Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook

Religion (REL)

REL 1004  (c, FYS)   In the Beginning There Was Gender? Religion and Gender in a Global Context  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

What role do religious traditions play in shaping perspectives of normal and abnormal when it comes to gender presentation? How do different religions decide on, enforce, or revise these norms? Is religion an obstacle to gender equality or a resource for thinking about and doing gender in diverse ways? Examines these questions by considering contested religious practices such as veiling and circumcision, Western feminist critiques of non-Western "patriarchy," Western appropriations of yoga, reports of spirit possession by women sweatshop workers, and sex-segregated religious spaces like Promise Keepers rallies. Includes general discussion of "religion" and "gender" categories.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2015.

REL 1008  (c, FYS)   Believers, Converts, and Apostates  

Jessica Mutter.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 16.
  

Examines conversion in various religions, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. Through primary and secondary source materials, students will explore historical and modern understandings and practices of conversion as a signifier, rite, or ritual of entrance or immersion into a religious tradition and its community. Students will read firsthand accounts of conversions, secondhand conversion narratives, attempts to define conversion, religious guidelines for conversion, and texts examining the implications of converting away from one community and into another. Among others, accounts of apostasy, coerced conversion, conversion for the purposes of marriage or inheritance, and conversions described as spiritual epiphanies will be examined. Students will also complete a writing-focused research project on conversion over the course of the semester. The project will incorporate a series of guided assignments for each step of the research project (proposal, annotated bibliography, draft, and presentation). This managed, writing-intensive research project will allow first-year students to develop their research and writing skills at the college level while familiarizing them with the resources Bowdoin has to offer for their research. This course questions how to define conversion and whether it is possible to formulate a universal definition for conversion across religions and cultures.

REL 1010  (c, FYS)   Religion and Identity in Modern India  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

Examines dynamic interrelationships between religious beliefs, practices, codes of behavior, organizations, and places and identity in India. Surveys religious texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Qur’an, which have shaped India’s competing political identities, and studies nationalist and revivalist movements leading up to India’s independence. Culminates in a role-playing game set in 1945 India, which uses innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past. Students argue in character adhering to religious and political views of historical figures to improve their skills in speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork. (Same as: ASNS 1026)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017.

REL 1013  (c, FYS)   God and Money  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

Money is frequently assumed to be antithetical to religion even as the two are utterly inseparable. This is what makes it a particularly useful category for exploring what counts as religion—concerns that are integral to the discipline of religious studies and central to humanistic inquiry more broadly. Considers money as a measure of time, as a way human communities construct relationships, as well as how it interacts with moral categories such as value, guilt, and obligation, and theological understandings of sin, debt, poverty, charity, and prosperity. Course readings and visual media consist of predominantly Christian sources with some comparison to other traditions and focus on the significance of money in modern life.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018.

REL 1027  (c, FYS)   Astral Religion in the Near East and Classical Antiquity  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

Investigates astral religion and its relationship to astrological forecasting. Begins with a study of early astronomy, ancient Near Eastern omen texts, and the role of celestial bodies in ancient Near Eastern religion. Moves to classical expositions of astrology such as the Tetrabiblos and critics of astrological forecasting such as Cicero. Concludes with the reception of astrology in Islamic civilization and the role of astral causation in Islamic thought.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2016.

REL 1101  (c, ESD)   Introduction to the Study of Religion  

Every Semester. Enrollment limit: 50.  

Basic concepts, methods, and issues in the study of religion, with special reference to examples comparing and contrasting Asian and Western religions. Lectures, films, discussions, and readings in a variety of texts such as scriptures, novels, and autobiographies, along with modern interpretations of religion in ancient and contemporary Asian and Western contexts..

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019, Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2015.

REL 1104  (b, ESD, IP)   Introduction to African Religions and Cultures  

Deji Ogunnaike.
Every Other Fall. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 50.
  

By 2050, more than one-quarter of the world’s population will live in Africa, and yet African people, cultures, and religions are more misunderstood than any other. This course provides an introduction to the varied and diverse peoples and cultures of Africa, taking religion as the starting point for their ways of life. Rather than providing a survey of specific regions and populations, we will focus on broader categories, such as cosmology, family and social structure, history, arts, gender and sexuality, and economics. We will examine the ways traditional forms of religion, Christianity, and Islam have played a fundamental role in shaping the realities of African societies as well as African diaspora traditions. This course is open to all students of all backgrounds and levels of knowledge about Africa. (Same as: AFRS 1104)

REL 1115  (c)   Religion, Violence, and Secularization  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 50.  

Certainly one of the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world is the issue of religious violence on a global scale. This course introduces students to the rationales and repercussions of the rise of the modern secular nation state as a solution to “religious violence.” In doing so, the course complicates the association of violence and backwardness with “religion” and peace and progress with “secularism.” Topics include the demarcations of state and church and public and private, the relationship between skepticism and toleration, the rise of so-called “fundamentalism,” the shifting assessments of the injuriousness of religious belief, speech and act, and the assumptions surrounding what it is that constitutes “real religion.”

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017.

REL 1142  (c)   Philosophy of Religion  

Scott Sehon.
Every Other Year. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 50.
  

Does God exist? Can the existence of God be proven? Can it be disproven? Is it rational to believe in God? What does it mean to say that God exists (or does not exist)? What distinguishes religious beliefs from non-religious beliefs? What is the relation between religion and science? Approaches these and related questions through a variety of historical and contemporary sources, including philosophers, scientists, and theologians. (Same as: PHIL 1442)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2015.

REL 1150  (c, IP)   Introduction to the Religions of the Middle East  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 50.  

Begins by showing how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the modern Middle East are intertwined closely with politics and with their local contexts. Case studies include modern Iran, Israel, and Lebanon. Investigates how the foundational texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were politically and socially constructed. Considers throughout the influence of other Middle Eastern religions.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019, Spring 2017, Spring 2016.

REL 1188  (c, IP)   Epics Across Oceans  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 50.  

Introduces students to the classic Indian epics that form a core literary and cultural tradition within South and Southeast Asia: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Examines how the epics were adapted across different kingships and polities in South and Southeast Asia, becoming part of the traditional culture of almost every part of this vast region. Since the royal patrons and the heroes of these epics were often linked, the manner in which the epics were told reveals the priorities of the different regions. Drawing on film, graphic novels, and multiple performance genres, explores the continuous reworking of these epics for both conservative and radical ends, from ancient India to the present day. (Same as: ASNS 1770)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018.

REL 2201  (c, ESD, VPA)   Black Women, Politics, Music, and the Divine  

Every Fall. Enrollment limit: 16.  

Seminar. Examines the convergence of politics and spirituality in the musical work of contemporary black women singer-songwriters in the United States. Analyzes material that interrogates and articulates the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality generated across a range of religious and spiritual terrains with African diasporic/black Atlantic spiritual moorings, including Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba. Focuses on material that reveals a womanist (black feminist) perspective by considering the ways resistant identities shape and are shaped by artistic production. Employs an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating ethnomusicology, anthropology, literature, history, and performance and social theory. Explores the work of Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters, Meshell Ndegeocello, Abby Lincoln, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dianne Reeves, among others. (Same as: AFRS 2201, GSWS 2207, MUS 2291)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2016, Fall 2015.

REL 2204  (c)   Science, Magic, and Religion  

Dallas Denery.
Every Other Year. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

Traces the origins of the scientific revolution through the interplay between late-antique and medieval religion, magic, and natural philosophy. Particular attention is paid to the conflict between paganism and Christianity, the meaning and function of religious miracles, the rise and persecution of witchcraft, and Renaissance hermeticism. Note: This course fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors. Note: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: Europe. It also meets the pre-modern requirement for history majors and minors.. (Same as: HIST 2040)

Prerequisites: HIST 1140.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2017.

REL 2207  (c, ESD)   Modern Judaism  

Every Other Spring. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Investigates the origins, development and current state of modern Judaism. Covers the emergence of modern movements such as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Hasidic Judaism and explores these movements’ debates over Jewish law and leadership and the connection of these debates to important Jewish texts. Concludes by examining contemporary questions such as Zionism, gender, sexuality, and Jews’ place in a multi-religious country.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017.

REL 2208  (c, IP)   Islam  

Jessica Mutter.
Every Other Year. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

With an emphasis on primary sources, pursues major themes in Islamic civilization from the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad until the present. From philosophy to political Islam, and from mysticism to Muslims in America, explores the diversity of a rapidly growing religious tradition.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2016.

REL 2215  (c, ESD)   The Hebrew Bible in Its World  

Todd Berzon.
Every Other Year. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

Close readings of chosen texts in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), with emphasis on its Near Eastern religious, cultural, and historical context. Attention is given to the Hebrew Bible’s literary forerunners (from c. 4000 B.C.E. onwards) to its successor, The Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 200 B.C.E. to 200 A.C.E.). Emphasis on creation and cosmologies, gods and humans, hierarchies, politics, and rituals.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017, Spring 2016.

REL 2216  (c, ESD)   The New Testament in Its World  

Every Other Year. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Situates the Christian New Testament in its Hellenistic cultural context. While the New Testament forms the core of the course, attention is paid to parallels and differences in relation to other Hellenistic religious texts: Jewish, (other) Christian, and pagan. Religious leadership, rituals, secrecy, philosophy of history, and salvation are some of the main themes.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017.

REL 2219  (c, ESD, IP)   Religion and Fiction in Modern South Asia  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Explains the nexus between religion and society in modern South Asia via the prism of South Asian literature in English. Confined to prose fiction, considering its tendency to attempt approximations of reality. Interrogates how ideas of religion and ideas about religion manifest themselves in literature and affect understanding of south Asian religions among its readership. Does not direct students to seek authentic insights into orthodox or doctrinal religion in the literary texts but to explore the tensions between textual religion and everyday lived reality in South Asia. (Same as: ASNS 2550)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2016.

REL 2220  (c, IP)   Hindu Literatures  

Claire Robison.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

In this exploration of Hindu texts, we delve into some of the most ancient and beloved literature from the Indian subcontinent. Students read major scriptural sources, including the Vedas and Upanishads. In our study of the epics (the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, including the Bhagavad Gita), we discuss translations from Sanskrit and popular retellings of these stories into other languages and media. We discuss the Puranas, reading the story of the warrior Goddess in the Devi Mahatmyam and investigate visual representations of gods and goddesses. We also sample Sanskrit classical poetry and devotional literature to the Goddess translated from Bengali. (Same as: ASNS 2552)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2016.

REL 2221  (c, IP)   Hindu Cultures  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

A consideration of various types of individual and communal religious practice and A consideration of various types of individual and communal religious practice and religious expression in Hindu tradition, including ancient ritual sacrifice, mysticism and yoga (meditation), dharma and karma (ethical and political significance), pilgrimage (as inward spiritual journey and outward ritual behavior), puja (worship of deities through seeing, hearing, chanting), rites of passage (birth, adolescence, marriage, and death), etc. Focuses on the nature of symbolic expression and behavior as understood from indigenous theories of religious practice. Religion 2220 is recommended as a previous course. (Same as: ASNS 2553)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2015.

REL 2222  (c, ESD, IP)   Theravada Buddhism  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

An examination of the major trajectories of Buddhist religious thought and practice as understood from a reading of primary and secondary texts drawn from the Theravada traditions of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma. (Same as: ASNS 2554)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017, Fall 2015.

REL 2223  (c, IP)   Mahayana Buddhism  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Studies the emergence of Mahayana Buddhist worldviews as reflected in primary sources of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese origins. Buddhist texts include the Buddhacarita (Life of Buddha), the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the Prajnaparamitra-hrdaya Sutra (Heart Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom), the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (the Lotus Sutra), the Sukhavati Vyuha (Discourse on the Pure Land), and the Vajraccedika Sutra (the Diamond-Cutter), among others. (Same as: ASNS 2551)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019, Fall 2017, Spring 2016.

REL 2225  (c, IP)   Tantric Traditions  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Developed in the Indian subcontinent in the second millennium CE, tantric traditions often used transgressive practices, which violated rules of ritual purity. Examines “esoteric” (tantric) religious traditions, which spanned the continuum between heterodox and orthodox Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism. Studies tantric doctrines, rituals, and cosmologies, analyzing the role of deities, mantras, yantras (ritual diagrams), mudras (ritual gestures), meditation, and visualizations in tantric ritual. Surveys scriptures, philosophical treatises, and historical and anthropological studies to discuss the rise of tantric traditions and investigate contemporary constructions of Tantra in the West. (Same as: ASNS 2739)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018.

REL 2228  (c, IP)   Militancy and Monasticism in South and Southeast Asia  

Christine Marrewa.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

Examines monastic communities throughout South and Southeast Asia and the ways they have been at the forefront of right-wing religious politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Across Asia, Hindu and Buddhist monks have been playing a political role that some consider contradictory to their spiritual image. Investigates how various monastic communities harness political power today, as well as how different communities in early-modern Asia used their spiritual standing and alleged supernatural powers to influence emperors and kings. (Same as: ASNS 2601)

REL 2229  (c)   Religion on the Move: Religion, Migration, and Globalization  

Claire Robison.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

Contemporary migration and globalization patterns have transformed where and how religious traditions are practiced, radically altering the landscape of local religion around the world. While migration has been integral to the development of many religious traditions, this course considers the role of colonialism, transnational religious networks, and the global flow of people and ideas in the creation of new religious identities. Readings highlight debates about the relation of religion to gender, ethnicity, and nationality, including the global popularity of yoga, Hindu identity in diaspora, transnational networks of Islamic learning, and changing gender norms in Buddhist monasteries. Through historical primary sources and recent ethnographies, this course focuses on questions such as: How is religious identity transformed by migration? Do religious rituals change in diaspora? And what role does religion play in shaping trends of globalization? (Same as: ASNS 2831)

REL 2230  (c, ESD)   Human Sacrifice  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Uses the practice of human sacrifice to investigate the relationship between religion and violence. As an act of choreographed devotion, sacrifice implicates notions of debt, transformation, exchange, purification, sacredness, death, and rebirth. It is a ritual designed to destroy for an effect, for an explicit if often intangible gain. On the one hand, human sacrifice involves all of these same issues and yet, on the other, it magnifies them by thrusting issues of agency, autonomy, and choice into the mixture. Must a sacrificial victim go peaceably? Otherwise, would the act simply be murder? Investigates the logic of human sacrifice. How have religions across history conceptualized and rationalized the role and status of the human victim? Considers a diverse range of examples from the Hebrew Bible, Greek tragedies, the New Testament, science fiction, epics, missionary journals and travelogues, horror films, and war diaries.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2015.

REL 2232  (c, IP)   Approaches to the Qur'an  

Every Other Spring. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Explores a variety of approaches to and interpretations of the Qur’an, the foundational text of Islam. Special attention will be paid to the Qur’an’s doctrines, its role in Islamic law, its relationship to the Bible, and its historical context. While the Qur’an will be read entirely in English translation, explores the role of the Arabic Qur’an in the lives of Muslims worldwide.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018, Spring 2016.

REL 2235  (c, ESD)   Gender and Sexuality in Early Christianity  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Investigates the ways in which gender and sexuality can serve as interpretive lenses for the study of early Christian history, ideas, and practices. Can the history of early Christianity--from the apostle Paul to Augustine of Hippo--be rewritten as a history of gender and sexuality? In answer to that question, addresses a range of topics, including prophecy, sainthood, militarism, mysticism, asceticism, and martyrdom. In addition, by oscillating between close readings and contemporary scholarship about gender, feminism, masculinity, sexuality, and the body, looks beyond the world of antiquity. Aims to show how theories of and about sexuality and gender can fundamentally reorient understandings of Christian history. (Same as: GSWS 2231)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2016.

REL 2237  (c)   Judaism Under Islam  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Since the rise of Islam in the early seventh century C.E., Jews have lived in the Islamic world. The historical experience of these Jews has shaped their religious traditions in ways that have touched Jews worldwide. Places developments in Jewish liturgy, thought, and identity within the context of Islamic civilization. Answers the question of how Jews perceive themselves and Judaism with regard to Muslims and Islam. Analyzes the significance of the Jewish experience under Islam for current debates in Judaism and in Middle East politics.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2015.

REL 2239  (c, ESD)   Judaism in the Age of Empires  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

How did the Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian empires shape Jewish history? Investigates how ancient Judaism and Jewish society materialized under the successive rule of ancient empires. Analyzes both how the Jews existed as a part of and yet apart from the culture, religion, and laws of their imperial rulers. Readings include a cross-section of literature from antiquity--including the books of the Maccabees, the writings of Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, the New Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocalyptic literature, the “Mishnah,” and early Christian anti-Jewish polemic--to understand the process by which the Jews created Judaism as a religion in opposition to Christianity and Greco-Roman traditions.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2016.

REL 2242  (c, ESD, IP)   Death and Immortality in the Ancient World  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

How do different cultures respond to the oblivion caused by death—the loss of personhood, the deterioration of the body, and the fading memories of those who have died? What rituals and ideologies preserve the memory of the dead among the living? Is this commemoration a kind of immortality? Explores such questions and critically examines the nature of memory as it relates to ancient ideas about death and afterlife. Analyzes epic narrative, ritual texts, and material culture and compares traditions from Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017.

REL 2244  (c, ESD, IP)   War and the Bible  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

From the battle of Jericho to the apocalyptic wars of Revelation, the Bible is full of violent conflict between nations, peoples, and even gods. What ideologies of war underlie these depictions? How does the Bible define a just or holy war? What does the Bible consider a war crime? Why do gods fight for one side or another? Examines such issues in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Explores the relationship between warfare and gender, race, and class distinctions in the ancient world. Analyzes the ongoing influence of biblical warfare on modern discourse about armed conflict around the world.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018.

REL 2251  (c)   Christianity  

Every Other Fall. Enrollment limit: 35.  

An introduction to the diversity and contentiousness of Christian thought and practice. Explores this diversity through analyses of the conceptions, rituals, and aesthetic media that serve to interpret and embody understandings of Jesus, authority, body, family, and church. Historical and contemporary materials highlight not only conflicting interpretations of Christianity, but also the larger social conflicts that these interpretations reflect, reinforce, or seek to resolve.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019, Fall 2016.

REL 2252  (c)   Marxism and Religion  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Despite Karl Marx’s famous denunciation of religion as the opiate of the masses, Marxism and religion have become companionable in the last several decades. Examines this development through the works of thinkers and activists from diverse religious frameworks, including Catholicism and Judaism, which combine Marxist convictions and analyses with religious commitments in order to further their programs for social emancipation. Included are works by liberation theologians Hugo Assmann, Leonardo Boff, and José Miguez Bonino, and philosophers Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, and Cornel West.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019, Spring 2017.

REL 2253  (c, ESD)   Gender, Body, and Religion  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

A significant portion of religious texts and practices is devoted to the disciplining and gendering of bodies. Examines these disciplines including ascetic practices, dietary restrictions, sexual and purity regulations, and boundary maintenance between human and divine, public and private, and clergy and lay. Topics include desire and hunger, abortion, women-led religious movements, the power of submission, and the related intersections of race and class. Materials are drawn from Christianity, Judaism, Neopaganism, Voudou, and Buddhism. (Same as: GSWS 2256)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2017.

REL 2257  (c)   Christian Sexual Ethics  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

An examination of the historical development, denominational variety (e.g. Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon), and contemporary relevance of Christian teachings and practices regarding sex and sexuality. The course is designed to acquaint students with the centrality of sex to Christian notions of sin and virtue as well as with the broader cultural impact of Christian sexual ethics on the understanding and regulation of gender, the rise of secularization and “family values,” and public policy regarding marriage, contraception, reproductive technologies, sex work, and welfare. In addition, students will have opportunities to construct and test moral frameworks that address sexual intimacy and assault, the stigmatization of bodies (with regard to race, class, size, sexuality and disability), and the commoditization of sex and persons. Materials are drawn from the Bible, Church dogmatics, legal cases, contemporary ethicists and documentary film. (Same as: GSWS 2252)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018.

REL 2265  (c)   On Secular Authority: Religion and Politics in Western Thought  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Separating religion and politics is a hallmark of modernity. Yet what counts as religion or politics continues to be a point of conflict. Does politics imitate or even rival divine sovereignty? Is politics possible precisely because it is distinct from divine sovereignty? Does separation protect religion from politics or politics from religion? Examines how these notions came to be defined in relation to each other in Western thought, through theological works, political theory, court cases, and debates on secularism. While focusing on Christianity and its legacy, also examines the effects of this issue on Judaism and Islam in their confrontations with Christianity in modernity..

Previous terms offered: Spring 2016.

REL 2271  (c, ESD)   Spirit Come Down: Religion, Race, and Gender in America  

Every Spring. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Examines the ways religion, race, and gender shape people’s lives from the nineteenth century into contemporary times in America, with particular focus on black communities. Explores issues of self-representation, memory, material culture, embodiment, and civic and political engagement through autobiographical, historical, literary, anthropological, cinematic, and musical texts. (Same as: AFRS 2271, GSWS 2270)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2017, Spring 2016.

REL 2276  (c, ESD, IP)   Religion and the Unconscious  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Focuses on three central figures in psychology and religion: Sigmund Freud and his pupils C.G. Jung and Wilhelm Reich, none particularly "popular" at present. Studies selected writings by the three, then moves to William James on individual religious experience and to Islamic mysticism and an anthropological critique of the modern appropriation of the term "shamanism."

Previous terms offered: Fall 2015.

REL 2280  (c, ESD, IP)   Gods, Goddesses, and Gurus: Gender and Power in South Asian Religions  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Examines representations of gender, divinity, and power in cosmology, mythology, literature, and society in Hinduism and esoteric tantric traditions. Delving into India’s philosophical tradition, we discuss prakṛti, the feminine principle or nature, and the male or pure spirit, puruṣa. We analyze issues of authority and gender in Sanskrit epics, the Rāmāyana and the Mahābharata, as they are retold in vernacular languages, songs, and animated films. We learn how Kālī, the most militant goddess in the Devī Māhātmyam, serves in the cause of nationalist politics and how she is “sweetened” and democratized over time. The course culminates in a role-playing game “A virtuous woman? The Abolition of Sati in India, 1829,” which uses an innovative methodology called reacting to the past (RTTP). In RTTP, students research and articulate opinions of historical players through in-character writing and speaking assignments, learning to express themselves with clarity, precision, and force. (Same as: ASNS 2740, GSWS 2292)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019.

REL 2284  Religion and Ecofeminism in India and Sri Lanka  

Every Other Fall. Enrollment limit: 35.  .5 Credit  

Focuses on environmental predicaments faced by disadvantaged people (especially rural women and the agrarian and tribal poor) in contemporary India and Sri Lanka. Students read and discuss case studies that illustrate how various Hindu and Buddhist religious concepts, as well as various political discourses about nationhood, have been deployed by various actors (government, business, political organizations, environmental activists, and the disadvantaged themselves) in order to legitimate or critique the exploitation and alienation of natural resources (rivers, forests, and farm lands). Students write three short essays aimed at gaining an understanding of how issues germane to environmental degradation, economic development, and eco-feminism are understood specifically within contemporary South Asian social, cultural, and political contexts. This one-half credit course meets from September 2 thru October 26. (Same as: ASNS 2651, ENVS 2451, GSWS 2300)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2015.

REL 2287  (c, IP)   The Buddhist Tradition and Women  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Explores and explains the position of women in Buddhist canonical texts and women in Buddhist society. Analysis and discussion focuses on the complex “separate interdependence” between the family on the one hand, and the life of the renouncer on the other. This tension lies at the heart of the Buddhist position on women. Special attention given to selected narratives of women encountering the Buddha: Patacara and Kisagotami, the two women in deep sorrow from loss in the family, and Maha-Pajapati, the first fully ordained nun in Buddhism. Considers implications for the economic roles, access to education, and religious freedom for women in contemporary (Thai) Buddhist society. (Same as: ASNS 2760, GSWS 2355)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2017.

REL 2288  (c, IP)   Religious Culture and Politics in Southeast Asia  

Every Other Year. Enrollment limit: 35.  

An examination of the ways in which changes in political economies and societies of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia have fostered changes in the predominantly Theravada Buddhist religious cultures of modern Southeast Asia. Includes how civil wars in Sri Lanka and Burma, revolutions in Laos and Cambodia, and the ideology of kingship in Thailand have elicited changes in the public practice of religion. Previous credit in Religion 2222 (same as Asian Studies 2554) highly recommended. (Same as: ASNS 2555)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2016.

REL 2289  (c, IP)   Construction of Goddess and Deification of Women in Hindu Tradition  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Focuses include an examination of the manner in which the power of the feminine has been expressed mythologically and theologically in Hinduism; how various categories of goddesses can be seen or not as the forms of the “great goddess”; and how Hindu women have been deified, a process that implicates the relationship between the goddess and women. Readings may include primary sources, biographies and myths of deified women, and recent scholarship on goddesses and deified women. (Same as: ASNS 2501, GSWS 2289)

Previous terms offered: Fall 2016.

REL 2300  (c, ESD)   Religious Conversion  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Examines conversion in various religions, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. Through primary and secondary source materials, students will explore historical and modern understandings and practices of conversion as a signifier, rite, or ritual of entrance or immersion into a religious tradition and its community. Students will read firsthand accounts of conversions, secondhand conversion narratives, attempts to define conversion, religious guidelines for conversion, and texts examining the implications of converting away from one community and into another. Among others, accounts of apostasy, coerced conversion, conversion for the purposes of marriage or inheritance, and conversions described as spiritual epiphanies will be examined. Questions how to define conversion and whether it is possible to formulate a universal definition for conversion across religions and cultures.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019.

REL 2350  (c, ESD, IP)   Myth in Arabic Literature: From the Qur’ān to Modern Poetry and Prose  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

Examines various myths in Arabic literature in translation. Discusses how myths of different origins (Ancient Near East, Greco-Roman Mediterranean, Ancient Arabia, Iran, India, Judeo-Christian traditions) have been reinterpreted and used in Arabic-speaking cultures from the sixth until the twenty-first century, to deal with questions such as the struggle of people against gods, their defiance against fate, their quest for salvation, their pursuit of a just society, and their search for identity. Explores various genres of Arabic literature from the Qur’an, the hadith (i.e., prophetic sayings), ancient and modern poetry, medieval prose and travel literature, "1001 Nights", Egyptian shadow theater, and modern short stories and novels. In this way, presents Arabic literature as global, rooted in different ancient traditions and dealing with the perennial questions of humanity. (Same as: ARBC 2350, CLAS 2350)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019.

REL 2484  (c, ESD, IP)   Deities in Motion: Afro-Diasporic Religions  

Deji Ogunnaike.
Every Other Fall. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 16.
  

Religion has been central not only in the lives of members of the Black Atlantic World and also in terms of the formation of this world. This class provides a survey of some of the most prominent Afro-Atlantic diasporic religions such as Haïtian Vodou, Brazilian Candomblé, Trinidadian Shango, and Cuban Santería/Regla de Ocha and also explores the particular dynamics of the Religion has been central not only in the lives of members of the Black Atlantic World but also in terms of the formation of this world. This class provides a survey of some of the most prominent Afro-Atlantic diasporic religions, such as Haïtian Vodou, Brazilian Candomblé, Trinidadian Shango, and Cuban Santería/Regla de Ocha, and also explores the particular dynamics of the African religious diaspora. Complicating common assumptions about relations between diaspora and homeland as well as what constitutes a religion, it addresses issues of authenticity and authority, ancestrality, race, gender, transnationalism, and even problematic (mis)representations in Western society and pop culture. We will also pay close attention to the important and complicated role that the transatlantic slave trade played in the formation of these Atlantic societies and aspects of these religious traditions, such as conceptions of God and divinities, syncretism, divination, and spirit possession. (Same as: AFRS 2384)

REL 2520  (c)   Popular Religion in the Americas  

Joshua Urich.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

What makes a particular religious practice “popular” and what does “popular” religion indicate about the future of religion in America? This course explores the relationship between institutional religion and popular religion––sometimes labeled “lived” or “vernacular” religion––in the Americas. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which popular religious practices challenge or complement institutional religion in the lives of practitioners. Readings will focus on social, economic, and political aspects of popular religious practices, examining the ways they challenge or reinforce categories like class, race, and gender. Topics may include the Mexican saint of death (Santa Muerte), the emergence of the designation “spiritual but not religious,” Sherlock Holmes fan culture, the veneration of science and scientists.

REL 2522  (c)   Buddhism in America  

Joshua Urich.
Non-Standard Rotation. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 35.
  

Examines the two major strands of Buddhism in America: that of immigrant communities and that which is practiced by Americans without preexisting cultural ties to Buddhist traditions. After a brief introduction to Buddhism’s emergence and spread in the first millennium, readings trace the differences between these varieties of American Buddhism. Themes to be explored include temples as sources of material, emotional, and spiritual support, Buddhist practices as source of cultural identity and connection to homelands, and religious innovations and controversies among American “converts.” These latter include the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the widespread commercialization of Zen. (Same as: ASNS 2839)

REL 2745  (c, IP)   The Tigress' Snare: Gender, Yoga, and Monasticism in South and Southeast Asia  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 35.  

There is no dearth of stories regarding the dangers of women and sexuality for Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Nath yogis and ascetics. Texts after texts written on ancient, classical, and early modern Asian monasticism point to the evil of women and the dangers they pose to those attempting to live monastic lives. Women, however, have historically been and continue to be involved in these religious traditions. This class will examine the highly gendered worldview found within South and Southeast Asian yogic and monastic texts. Primarily reading Hindu, Nath yogi, Jain, and Buddhist canonical teachings, the class will discuss the manner in which women have historically been viewed within these religious traditions. It will then shift to look at the manner in which women have been and continue to take part in these communities in their everyday life. Through the use of both academic readings and multimedia texts, the class will examine how women navigate their roles within these male-dominated communities, their reasons for joining these communities, and the differences that exist for women within the different monastic and yogic communities. (Same as: ASNS 2745, GSWS 2745)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019.

REL 3310  (c)   Religious Toleration and Human Rights  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

Is toleration a response to difference we cannot do without or is it simply a strategy for producing religious subjectivities that are compliant with liberal political rule? Is toleration a virtue like forgiveness or a poor substitute for justice? Examines the relationship between early modern European arguments for toleration and the emergence of universal human rights as well as the continuing challenges that beset their mutual implementation. Some of these challenges include confronting the Christian presuppositions of liberal toleration, accommodating the right to religious freedom while safeguarding cultural diversity by prohibiting proselytism, and translating arguments for religious toleration to the case for nondiscrimination of sexual orientations and relationships. In addition to case studies and United Nations documents, course readings include selections from Locke, Marx, Heyd, Walzer, Brown, Pellegrini, and Richards.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2018.

REL 3325  (c)   Deadly Words: Language and Power in the Religions of Antiquity  

Non-Standard Rotation. Enrollment limit: 16.  

In the ancient Mediterranean world, speech was fraught with danger and uncertainty. Words had enormous power—not just the power to do things but a tangible power as things. Words attached themselves to people as physical objects. They lived inside them and consumed their attention. They set events in motion: war, conversion, marriage, death, and salvation. This course investigates the precarious and deadly presence of oral language in the religious world of late antiquity (150 CE to 600 CE). Focusing on evidence from Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources—rabbinic literature, piyyutim, curse tablets, amulets, monastic sayings, creeds, etc.—students will come to understand the myriad ways in which words were said to influence and infect religious actors. For late ancient writers, words were not fleeting or ethereal, but rather quite tactile objects that could be felt, held, and experienced. It is the physical encounter with speech that orients this course. (Same as: CLAS 3325)

Previous terms offered: Spring 2019.

REL 3333  (c)   Islam and Science  

Every Other Year. Enrollment limit: 15.  

Surveys the history of science, particularly medicine and astronomy, within Islamic civilization. Pays special attention to discussions of science in religious texts and to broader debates regarding the role of reason in Islam. Emphasizes the significance of this history for Muslims and the role of Western civilization in the Islamic world. Students with a sufficient knowledge of Arabic may elect to read certain texts in Arabic.

Previous terms offered: Spring 2017.

REL 3390  (c)   Theories about Religion  

Todd Berzon.
Every Fall. Fall 2019. Enrollment limit: 16.
  

Seminar focusing on how religion has been explained and interpreted from a variety of intellectual and academic perspectives, from the sixteenth century to the present. In addition to a historical overview of religion’s interpretation and explanation, also includes consideration of postmodern critiques and the problem of religion and violence in the contemporary world.

Prerequisites: REL 1101.

Previous terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016, Fall 2015.