Below are a few highlighted fall 2017 course offerings in the Religious Studies Program.
RELST 2273 Introduction to Religious Studies (REQUIRED FOR THE MAJOR)
(crosslisted) ASIAN 2273, NES 2273
Topic: Sensational Religion
3 credits K. Haines-Eitzen
This course explores the relationships between the senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting), emotions (fear, happiness, sadness, etc.), and religion, especially religious practices and experience in history and our contemporary world. We will begin by investigating how religious rituals engage the senses, asking questions like how and why is incense (and other smells) used in a variety of religious traditions? How does seeing an icon or a statue affect a religious viewer? Why is sound/music such an important part of religious rituals throughout history? What does it mean to touch or taste a relic? Since the senses are interwoven with the emotions, our work will consider carefully how “feeling” and “experience” are produced by religious ritual and practice. After exploring the senses and religious rituals, we will turn to the controversial aspects of religious sensationalism: why does our contemporary media gravitate towards stories that “sensationalize” religion? Stories of violent fundamentalism and secretive religious societies grip our modern media and, it can be argued, also fueled much ancient discord and controversy about religious thought and practice. Our goal will be to look expansively across time periods and cultures as well as to focus more deeply on several case studies. Readings include scriptural sources from a variety of world religions, historical sources about religious controversies, modern affect theory, case-specific historical works, and contemporary media (e.g., newspapers, TV, film, etc.).
RELST 2617 Islam and Politics: Between an Islamic State and Daily Life
(crosslisted) NES 2607, HIST 2607
3 credits A. Rock-Singer
In the early twentieth century, a series of movements arose in the Middle East and South Asia, calling Muslims to return to Islam. Today, leaders and members of such groups –now known as Islamists –insist that one cannot live a fully Islamic life in the absence of an Islamic state. How and why did these movements come to focus on building an Islamic state? When did Islam come to be seen as indivisible from Politics, and what does it mean for Islam and Politics to be related? Are contemporary claims to Islam as the basis for political action consistent with the ways in which Muslims have understood their core texts historically? This course will introduce students to the study of Religion and Politics in Islamic History, beginning with the early Islamic community under the rule of the Prophet Muhammad, stretching through a period of rule that saw multiple Islamic Caliphates, and finally, reaching the present day. The bulk of this course, however, will focus on the diverse ways in which Muslims in the twentieth and twenty first centuries have laid claim to their religion as a template for political and social action. In particular, it will push students to consider how Muslim men and women live religion in their daily lives, whether through dress, prayer, or facial hair, and how these claims to religion shape political systems from the ground up.
RELST 3310 Heavens, Hells, and Purgatories: Buddhist and Christian Notions of the Afterlife
(crosslisted) ASIAN 3310
4 credits D. Boucher
This course will explore a variety of ways people have envisioned and prepared for the afterlife. We will concentrate on how Buddhists and Christians have described supreme states of bliss, have warned their followers of the perils of perdition, and have guided them through states in between. We will seek to understand both the religious doctrines and social practices that support and contest such notions so as to situate these views within their historical contexts.