Courses

  • 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 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2016 · K. Bloomer
  • RELG 100: Muhammad

    The Muslim prophet Muhammad has been the object of both curious fascination and vociferous debate from the era in which he lived until today. This course will examine both Muhammad’s life in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries and his global afterlife: that is, how and why Muhammad has become both a source of inspiration and consternation for billions around the world. Through careful attention to the various genres in which this life has been remembered and reactivated within the Islamic tradition, we will spend a portion of the term inhabiting an alternative scholarly tradition, which nevertheless will come to shed light on the limits and possibilities of our own processes of inquiry and critical thinking. Though looking at the life of the Prophet Muhammad as an object of debate, we will come to hone our own self-awareness of the rhetorical strategies we employ in argument-making, examining the role of contemporary historical and political contexts on how we construe truth.

    6 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2016 · N. Salomon
  • 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 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2016 · M. 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017 · S. Anderson, S. Sippy, N. Salomon
  • RELG 120: Introduction to Judaism

    How does a religious tradition evolve over time? This course provides an overview of the Judaic tradition as a whole, 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. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2017 · N. Salomon
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2017 · M. McNally
  • RELG 150: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Religions of South Asia

    South Asia 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2017 · K. Bloomer
  • RELG 151: Religions in Chinese Culture

    An introduction to the major religious traditions of China, 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 Buddhism, Daoism, and the Confucianism, as well as 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2017 · A. Sango
  • RELG 161: Making Meaning of the Hebrew Bible

    Since antiquity, the Hebrew Bible has been read through various lenses and made meaningful to communities of readers through a range of interpretive methodologies and techniques. In this introductory class, we will survey different genres of literature found in the Hebrew Bible and consider how interpreters, classical and modern, have read the text and found it relevant in their lives. We will also consider creative, artistic and political interpretations of the Hebrew Bible--poetry, fiction, film, visual art and public discourse--as we examine how the Bible has endured as a text, and inspired devotion, critiques, political and social movements. Requires no previous knowledge and will use sources in translation. Students with background in Hebrew, who wish to use their language skills, will have the opportunity to look at primary textual sources. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2017 · S. Anderson
  • RELG 162: Jesus, Paul, and Christian Origins (New Testament)

    This course introduces students to the diverse literature and theologies of the New Testament and to the origins and social worlds of early Christian movements. 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 more. Attention is given to the interpretation of New Testament texts in their historical settings, and to the various ways contemporary scholars and groups interpret the New Testament as a source for theological reflection. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2016 · S. Anderson
  • RELG 210: Prophecy and Social Criticism in America

    In this course we examine the religious and philosophical roots of prophecy as a form of social criticism in American intellectual and religious history. We pay particular attention to a mode of public exhortation central to African American social criticism that emphasizes spiritual renewal called the Afro-American Jeremiad. Interrogating this tradition, along with differing conceptions of social criticism, we raise numerous questions, such as: Is the Jeremiad tradition still a viable mode of prophetic exhortation? And, with much of contemporary (Black) Christianity's allegiance to capitalism, can the Jeremiad continue to play a prophetic socio-critical role today? This course counts as an African/African American interdisciplinary course. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 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. This course will examine three 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017 · N. Salomon
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2017 · S. Sippy
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 226: Colonialism and Christianity in the Global South

    While the "Global North," a quarter of the world's population, has access to four fifths of its income, the "Global South" generally Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia--comprises three quarters of the world's population and has access to one fifth of its income. Christianity, long proclaiming the need to create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, has nonetheless maintained a tight relationship to colonialism, power, empire, and the making of "modernity." This course will investigate the paradoxical ways that Christianity has been both complicit with and a source of liberation from colonial and post-colonial forces in the Global South.not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2016 · S. Anderson
  • RELG 230: Feminist Theologies

    How have feminist theologians attempted to understand and transform religious traditions they find both oppressive and liberating where justice for women is concerned? This course examines works by feminist scholars (from Christian and Jewish traditions) who have sought to re-think fundamental categories, symbols, questions, and methods related to the study of scripture, ethics, and theology. We explore the ways in which theologians from various cultural backgrounds have worked toward women's empowerment through critiques of sexism, racism, and colonialism, and through feminist models of community, identity, and justice. Topics include: gender and biblical interpretation, God-language, redemption, sexual ethics, and ecofeminism. 6 credit; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 233: Gender and Power in the Catholic Church

    This course introduces students to the structure, history, and theology of the Catholic Church through the lens of gender and power. Through a combination of readings and conversations with living figures, students will develop the ability to critically and empathetically interpret Catholicism in its various manifestations. Topics include: God, rituals, salvation, the body, women, materiality, sex; the authority of persons, texts, and tradition; conflicts and anxieties involving masculinity, feminist theologies, the ordination of women as priests, the censuring of heretical theologians, and the clerical sex abuse crisis. Conditions permitting, this course will include trips to local Catholic sites.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2017 · S. Anderson
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2017 · K. Bloomer
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 239: American Holy Lands

    From the fifteenth-century "discovery" of the New World to twenty-first-century construction of a "Holy Land" theme park in Orlando, this course explores how diverse religious, racial, and political communities have understood America as a "holy land." In particular, we examine how certain religious communities (e.g. Puritans, Mormons, Native Americans, Jewish immigrants) have re-centered sacred history--even the future--on the American continent. Examining "America" at a macro-level as well as exploring specific, local "sacred spaces," this course studies reoccurring themes of revelation, exodus, conquest, and pilgrimage, which frame America as "the promised land," but sometimes modern-day "Babylon."not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2016 · M. McNally
  • RELG 244: Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion: Music and the Religion-Political Imagination of the Black Atlantic

    Hip-hop and reggae are among the world's most popular musical art forms. While contextualizing the emergence of these cultural formations, students will interrogate the dynamic relationships between them and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic. The course will pay particular attention to the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to Christianity and contemporary arrangements of power. Listening to the religio-political perspectives expressed in these cultural formations students will question whether or not the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo of our political and economic arrangements. Giving attention to the music, from Otis Redding to Vybz Kartel, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding how it (if it) reflects a unique political imagination. Weekly, we will encounter material from a number of genres as we theorize the music. Assignments will include presentations, a music review, and two papers. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2016 · K. Wolfe
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 250: Buddhism and Ecology

    Both environmental scholars and activists have been vigorously discussing the role that religion plays in shaping our attitudes towards the environment. In this course, we carry on this conversation through a unique vantage point, Buddhism. Western environmentalists often assume Buddhism to be "eco-friendly." Together, we will critically rethink this benign image, exploring the parallels and the divergences between Buddhism and ecological practice, as well as the problems and the prospects of Buddhist environmentalism. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 255: Social Engagement in Asian Religions

    This course explores religions in contemporary Asia while focusing on their energetic engagement with social and political issues and crises. In Vietnam, Burma, and Tibet, for example, Buddhists famously protested against war and violence by quietly marching, fasting, or immolating themselves. Yet in Japan and China, many religious groups are criticized for having justified imperialism, engaged in terrorist activities, or become mere money-making machines. Can religions serve as a vehicle of social and political activism? Do they potentially change or passively maintain the status quo? We will critically examine both examples and counter-examples of social engagement in Asian religions. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 256: Modern Hinduism: Encounters with the West

    A controversial statement: "Modern Hinduism was defined in engagement with Western discourses of 'religion.'" This course will begin with the ideas of such prominent Hindu thinkers as Rammohan Ray, Vivekananda, Savarkar, and Gandhi, looking to a range of historical and critical materials to ground their voices in the experience of colonialism. We'll move on to consider contemporary contexts: strains of Indian nationalism; migration and the growth of diasporic Hindu communities overseas; conversion and the transnational spread of modern guru movements; consumerism and globalization. Throughout we'll remain mindful of the question: Why is the theme of this class controversial? 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 258: Issues in Japanese Religions and Ecology

    This is a two-credit course that meets once a week for seventy minutes to explore issues in Japanese religion and ecology including: the views of nature in Miyazaki Hayao's animation such as "Princess Mononoke;" the images of Buddhism and nature in Miyazawa Kenji's children's literature; Kurosawa Kiyoshi's cinematic exploration of the issue of invasive species, "Charisma;" the philosophical debate concerning the "enlightenment of plants and trees" by medieval Buddhists; and the practice of infanticide in early modern Japan. It is strongly recommended but not required to simultaneously enroll in Religion 152: Religions in Japanese Culture.

    2 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 260: Tantra: Secrecy, Sex, and the Sublime

    This course focuses on the esoteric South Asian approach to religion commonly known as "Tantra." Inspired by revealed texts called tantras, medieval Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains developed a rich, complex approach to spiritual life that focused not on ascetic transcendence of the world but on utilizing and sublimating bodily and mental processes, including sex, violence, death, and the imagination. We will explore the ideology, rhetoric, praxis, and social consequences of Tantra in its original Indic setting, and its echoes in Tibet, elsewhere in Asia, and the modern West--where it has been a source of fascination, revulsion, and much misunderstanding. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 261: Hearing Islam

    This course explores the ways in which religion, Islam in particular, has been conceived and represented through sound. How does hearing or saying affect the practice of religion? What makes a particular sound religious, with regard to either its production or its experience? Topics will include the call to prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, genres of Islamic music from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts (such as ghazals--love poems set as songs --and Islamic rap, for example), sermons, and other audio artifacts. The course will draw on both reading and listening assignments. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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. In introducing these often-marginalized variables, this course will seek to unbind Africa from the restricted domains in which it is often studied and to address its important place as an agent within global history. Through a study of several distinct Muslim cultures, we will examine the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, not as barriers, but as sites of creative, complex and often fraught exchange. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 263: Sufism

    From Rumi to the Whirling Dervishes, Islam's Sufi mysticl tradition has sparked the fascination of Western obervers 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2017 · S. Sippy
  • RELG 266: Religion and the Senses

    Looking across a range of religious traditions, this course examines the modes of the human senses in relation to religious experience, drawing on both primary and secondary literature. We will ask such questions as: Are the senses acting as a means allowing for perception of the divine, or some kind of experience or contact? Are they a medium for self-discipline, in either a positive sense through the cultivation of a pious self, or negatively, through denial? Are the senses serving as a metaphor, and, if so, to what end? We will also interrogate the boundaries and relationships between senses. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 267: The Bhagavad Gita

    The Bhagavad Gita (The Blessed Lord's Song) may not be the Hindu "Bible" (there is none), but it is now, as it has been for two millennia, one of the most beloved and influential of Indian texts, a rich source of reflection about metaphysics, theology, yoga, and ethics. This course will center on a close reading of the Gita, within its context in Indian religious thought and the epic of which it is a part, the Mahabharata. We also will explore modern interpretations of the Gita, by Indians like Tilak and Gandhi and by Western artists working in various media. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 274: Pessimism and the Affirmation of Existence

    In this course we will examine some of the cultural, intellectual, and religious transformations occurring in the nineteenth century that have given the turn of the twentieth century the reputation of being "the age of anxiety." We will engage Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophical pessimism, and wrestle with Friedrich Nietzsche's "affirmation of existence." Grappling with questions such as "Is life worth living?" and "If there is no God, is existence meaningless?" we will also turn to the U.S. context, looking at the ways some of the classical pragmatists contend with the specter of pessimism. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2017 · K. Wolfe
  • RELG 277: Buddhism and the Beats

    The development of a uniquely American Buddhism beginning in the late 1960s owes much to "Beat" writings in the 1950s. The cultural innovations of the Fifties reverberated in the social and political shifts of the sixties to give rise to an American Buddhist idiom that emphasized meditation, direct experience, community, socially engaged action, and concern with the environment. This course will explore representations of Buddhism in the works of such notable Beats as Kerouac, Ginsberg, Snyder, Whalen, and Watts and their influence on the counterculture and the various Buddhist communities (both imagined and institutional) that arose from the Sixties on. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 the erotic discourse of the Kama Sutra, concepts of "Women's Hell" in medieval East Asia, attitudes toward abortion in Buddhism, Confucian-influenced practice of foot binding, homosexuality in Japanese Buddhism, and queer Buddhists in North America. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 281: Performing Tradition: Art, Religion, and Globalization

    Visit a museum and it is not uncommon to find--along side visual displays--exhibitions of "culture" in the form of performances. Building upon the idea that "art is a bridge to understanding," festivals, fairs, and classrooms have become venues for artists and religious leaders to bring the global local. Tracing the history of exhibiting cultures, beginning in the late nineteenth century, we will consider how religions and traditions are represented in different contexts with a range of political and social implications. We will also work with artists-in-residence to consider the role performance plays in constructions of rituals, religions and cultures. 6 credit; International Studies, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2017 · K. Bloomer
  • RELG 325: Ritual, Transformation, Tradition

    Ritual connotes patterns and adherence to traditional pasts, and yet the workings of ritual often imply intentions to effect change, invoking the power of ritual transformation. In this, the study of ritual invokes central tensions animating the study of religion: continuity and change, social stability and transformation. This course explores "ritual" and "tradition" from a range of scholarly perspectives: theoretical; anthropological; textual; sociological; political; and psychological. Working at the level of the individual and communal, or the cosmic and political, we will consider the processes of ritual preservation and innovation. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 326: Religion and the Post-Colonial Imagination

    Two vexing questions: What is post-colonial thought? And: What is religion? These will guide us as we look at the literary and theoretical production that, we may find, expresses the post-colonial imagination. We will use our guiding questions as a way of exploring a variety of problems both raised by and manifested in these works, such as: the nature of identity; the question of nationalism; the writing of history; questions of class, gender, and race. The emphasis will be on close readings of these works which emerge from the crucible of the Third Worlds "encounter" with European and American colonialism. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 329: Theology, Pluralism, and Culture

    Is there one Christianity or are there many Christianities? Is Christianity separate from, or shaped by, its surrounding culture? Do religious traditions have boundaries? How and why do beliefs and doctrines change? How much should contemporary culture influence the ways we talk about God? In this course we analyze the complex relationship between theology and culture. We consider the influence of cultural identity on religious belief and practice, and we learn about theories of tradition and culture from a variety of disciplines. Throughout the term we explore the implications of relativism, pluralism, and diversity for theological reflection on the identity of Christianity. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 340: Contemporary Islamic Renewal

    This course will explore the intellectual origins and contemporary manifestations of movements of Islamic renewal. First, by reading the classical texts which undergird the theology and social action of revivalist trends while simultaneously examining how such texts attain new meaning in the present moment, we will problematize the oft-stated dichotomy between tradition and modernity. Next, through exploring ethnographic and sociological accounts of contemporary Islamic piety movements (of Sufi and Salafi varieties, and the unaffiliated) we will explore the relevance of religion to current debates about ethics, politics, gender, and the arts in the Islamic world and beyond. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 350: Emptiness

    An exploration of the central concept of Mahayana Buddhism, shunyata, translated as emptiness. We will trace prefigurations of emptiness in early Buddhism, then examine its classical expression in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and the treatises of the Madhyamaka school, and its gnostic application in tantric traditions. Throughout, we will try to understand how the "emptiness factor" affects basic questions in Buddhist metaphysics, epistemology, meditation-theory, and ethics. Our primary focus will be on Indian and Tibetan texts, but we also will consider interpretations from East Asian and modern Buddhist writers, and reflect on emptiness vis รก vis Western philosophies. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Social Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2017 · N. Salomon
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2017 · K. Bloomer
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 371: The Poetics of Enlightenment

    Study of selected Asian and Western poetical texts that are purported to express the experience of spiritual illumination. The major focus will be on understanding a range of poems both in their cultural settings and as exemplars of human spirituality. We also will consider Asian and Western theories of "religious poetics;" cross-cultural views of the relation among poetry, holiness and madness; philosophical discussions of the connection between silence and speech; and studies of the nature of metaphor. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2016–2017
  • RELG 380: Radical Critiques of Christianity

    This course introduces students to some of the most radical critiques brought against the foundations of Christian theology (by philosophers and theologians, outsiders and insiders, alike) in the modern period. We examine critiques concerning the authority and historical veracity of scripture, the nature and status of Christian doctrines, the true meaning of faith, the relation between Christian theology and oppressive power, and the value of Christian morality. We also consider the work of Christian theologians who have embraced these critical perspectives and who have put them to use in their efforts to reform and redefine Christianity. Prerequisites: Prior coursework in philosophy or Christian theology is desirable, but there is no prerequisite for the course. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2016–2017
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2017 · M. McNally
  • RELG 400: Integrative Exercise

    3 credit; S/NC; offered Spring 2017 · M. McNally