Fall 2021: New Courses

View all religious studies course offerings.

Sensational Religion (RELST 2276)

MW 2:40-4:00. 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 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? Why is sound/music such an important part of religious rituals throughout history? What does it mean to touch or taste a relic? We will consider how "feeling" and "experience" are produced by religious ritual and practice. We will also discuss 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.

A Mediterranean Society and Its Culture (RELST 3530)

W 12:25-2:20. 4 credits. R. Brann.

This course examines the cultural and historical interaction of Muslims and Jews from the emergence of Islam in the seventh century through the classical age of Islam down to the turn of the thirteenth century. The intersection of the two cultures (scriptural, spiritual, intellectual, literary, communal, and interpersonal) and members of their respective religious communities will be studied through readings of primary texts (in translation). The course will conclude with some brief reflections on historical memory and the modern and contemporary significance of the two religious communities' interactions during the classical age of Islam.

On Paying Attention (RELST 3540)

MW 7:30-8:45 pm. 4 credits. C. Howie.

In the age of smartphones and Facebook, the competing claims made on our attention only seem to be multiplying. This course is an opportunity to think about and to enact certain practices of attentiveness and concentration, drawing largely from religious, literary, artistic, philosophical and anthropological sources. We’ll be trying various kinds of exercises - from reading poems and looking at paintings to eating more slowly - as we read about the ways in which our seneses reach out to the world, and as we think together about how technology may be used in ways that are not, strictly speaking, technological. This course is for students at all levels, from all backgrounds, graduate and undergraduate, with the understanding that we all need an excuse to slow down and observe the world - and ourselves - a little more carefully.

Secularism and the Minority Question (RELST 4485)

T 9:05-11:00. 4 credits. N. Raheja.

There is a vexed relationship between secular governance and the lived struggles of religious minorities. While proponents claim that secular reason is a solution to religious strife, recent scholarship has shown how modern secular governance has actually exacerbated religious tensions and hardened boundaries in liberal democracies. To understand this problem space, this seminar will begin with overviews of the anthropology of secularism, followed by genealogies of the religious minority form as a category of governance, and then shift to reading ethnographies that focus on religious minorities in contemporary liberal democracies cross-culturally. Concluding with an intensive focus on South Asia, we will analyze the possibilities and limits of state forms of recognition that enumerate religion, as it intersects with other axes of difference, in the context of majority-minority relations and people's everyday identifications.

Augustine (RELST 4665)

M 7:30-9:25 pm. 4 credits.

Topic: Augustine's philosophy of mind in De Trinitate.

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