affect how judges deal with religion? We will explore these questions using sources drawn from contemporary religions and recent legal disputes.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 220: Justice and Responsibility

    How have religious thinkers understood the demands of justice, the work of love, and the relation of both to power and politics? Is resistance 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 engagement with difference? This course draws on Christian theology, African American religious thought, and Jewish thought to explore a range of questions about ethics and social change. Along the way, we encounter diverse models of human selfhood, moral obligation, and the role of religion in public life.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 221: Judaism and Gender

    How does gender shape the Jewish tradition, and how have Jewish historical moments, texts, and practices shaped Jewish notions of gender? Taking Judaism as a test case, this course will explore the relationship between historical circumstance, positionality, and the religious imaginary. We will examine the ways that Jewish gender and theology inform each other. We will see how gender was at play in Jewish negotiations of economic and social class, racial and ethnic status, even citizenship. Following the threads of practice and narrative, we will think about how intersectional gender has shaped the stories Jews tell, and the stories that are told about them.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 222: Trauma, Loss, Memory: Holocaust and Genocide

    Building on the legacy of Holocaust memory and commemoration, this course considers how different losses touch and, in the process, illuminate each other in their similarities and in their differences. It asks questions about what it means to do justice to these legacies. Students will read works by James Young on monuments and memorials, Marianne Hirsch on postmemory, Michael Rothberg on multidirectional memory, and Svetlana Boym on diasporic intimacy and the possibility of connection after traumatic loss. Students will be encouraged to consider a range of texts and legacies of trauma and loss placing them in conversation with course readings.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Laura Levitt
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 227: Liberation Theologies

    Is God on the side of the poor? This course explores how liberation theologians have called for justice, social change, and resistance by drawing on fundamental sources in Christian tradition and by using economic and political theories to address poverty, racism, oppression, gender injustice, and more. We explore the principles of liberationist thought, including black theology, Latin American liberation theology, and feminist theology through writings of various contemporary thinkers. We also examine the social settings out of which these thinkers have emerged, their critiques of “traditional” theologies, and the new vision of community they have developed in various contexts.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Lori Pearson
  • RELG 232: Queer Religions

    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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 233: Gender and Power in the Catholic Church

    How does power flow and concentrate in the Catholic Church? What are the gendered aspects of the Church’s structure, history, and theology? Through readings, discussions, and analysis of current media, 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, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Sonja Anderson
  • 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, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Sonja Anderson
  • RELG 235: Religion and Identity in the Medieval Middle East

    This course explores the emergence and formation of Islam as a faith in the medieval Middle East (sixth-eleventh centuries) and its impact on social relations and identities in the complex and evolving cultural and religious communities that populated this multifaceted region. Through close reading and discussion of primary sources (in translation) (Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian, Persian, Greek, and Latin) and scholarship, we will situate the development of Islam in the context of religious and social change in this period and to understand Islam’s role in the transformation of life in the region.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, William North
  • RELG 236: Black Love: Religious, Political, and Cultural Discussions

    In 2021, the passing of Black feminist bell hooks led the scholarly journal Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ) to publish a special issue on Black love: hooks’ expertise. As is often the case in discussions of Blackness and love, the issue included many allusions to the divine and suggested some ties between race, love, and religion. Drawing inspiration from WSQ, this class will investigate the role religion, spirituality, and belief play in conversations about Blackness, love, and their intersection. The syllabus will include an array of academic essays, personal reflections, and creative works, including those by Lorde, Hartman, and Wonder.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2024 · Paul Cato
  • RELG 237: Yoga: Religion, History, Practice

    Historically, yoga’s roots can be traced as far back as 1500 BCE. As for “religion,” in the modern period, yoga has largely been unyoked from it. But the Sanskrit root yuj means to “add,” “join,” or “unite”—and in Indian philosophy and practice it has long been: a method of devotion; a way to “yoke” the body/mind; a means to unite with Ultimate Reality; a form of concentration and meditation. Over time, it has been medicalized into a form of public health. This course will concentrate on texts, images, and cultures old and new. Come prepared to wear loose clothing!

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Kristin Bloomer
  • RELG 239: Religion & 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.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Michael McNally
  • 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. 

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 246: Christianity and Capitalism

    The Bible says that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” but the history of Christianity and mammon contains multitudes – voluntary poverty and acquisitive empires, radical utopian communities and the blessings of business, peace movement feasts and prosperity gospels, colonialism and humanitarian neo-liberalism, and commodity fetishism for Christ. This course will use a breadth of historical case studies alongside critical theories of modernity and capitalism to explore Christianity’s relationship with wealth, from pre-modern economic theologies, to faith in modern industrial capitalism and Christianity’s vexed entanglements with late capitalist ideologies and practices.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 250: It’s the End of the World: Religion, Moral Panics, and Apocalypses

    Pandemics, global climate destabilization, the collapse of good order, the rise and fall of empires, and life at the edge of civilization — for many religious communities, in many historical moments, it has seemed clear that the world is ending. In this course, we will examine some of the ways that religious communities in the United States have imagined and narrativized impending apocalypse(es) and the problem of living when the world is falling apart. Emphasizing the cultural politics of apocalypticism, this course will explore race, gender, affect, ritual practice, epistemology, and community formation in contexts including nineteenth century millennialist movements, alien abductions, contemporary conspiracy theories, sex panics, indigenous resistance to colonialism, cold war apocalyptic literature, and Afro-futurist responses to climate collapse.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 257: Asian Religions and Ecology

    How “eco-friendly” are Asian religious traditions? What does “eco-friendly” even mean? This course begins with an overview of the major religious traditions of South, Southeast, Central, and East Asia. From this foundation, we turn to modern and contemporary ecological thinkers, movements, and policies and discuss their indebtedness to, and divergence from, various religious heritages. We will also explore how modernity, capitalism, industrialization, climate collapse, and Western environmental movements have influenced eco-advocacy in contemporary Asia.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 266: Modern Islamic Thought

    Through close reading of primary sources, this course examines how some of the most influential Muslim thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Middle East and South Asia conceptualized God and the ideal God-human relationship to address such pressing questions as: How should religion relate to modern technological and scientific advancements? Can Islam serve as an ideology to counter European colonialism? Can Islam become the basis for the formation of social and political life under a nation-state, or does it demand a transnational political collectivity of its own? What would a modern Islamic economy look like?

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Kambiz GhaneaBassiri
  • RELG 267: Black Testimony: Art, Literature, Philosophy

    Throughout Black history, testimony–a discourse in which an individual uses personal stories to convey ideas of broader meaning–has played an essential role in Black religion, politics, and daily life. In this course, we will identify the significance, history, and particularities of Black people’s testimonies, and outline their presence and potential today. Remaining mindful of testimony’s religious dimensions will include particular attention to the role of religion and spirituality in the assigned materials. The syllabus may include testimonial art by Romare Bearden and Kenrick Lamar, writings by Angela Davis and Frederick Douglass, and films by Barry Jenkins.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Paul Cato
  • RELG 269: Food, Justice and Nonviolence: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Perspectives

    This course introduces students to the history of the South and East Asian religious ethic of nonviolence (ahi?s?). We will discuss nonviolence and vegetarianism in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions, including critical perspectives from inside and outside of those traditions. The course will explore the philosophical and cultural aspects of nonviolence, with a focus on its relationship to karma, self-purification, animal welfare, and food practices. We conclude by examining modern deployments of the ethic in charged discourses concerning agriculture, nationalism, environmental destruction and conservation, and social justice.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 270: Philosophy of Religion

    Does God exist? What is religious experience? How do people make meaning and find hope in the face of uncertainty and suffering? What does in it mean to be a self, and how do we live authentically? How do we imagine and create new worlds that are more just and expansive? This introductory course engages classic and contemporary sources in the philosophy of religion, and draws from multiple religious and cultural traditions, in order to explore religious perspectives on faith, reason, emotion, ethics, selfhood, justice, and salvation. 

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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&m dash;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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 274: Religion and Biomedical Ethics

    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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 278: Semantics of Love in Sufism

    Sufism broadly refers to a complex of devotional, literary, ethical, theological, and mystical traditions in Islam. More specifically, it refers to the activities associated with institutionalized master-disciple relationships, which define the paths through which Muslims have sought experiential knowledge of God. In both the broad and narrow sense of Sufism, love has been a prominent means of Sufi self-representation. In this course, we will explore the ideas and practices semantically associated with love in the Sufi tradition and analyze the ways in which these ideas and practices have both shaped and been shaped by individual lives, religious institutions, and socio-cultural contexts.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 283: Mysticism and Gender

    Love. Emptiness. Union. Ecstasy. These are some ways that humans have described “mystical experience,” often defined as an immediate encounter with God, ultimate reality, or the absolute—however those may be construed. This course interrogates “mysticism” across traditions, with close attention to issues of gender, sexuality, and race, through studying a number of famous female and male mystics across historical periods. Questions include: What, exactly, is mysticism? Is it gendered? Is it just the firing of a bunch of neurons? What is the role of the body in mystical practice? Are mystics critics of institutionalized religion? Radicals for social justice?

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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. 

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 285: Islam in America: Race, Religion and Politics

    This course examines the history of Islam in America from the colonial period to the present. It contextualizes American Islam at the cross section of American religious history and modern Islamic history. While primarily focused on the politics of race and religion in America, the course also explores the influence of comparative theology and religious studies on conceptions of religious diversity; the relationship between race, religion and ideas of progress; the role of Islam in the civil rights movement and in nationalist movements in Muslim-majority societies; and the rise of militant Islam as a matter of global concern.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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 Fall 2023 · 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 2024 · Lori Pearson
  • RELG 322: Apocalypse How?

    When will the world end, and how? What’s wrong with the world that makes its destruction necessary or inevitable? Are visions of “The End” a form of resistance literature, aimed at oppressive systems? Or do they come from paranoid minds disconnected from reality? This seminar explores apocalyptic thought, which in its basic form is about unmasking the deceptions of the given world by revealing the secret workings of the universe. We begin with ancient Jewish and Christian apocalypses and move into modern religious and “secular” visions of cosmic collapse, including doomsday cults, slave revolts, UFO religions, and Evangelical fantasies about armageddon in the Middle East. We will also create a giant handwritten manuscript of the book of Revelation using calligraphy pens, paint, and gold leaf.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2023 · Sonja Anderson
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • 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 7-8 credits; International Studies, Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2023 · 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.

    not offered 2023–2024
  • RELG 379: Material Religion

    While many people associate religions with spirituality and transcendence, religious beliefs and practices have always been mediated through objects, sensory experiences, bodies, and spaces. Broadly speaking these constitute the material dimensions of religion. This course will first introduce students to the major theoretical and methodological issues involved in the study of material religion. Students will then be asked to put what they have learned to practice by developing a research project around a religious thing or some other material aspect of religion.

    6 credits; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2024 · Kambiz GhaneaBassiri
  • 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 2024 · Kristin Bloomer

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