Chair: Beth Berkowitz (Professor)
Professors: Elizabeth Castelli, Najam Haider, John Stratton Hawley
Assistant Professors: Tiffany Hale, Gale Kenny

Other officers of the University offering courses listed below:

Professors: Gil Anidjar, Peter Awn, Courtney Bender, Euan Cameron, Matthew Engelke, Katherine Ewing, Bernard Faure, Rachel McDermott, David (Max) Moerman, Wayne Proudfoot, Robert Somerville, Mark C. Taylor, Robert Thurman
Associate Professors:  Michael Como, Josef Sorett, Yannik Thiem
Assistant Professors: Clémence Boulouque, Zhaohua Yang

Requirements for the Major

The department's strengths in comparative study, textual and social analysis, philosophy, theory, and cultural history allow students to balance close study in one area with a broad investigation of the field we name "religion." Working closely with an advisor in the department, majors construct a cluster of five courses that relate to one another in a coherent fashion (#1, below) and support the senior thesis. To complement this depth, they select three courses that lend breadth to their studies in religion (#2). Students considering Religion as a major should contact the chair or a member of the department in their sophomore year to begin planning their programs.
The Religion major requires twelve courses, as follows:

1) Major cluster: five courses, including one seminar. As many as two of these courses may come from other departments, and individually supervised research (UN 3901-2: Guided Readings) may also be included. This cluster of courses may be organized around a particular tradition or geographic area: Hinduism, Islam, Religion in America, etc. Alternatively, students may design clusters that focus on a set of related subjects and concerns, such as: Religion in New York; Religion in theory and practice; Religion and culture; Religious texts and histories; Religion and migration; Religion, women, gender; and Religion, race, nation, ethnicity.

Yet these are only exemplary. Students are urged to design their own clusters, supplementing departmental listings with religion-related courses posted on the Barnard Religion Department's website as Religion Related Courses. Courses taken outside of the religion department must be approved by the student's adviser or department chair. Several sample majors are posted on the Barnard Religion Department's website.

2) Breadth: three Religion courses - either lecture or seminar - that lend geographical, historical, and/or disciplinary range to a student's program.

3) One semester of the course entitled “Religion Lab” (Religion GU4905), which focuses on methods, strategies, and materials utilized in the field of religious studies.  Through guided exercises and selected exemplary readings, students learn research skills for locating and identifying primary and secondary sources.  They are also exposed to important scholarly frameworks necessary for properly analyzing these sources.  Majors are encouraged to take this course by their junior year as it serves to prepare them for their senior thesis.

4) One semester of the course entitled “Theory” (UN3799), engaging major theoretical issues in the field.

5) The two-semester Senior Research Seminar (BC 3997-8), which must be taken in sequence, beginning in autumn and continuing through the spring, and which structures the experience of preparing a senior thesis. Students work together in this seminar to develop, critique, and accomplish their research projects, submitting a formal proposal and partial draft in the fall, and completing the research and writing in the spring.

Language Courses: Students may fulfill up to two of their required twelve courses through language study pending department approval.  If a language is considered vital or important to a student’s major concentration, she may petition for credit with 1 year (two semesters) of courses counting as one course towards the religion major.

To summarize:

5 courses – Concentration
3 courses – Breadth
1 course –Religion Lab
1 course –Theory
2 courses – Senior Seminar

The department encourages study abroad, particularly in summers or in one semester of the junior year, and is eager to help facilitate internships and funded research. These possibilities often contribute very meaningfully to the senior essay project.

Minors and Combined Majors

A Religion minor comprises five Religion courses at any level, one of which must be RELI GU4105 Religion Lab. In addition, students are encouraged to include among the remaining four courses at least one seminar. Students intending to minor in Religion should contact the department chair.

Combined majors are offered with the programs in Human Rights and in Jewish Studies.

Curriculum 2020-21

Introduction

We are excited to introduce our department's new curriculum for the Academic Year 2020-21. Students should note that this curriculum includes courses offered over three-semesters (including Summer A/B), as well as several new immersive classes that will be offered over a 8-week period. Please note that this schedule may be subject to change, and students are encouraged not only to revisit this page but also to confirm the course listings in the online Directory of Classes

Our departmental immersive courses will cover a semester's worth of material in a shorter period of time and will meet for twice as many hours per week, allowing students to take fewer courses at the same time and a more sustained focus on course content.  

Please feel free to contact your major advisor with any questions you may have about your academic schedule.

Fall 2020 Schedule

  • Full semester courses will be held from Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - Wednesday December 23, 2020.
  • Fall A courses will be held from Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - Friday, October 23, 2020.
  • Fall B courses will be held from Monday, October 26, 2020 - Wednesday, December 23, 2020.
  • Course descriptions, sections and times, can be found in the online Directory of Classes

Fall 2020 - Full Semester Courses

RELI UN2306 Intro to Judaism. 3 points.

A historical overview of Jewish belief and practice as these have crystallized and changed over the centuries. Special attention to ritual and worship, the forms of religious literature, central concepts, religious leadership and institutions, Israel among the nations.

Fall 2020: RELI UN2306
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2306 001/00551 T Th 8:45am - 9:55am
Room TBA
Beth Berkowitz 3 76/75

RELI BC3997 Senior Research Seminar. 4 points.

Working research seminar devoted to helping students produce a substantive piece of writing that will represent the culmination of their work at the College and in the major.

Fall 2020: RELI BC3997
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3997 001/00603 W 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
Gale Kenny 4 6/12

RELI GU4105 Religion Lab. 4 points.

Discussion Section Required

In their research, scholars of religion employ a variety of methods to analyze "texts" ranging from historical documents to objects of visual culture. This course acquaints students with both the methods and the materials utilized in the field of religious studies. Through guided exercises, they acquire research skills for utilizing sources and become familiarized with dominant modes of scholarly discourse. The class is organized around a series of research "scavenger hunts" that are due at the start of each week's class and assigned during the discussion section (to be scheduled on the first day of class). Additional class meeting on Thursdays.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4105
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4105 001/00625 T 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Tiffany Hale 4 2/15

RELI GU4999 GLOBAL INDIGENOUS RELIGIOUS HISTORIES. 4.00 points.

Nomads, natives, peasants, hill people, aboriginals, hunter-gatherers, First Nations—these are just a handful of the terms in use to define indigenous peoples globally. The names these groups use to describe themselves, as well as the varying religious practices, attitudes, and beliefs among these populations are far more numerous and complex. For much of recorded history however, colonial centers of power have defined indigenous peoples racially and often in terms of lacking religion; as pagan, barbarian, non-modern, and without history or civilization. Despite this conundrum of identity and classification, indigenous religious traditions often have well-documented and observable pasts. This course considers the challenges associated with studying indigenous religious history, as well as the changing social, political, and legal dimensions of religious practice among native groups over time and in relationship to the state. Organized thematically and geographically, we will engage with classic works of ethnohistory, environmental history, indigenous studies, anthropology, and religious studies as well as primary sources that include legal documentation, military records, personal testimony, and oral narrative

Fall 2020 - Semester A

RELI UN2305 Islam. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

An introduction to the Islamic religion in its premodern and modern manifestations.  The first half of the course concentrates on “classical” Islam, beginning with the life of the Prophet, and extending to ritual, jurisprudence, theology, and mysticism.  The second half examines how Muslims have articulated Islam in light of colonization and the rise of a secular modernity.  The course ends with a discussion of American and European Muslim attempts at carving out distinct spheres of identity in the larger global Muslim community.  

Fall 2020: RELI UN2305
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2305 001/00759 M W 1:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Najam Haider 4 5/20

RELI UN3321 Religion and Climate Crisis: India. 4 points.

Connections between dramatic climate assaults and religious practices and perspectives, taking Hindu India as an example: glaciers and floods, extreme weather, overpopulation, air and water pollution, deforestation. Hindu contexts, causes, and responses.

Fall 2020: RELI UN3321
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3321 001/00624 M T W Th 2:40pm - 3:55pm
Room TBA
John Hawley 4 8/20

RELI UN3322 Religion & Climate Crisis: India - Discussion. 0 points.

This is the discussion section for RELI UN3321. You must register for that course before registering for this course.

RELI GU4120 GENDER IN ANC CHRISTIANITY. 4.00 points.

This seminar considers the difference gender makes in interpreting ancient Christian texts, ideas, and practices. Topics will include gender hierarchy and homoeroticism, prophecy and authority, outsiders’ views of Christianity, bodily pieties such as martyrdom and asceticism, and gender politics in the establishment of church offices. Emphasis will be placed on close readings of primary sources and selected scholarly framings of these sources

Fall 2020: RELI GU4120
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4120 001/00570 M W 6:10pm - 8:00pm
Room TBA
Elizabeth Castelli 4.00 15/15

RELI GU4322 Exploring the Sharia: Topics in Islamic Law. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

The platform of every modern Islamist political party calls for the implementation of the sharia. This term is invariably (and incorrectly) interpreted as an unchanging legal code dating back to 7th century Arabia. In reality, Islamic law is an organic and constantly evolving human project aimed at ascertaining God's will in a given historical and cultural context. This course offers a detailed and nuanced look at the Islamic legal methodology and its evolution over the last 1400 years. The first part of the semester is dedicated to classical Islamic jurisprudence, concentrating on the manner in which jurists used the Qur'an, the Sunna (the model of the Prophet), and rationality to articulate a coherent legal system. The second part of the course focuses on those areas of the law that engender passionate debate and controversy in the contemporary world. Specifically, we examine the discourse surrounding Islamic family (medical ethics, marriage, divorce, women's rights) and criminal (capital punishment, apostasy, suicide/martyrdom) law. The course concludes by discussing the legal implications of Muslims living as minorities in non-Islamic countries and the effects of modernity on the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4322
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4322 001/00602 T Th 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
Najam Haider 4 9/15

Fall 2020 - Semester B

RELI UN3202 Religion in America I. 3 points.

This course offers a survey of American religions from the 1500s through the mid-1800s. We examine the politics of conversion in different kinds of colonialisms; the different strands of Christianity in early America and their cultural contexts; the emergence of evangelical Protestantism; the effects of religious disestablishment in the early republic; and the relationship between religion and social movements.

Fall 2020: RELI UN3202
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3202 001/00571 M T W Th 6:10pm - 7:25pm
Room TBA
Gale Kenny 3 23/24

RELI GU4304 Krishna. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Study of a single deity in the Hindu pantheon as illuminated in art, music, dance, drama, theological treatises, patterns of ritual, and texts both classic and modern. Special attention to Krishna's consort Radha, to Krishna's reception in the West, and to his portrayal on Indian television.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4304
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4304 001/00622 M Th 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
John Hawley 4 7/12

Spring 2021 Schedule

  • Spring semester courses will be held from Monday, January 11, 2021 - Monday, April 26, 2021.
  • Spring A courses will be held from Monday, January 11, 2021 - Friday, February 26, 2021.
  • Spring B courses will be held from Monday, March 8, 2021 - Monday, April 26, 2021.
  • Course descriptions, sections and times, will be available in advance of early registration in November 2020.

Spring 2021 - Full Semester Courses

Spring
RELI BC3998
 - SENIOR RESEARCH SEMINAR (G. Kenny)
 
RELI UN2309
 - HINDUISM (J. Hawley)
 
RELI UN2779
 - INTRODUCTION TO NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS (T. Hale)
 
RELI UN3203
 - RELIGION IN AMERICA II (G. Kenny)
 
RELI GU4998
 - RELIGION AND THE INDIAN WARS (T. Hale)
 

New for Spring 2021 - Full Semester Courses

RELI UN2XXX: Religion and Human Rights - T. Vasko
RELI GU4XXX: Doctrine of Discovery - T. Vasko

Spring 2021 - Semester A

Spring
RELI UN3199
 - THEORY (B. Berkowitz)
 
RELI S4619
 - ISLAM IN POPULAR CULTURE (N. Haider)
 

Summer 2021

  • Summer A courses will be held from Monday, May 3, 2021 - Friday, June 18, 2021.
  • Summer B courses will be held from Monday, June 28, 2021 - Monday, August 16, 2021.
  • Course descriptions, sections and times, will be available in advance of Summer registration in April 2021.

Summer 2021 - Semester A

SummerPoints
RELI UN2305
 - ISLAM (N. Haider)
4
RELI GU4509
 - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN JEWISH CULTURE (B. Berkowitz)
4
 8
Total Points: 8
Summer 2021 - Semester B
Summer
RELI GU4205
 - LOVE TRANSLATED: HINDUI BHAKTI (J. Hawley)
 

Courses of Instruction 

RELI BC3997 Senior Research Seminar. 4 points.

Working research seminar devoted to helping students produce a substantive piece of writing that will represent the culmination of their work at the College and in the major.

Fall 2020: RELI BC3997
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3997 001/00603 W 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
Gale Kenny 4 6/12

RELI BC3998 Senior Research Seminar. 8 points.

One year course - 4 points per term.

Working research seminar devoted to helping students produce a substantive piece of writing that will represent the culmination of their work at the College and in the major.

RELI UN1310 God. 3 points.

What is religion? And what does God have to do with it? This course will seek to engage a range of answers to these questions. The class is not a survey of all religious traditions. Rather, it will address religion as a comparative problem between traditions as well as between scholarly and methodological approaches. We will engage the issue of perspective in, for example, the construction of a conflict between religion and science, religion and modernity, as well as some of the distinctions now current in the media between religion, politics, economics and race.  And we will wonder about God and gods.

Fall 2020: RELI UN1310
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 1310 001/11196 M W 10:10am - 11:25am
Online Only
Gil Anidjar 3 39/60

RELI UN1312 Religion in Black America: An Introduction. 4 points.

Religion has been a complicated and contested, yet central, organizing force in the making of black life in the America. At the same time, African American religious life has been the subject of much scrutiny throughout the history of the United States, serving arguments that advocated abolition, emancipation and full enfranchisement, but also functioning as evidence to justify enslavement and second-class citizenship. To better understand such phenomena, this course provides a chronological survey that introduces students to a range of ideas and practices, individuals and institutions, as well as important themes and topics in African American (thus American) religious history. Primary attention is given to Afro-Protestantism in the United States; however, throughout the course attention is directed to religious diversity and varying religious traditions/practices in different diasporic locales.  By the end of the semester students will be expected to possess a working knowledge of major themes/figures/traditions in African American religious life, as well as key questions that have shaped the study thereof.

RELI UN1320 Losing My Religion. 3.00 points.

The R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe explained that the phrase “losing my religion” in the song of the same title does not refer to what we might commonly understand by “religion.” Rather it cites the expression used in the Southern U.S. for losing one’s temper, feeling frustrated, exasperated, and desperate. The loss present in John Legend and Common’s song “Glory” from the movie Selma are the lives lost to the unattenuated history of racist violence and in the struggle against structural white supremacy. In this context, for Blacks “freedom is like religion.” Like religion. Even if the song does not shy away from Christian theological tropes, “religion” here too remains elusive. Living through a major global pandemic as we are (although arguably, racism and capitalism are also ongoing—albeit mostly unacknowledged—global pandemics), we are witnessing the losses attributable to Covid-19 precipitating changing practices and rituals of marking losses, mourning, and building community in the present. Apart from impacting practices that we generally term “religious,” loss and living with losses also reveal what may have been our individual and collective “religion” lost and what may emerge as the “religions” we hew to newly or nonetheless. In this course we will explore how various meanings of “religion” might offer us conceptual tools for thinking about loss, community, and damaged life. We will examine how religious practices change in relation to losses and reflect on losses of religion both personally (e.g., because one’s hitherto familiar value system breaks down) and collectively (e.g., the forced conversions and suppression of religious traditions by colonialism). We will track how loss and rituals surrounding loss can change how history, time, space, and meaning are experienced. We will ask what if anything comes after or alongside loss, especially given the perdurance of loss that is brought about by centuries of systemic violence. Given the circumstances of our moment, we will also take time to reflect on the (hopefully only temporary) loss of face-to-face communal learning in a shared classroom and what new rituals of virtual learning mean for building communities and relating to others and the world. Rather than trying to settle on definitive answers, this course will cultivate a process of open-ended collective inquiry in which students will be encouraged to think autonomously and to challenge facile solutions. Students should come away from the course with an expanded sense of how we grapple with issues related to loss, damaged life, community, complicated and violent pasts, the precarity of the present, vanishing futures and how religion and religious formations are entangled with these issues well beyond religious communities. Ideally, students should experience this course as enlarging the set of critical tools at their disposal for creative and rigorous thinking

RELI UN1610 Religion and Popular Culture. 3 points.

When we hear "pop culture," we often think of it in comparison to a "high culture."  In reality, popular culture is something that everyone has easy access to, and represents a common language of the people.  religion permeates American popular culture in surprising ways, and is part of national vocabulary.  In addition, religious communities turn to popular culture as a way to preserve their own identities and uniqueness in the face of homogenization and assimilation.....

RELI UN1612 Religion and the History of Hip Hop. 4.00 points.

This is an undergraduate lecture course introducing students to the study of religion through an engagement with the history of hip hop music. More specifically, this course is organized chronologically to narrate a history of religion in the United States (circa 1970 to the present day) by mapping the ways that a variety of religious ideas and practices have animated rap music’s evolution and expansion during this time period. While there are no required prerequisites for the course, prior coursework in religious studies, African American studies, and/or popular music is helpful.

RELI UN1615 Vampires. 3 points.

Do you believe in vampires? Like ghosts and zombies, vampires circulate in a secularized world and few are those who would speak of a “vampire religion.” This course will attempt to do that. It will ask about the ubiquitous figure of the vampire, insofar as it evokes the ancient and the archaic, the modern and the postmodern. With Bram Stoker’s Dracula as our guide, and with the help of film, we will explore the religious significance of vampires and what they mean for the salvation — or perdition — of the soul. We will wonder about vampires and sexuality, vampires and media, vampires and (geo-)politics, and even vampires and the economy.

RELI UN1620 Religion and the Movies. 3 points.

This class is an introduction to both film and religious studies and aims to explore their interaction. Ranging from auteurs to blockbusters, the course will analyze movies that make use of the sacred and of religious themes, figures or metaphors. The course will probe the definitions and boundaries of religion -as theology, myth, ideology- and will show students how religion remains a critical presence in the arts, even in a secular guise. We will look at the ways in which popular culture can serve religious functions in contemporary society and examine how faith is represented in popular culture.

RELI UN2205 Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan. 4 points.

Recitation Section Required

Historical introduction to Buddhist thought, scriptures, practices, and institutions. Attention given to Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism in India, as well as selected non-Indian forms.

Fall 2020: RELI UN2205
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2205 001/11201 T Th 1:10pm - 2:25pm
Online Only
Thomas Yarnall 4 60/90

RELI UN2304 Christianity. 3 points.

Survey of Christianity from its beginnings through the Reformation. Based on lectures and discussions of readings in primary source translations, this course will cover prominent developments in the history of Christianity. The structure will allow students to rethink commonly held notions about the evolution of modern Christianity with the texture of historical influence.

RELI UN2305 Islam. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

An introduction to the Islamic religion in its premodern and modern manifestations.  The first half of the course concentrates on “classical” Islam, beginning with the life of the Prophet, and extending to ritual, jurisprudence, theology, and mysticism.  The second half examines how Muslims have articulated Islam in light of colonization and the rise of a secular modernity.  The course ends with a discussion of American and European Muslim attempts at carving out distinct spheres of identity in the larger global Muslim community.  

Fall 2020: RELI UN2305
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2305 001/00759 M W 1:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Najam Haider 4 5/20

RELI UN2306 Intro to Judaism. 3 points.

A historical overview of Jewish belief and practice as these have crystallized and changed over the centuries. Special attention to ritual and worship, the forms of religious literature, central concepts, religious leadership and institutions, Israel among the nations.

Fall 2020: RELI UN2306
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2306 001/00551 T Th 8:45am - 9:55am
Room TBA
Beth Berkowitz 3 76/75

RELI UN2307 Chinese Religious Traditions. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Historical survey highlighting major developments in Chinese religion: includes selections from the "Warring States" classics, developments in popular Daoism, and an overview of the golden age of Chinese Buddhism. Touches on "Neo-Confucianism," popular literature of the late imperial period, and the impact of Western ideas.

RELI UN2308 Buddhism: East Asian. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Lecture and discussion. An introductory survey that studies East Asian Buddhism as an integral , living religious tradition. Emphasis on the reading of original treatises and historiographies in translation, while historical events are discussed in terms of their relevance to contemporary problems confronted by Buddhism.  There is a mandatory weekly discussion session.

RELI UN2309 Hinduism. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Considers efforts since 1900 to synthesize a coherent understanding of what "Hinduism" entails, sometimes under the heading of sanatana dharma. Using a rubric provided by the Bhagavad Gita, explores philosophical/theological (jnana), ritual (karma), and devotional (bhakti) aspects of Hindu life and thought.

RELI UN2312 Religion and Nasty Women. 4 points.

Used in 2016 by then presidential candidate, Donald Trump, in reference to his female opponent, Hillary Clinton, the phrase “nasty woman” has become a badge of honor and a rallying cry for women’s empowerment.

The origin of the word “nasty,” attested in the 14th century, indicates highly unpleasant qualities- nauseating or unclean, in a literal or figurative way. It also came to evoke indecency and obscenity- and religious traditions have a long history of such depiction of women.

After introducing some key texts on the otherness and objectification of women (including by Aristotle, Beauvoir, Kristeva, Nussbaum, and Butler), we will examine a number of female characters- goddesses, prostitutes, and virgins - in the Mesopotamian, Greek, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic corpus that fit the definition of nasty. We will also analyze some of the underlying tropes of impurity and danger that characterize nastiness involving bodily fluids, sexuality, and knowledge. Spanning theology, literature, movies, and popular culture the course aims to be a survey of religious-based misogyny as well as women’s responses in their pursuit of agency.

RELI UN2313 Religion and Nasty Women - Discussion. 0 points.

Used in 2016 by then presidential candidate, Donald Trump, in reference to his female opponent, Hillary Clinton, the phrase “nasty woman” has become a badge of honor and a rallying cry for women’s empowerment.

The origin of the word “nasty,” attested in the 14th century, indicates highly unpleasant qualities- nauseating or unclean, in a literal or figurative way. It also came to evoke indecency and obscenity- and religious traditions have a long history of such depiction of women.

After introducing some key texts on the otherness and objectification of women (including by Aristotle, Beauvoir, Kristeva, Nussbaum, and Butler), we will examine a number of female characters- goddesses, prostitutes, and virgins - in the Mesopotamian, Greek, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic corpus that fit the definition of nasty. We will also analyze some of the underlying tropes of impurity and danger that characterize nastiness involving bodily fluids, sexuality, and knowledge. Spanning theology, literature, movies, and popular culture the course aims to be a survey of religious-based misogyny as well as women’s responses in their pursuit of agency.

RELI UN2315 Japanese Religious Traditions. 3 points.

Study of the development of the Japanese religious tradition in the premodern period. Attention given to the thought and practices of Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism; the interaction among these religions in Japanse history; the first encounter with Christianity.

RELI UN2335 Religion in Black America: An Introduction. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement
Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Undergraduate lecture course introducing students to the study of African American religion. While there are no required prerequisites for the course, prior coursework in religious studies or African American history is helpful. This course progresses as a historical survey and is intended to introduce students to important themes in African American (thus American) religious history (i.e. migration, urbanization, nationalism) through a rich engagement with the religious practices and traditions of black communities. Primary attention is given to Afro-Protestantism in North America; however, throughout the course attention is directed to religious diversity and varying religious traditions/practices in different diasporic locales. While this is a lecture course, students are expected to arrive each week having completed assigned readings and prepared to make informed contributions to class discussions (as class size allows). By the end of the semester students will be expected to possess a working knowledge of major themes/figures/traditions in African American religious life, as well as key questions that have shaped the study thereof.

RELI UN2405 Chinese Religious Traditions. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Development of the Three Teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism: folk eclecticism; the contemporary situation in Chinese cultural areas. Readings drawn from primary texts, poetry, and popular prose.

RELI UN2415 Religions of Harlem. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Through a range of field exercises and classroom guests, this course will introduce students to the rich religious history of Harlem, while also challenging them to document and analyze the diversity of Harlem's contemporary religious scene.

RELI UN2507 From Exodus to the Coronavirus: Scriptures and Narratives of Religious Responses to Epidemics - Discussion. 0.00 points.

The purpose of this course is to offer an overview of religious responses to epidemics and pandemics, mostly in a monotheistic tradition, and to engage with the questions of collective guilt, collective mourning, divine justice (or lack thereof), and the societal disruption that such illnesses create or expose as well as persecution and discrimination. The questions raised will help us find parallels with these times of pandemics and put our current times into perspective, but also contextualize and reflect on the nuances of past events and responses

Fall 2020: RELI UN2507
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 2507 001/21419  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 3/15
RELI 2507 002/21420  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 1/15
RELI 2507 003/21421  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 0/15
RELI 2507 004/21422  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 0/15
RELI 2507 005/21423  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 0/15
RELI 2507 006/21424  
Clemence Boulouque 0.00 0/15

RELI UN2670 Magic and Modernity. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

This course introduces students to the cultural history of magic: as an idea, as a practice, and as a tool with which to wield power and induce wonder. Magic, as we will explore, is a modern concept, the contours of which have been shaped by its relations with religion and science, always against larger backdrops—of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, (post) colonialism, and (post) secularism. Readings are drawn from philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, sociology, drama, literature, history, history of science, and political theory.

RELI UN2779 INTRODUCTION TO NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. 3 points.

There are over 800 distinct Native American nations currently within the borders of the United States. This course offers a broad introduction to the diversity of American Indian religious systems and their larger functions in communities and in history. We will explore general themes in the study of Native American religious traditions as well as look at some specific examples of practices, ideas, and beliefs. Of particular importance are the history and effects of colonialism and missionization on Native peoples, their continuing struggles for religious freedom and cultural and linguistic survival, and the ways in which American Indians engage with religion and spirituality, both past and present, to respond to social, cultural, political, and geographical change.

RELI UN3199 Theory. 3 points.

An exploration of alternative theoretical approaches to the study of religion as well as other areas of humanistic inquiry.  The methods considered include: sociology, anthropology, philosophy, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, structuralism, genealogy, and deconstruction.  (Previous title: Juniors Colloquium)

Fall 2020: RELI UN3199
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3199 001/11214 M 10:10am - 12:00pm
Online Only
Mark Taylor 3 16/25

RELI UN3202 Religion in America I. 3 points.

This course offers a survey of American religions from the 1500s through the mid-1800s. We examine the politics of conversion in different kinds of colonialisms; the different strands of Christianity in early America and their cultural contexts; the emergence of evangelical Protestantism; the effects of religious disestablishment in the early republic; and the relationship between religion and social movements.

Fall 2020: RELI UN3202
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3202 001/00571 M T W Th 6:10pm - 7:25pm
Room TBA
Gale Kenny 3 23/24

RELI UN3203 Religion in America II. 3 points.

Survey of American religion from the Civil War to the present, with an emphasis on the ways religion has shaped American history, culture, and identity.

RELI UN3204 Religion, Sexuality, and Truth. 3 points.

The extent of Michel Foucault engagement with Christianity has only recently came to light with the publication of his lectures from the early 1980s. These lectures constitute, in many ways, the culmination of Foucault’s work on power, sexuality, subjectivity and the discursive operations whereby knowledge is produced.  In this course, we will appreciate the depth and originality of Foucault’s critical account of Christianity and examine the major role it occupied in his thought on subjects such as sexuality, governmentality, truth telling, confession, and judicial forms. We will understand Foucault’s work along with the crucial role he ascribed to Christianity in forming the history of the present.

RELI UN3206 Religion in the Archive. 4 points.

Students must sign up for a discussion section on Fridays, 10:10-11:25.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

In Religion in the Archive, students will conduct archival research and create digital humanities projects that “remix” and decolonize a missionary archive: the Papers of Matilda Calder Thurston (1875-1958), an American missionary who helped establish the first four-year women’s college in China, Ginling College in Nanjing. Thurston’s papers belong to the Missionary Research Library housed at Burke Library. The class will meet twice a week for lectures addressing the history of American and Chinese religions and focused on theoretical questions of imperialism, gender, conversion, and modernization. Students will also engage with debates about the archive/archiving, the digital humanities, and what it means to present scholarly research to a public audience. During the Friday recitation, students will conduct archival research and scan archival documents, to embed metadata, to work with a database program, and to design a website and/or produce a podcast.

RELI UN3207 In the Margins of the Middle Ages: Religious Minorities in the Medieval Latin West. 4.00 points.

This course investigates marginal religious groups, including apostates, heretics, Jews, magicians, Muslims, etc. against the backdrop of Christianity in medieval Western Europe. Through examining various types of primary textual and pictorial sources including papal letters, penitential handbooks, lawyers’ commentaries, autobiographies, manuscript illuminations, paintings, etc., the class will facilitate students to rethink the socio-historical situation of religious minorities, the defining of religious boundaries in history, and the echoes of such defining in the contemporary world. (No prerequisites)

Fall 2020: RELI UN3207
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3207 001/16015 Th 10:10am - 12:00pm
Online Only
Yanchen Liu 4.00 3/15

RELI UN3208 Aaahh Real Monsters: Critical Monster Studies. 3.00 points.

This course examines the major issues and themes of critical monster studies. It explores questions about how we conceive and understand monsters theoretically, historically, socially, and culturally. Is there a quintessential monster category? Or are monsters constructed? How do social, cultural, and religious factors affect our perception of monsters and the idea of monstrosity? What roles do monsters fill in determining how people construct and deconstruct their communities? Are monsters members of the community? What does the idea of monstrosity imply about the limits of what is possible in nature? Are monsters just supernatural or are there natural monsters? And what do modern depictions of monsters in popular media have to say about how our perception of monsters is changing? Together, we explore all of these questions and orient students into the burgeoning field of critical monster studies

RELI UN3210 Millennium: Apocalypse and Utopia. 3 points.

Study of apocalyptic thinking and practice in the western religious tradition, with a focus on American apocalyptic religious movements and their relation to contemporary cultural productions, as well as notions of history and politics.

RELI UN3225 Religion and Capitalism: Faith and the American Market. 3 points.

Is the market a religious system? Can we consider "capitalism" to be a key arena in which the relationship between the religious and the secular is both negotiated and performed? In this course, students will explore the complicated relationship between faith and the market, the religious and the secular, and the evolution of vice and virtue as they relate to economic thriving in the United States. While no hard and fast rules for thinking about the relationship between right conduct and material interests cut across all religious and philosophical traditions, human agents invest real faith into currency, into markets, and into the reigning economic order to bring about increased opportunities, wealth, and freedom to people across the globe. Throughout this semester, we will chart both the long shadows and the future trajectories of these beliefs from our American perspective.


In this course, students will develop a strong foundational knowledge of the key theorists who have defined these relationships for generations before applying a critical lens to a number of global themes (the construction of race, the power of class, and the policing of gender) in an American context. To this end, our syllabus will be split into three units, each anchored by a particular theorist central to the academic study of religion (Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Michel Foucault) and followed by a number of case study texts that will bring their constructs and lenses into more lively debate and discussion.

RELI UN3230 Philosophy of Religion. 3 points.

This course in the Philosophy of Religion will consider the relationship between faith and reason, religion and morality, religion and art, and religion and technology. Attention will be devoted to an exploration of comparative interpretations of God or the divine in the western philosophical and theological traditions and Zen Buddhism as well as the interrelation of interpretations of God, self, and world. The course will conclude with a consideration of the question of life after death in philosophy, literature, and information technology.

RELI UN3232 Museums and Sacred Things. 4 points.

This course invites students to consider how museums create, curate, collect, and engage with sacred things, including things that are recognizably religious, things that become “sacred” through the processes of museum collection and display, visitors to museums, and even museum spaces themselves. This course focuses on the American context, and American museums. We will first consider the particular social and political contexts in which museums and museum practices developed and responded to sacred things, and the contexts in which “religion” serves as a valuable if often implicit classification structure. We will then focus on the ways in which things deemed sacred are engaged by museums and encountered by museumgoers, with particular attention to the ways that museumgoers, museum architecture, and religious communities all interact in relation so object. In this class, students will learn to thoughtfully ask question and evaluate the role that museums as public institutions play in shaping public and private understandings and experiences of religion, the sacred, and spirituality.

RELI UN3233 Museums and Sacred Things - Discussion. 0 points.

This course invites students to consider how museums create, curate, collect, and engage with sacred things, including things that are recognizably religious, things that become “sacred” through the processes of museum collection and display, visitors to museums, and even museum spaces themselves. This course focuses on the American context, and American museums. We will first consider the particular social and political contexts in which museums and museum practices developed and responded to sacred things, and the contexts in which “religion” serves as a valuable if often implicit classification structure. We will then focus on the ways in which things deemed sacred are engaged by museums and encountered by museumgoers, with particular attention to the ways that museumgoers, museum architecture, and religious communities all interact in relation so object. In this class, students will learn to thoughtfully ask question and evaluate the role that museums as public institutions play in shaping public and private understandings and experiences of religion, the sacred, and spirituality.

RELI UN3260 Sociology of Religion. 3 points.

Prerequisites: prior coursework in religion or sociology is highly encouraged.

This course introduces classical and contemporary theoretical and empirical approaches to the sociological study of religion, including secularization and secularity, religious identity formation, and sociological approaches to religious practice and meaning. Special focus will be on contemporary American topics, including religion and transnationalism, the role of religious actors and discourses in American politics, law and economics, and everyday religious practice.

RELI UN3303 Judaism and Translation in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

The course explores both the practice of translation (the rendering of texts from one language to another) and the idea of translation (as a medium of cultural transmission) in the medieval and early modern Mediterranean.

RELI UN3304 Memory and Violence in Shi'i Islam. 4 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Why do humans insist on remembering and often memorializing violence? And how do they decide when violence is worth remembering or not? This course ponders these questions through a case study by examining the martyrdom of Husayn b. Ali (d. 680), grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and the third Imam in Shi'i Islam. We will explore the many ways in which this violent event has acquired meaning for people around the world from the seventh century until today using the lens of "collective memory" and its role in community formation. There are no prerequisites, but background knowledge of Middle Eastern history will be very helpful.

RELI UN3309 Modern Islamic Thought. 4 points.

Who speaks for Islam and Muslims today? Is an "Islamic Reformation" necessary? Is there a Muslim "clergy"? What makes certain religious voices and institutions more authoritative than others? This course explores questions such as how can we conceptualize "authority" and the ways in which religious authorities are constructed in Islam in the modern and post-modern age. What sorts of shifts have occurred at centers of Islamic learning in the modern period? How may some of major influential orientations to Islamic thought today be characterized? How are American Muslims thinkers influenced by modern Islamic thought from Muslim majority countries and how are they developing their own body of thought? What are some of the major debates in contemporary American Muslim thought regarding violence, gender, race and economic justice?

RELI UN3315 Readings in Kabbalah. 3 points.

This course will serve to provide a wide but detailed exploration of Jewish Mysticism, raising questions about its connection to other Jewish traditions, the kind of symbolism and hermeneutics at stake, and the conception of God, man and world we are dealing with, amongst other major ideas.

RELI UN3321 Religion and Climate Crisis: India. 4 points.

Connections between dramatic climate assaults and religious practices and perspectives, taking Hindu India as an example: glaciers and floods, extreme weather, overpopulation, air and water pollution, deforestation. Hindu contexts, causes, and responses.

Fall 2020: RELI UN3321
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3321 001/00624 M T W Th 2:40pm - 3:55pm
Room TBA
John Hawley 4 8/20

RELI UN3322 Religion & Climate Crisis: India - Discussion. 0 points.

This is the discussion section for RELI UN3321. You must register for that course before registering for this course.

RELI UN3340 Early Christianity. 3 points.

Examines the competing currents within early Christianity, with emphasis placed on the literary and social expressions of Christian belief and identity. Topics to be covered include persecution and martyrdom, debates over authority and religious experience, orthodoxy and heresy, and asceticism and monasticism, among others.

RELI UN3357 I and We in the Christian East: The Making of Identity. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

This course will provide a survey of Christian history in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East from roughly the fourth to the eleventh centuries with particular attention to religion and identity. How would the various Christians in this era answer the questions: “Who am I?” “Who are we?” How did their understanding of the divine influence their understanding of themselves and how was this identity enacted through writing and ritual? Though our focus will be on this period, we will also consider the framing of the history of “Eastern” Christianity into the modern period. No prerequisites.

RELI UN3401 MUSLIMS IN DIASPORA-DISC. 0 points.

Corequisites: RELI UN3407

Discussion section associated with RELI UN3407-MUSLIMS IN DIASPORA.

RELI UN3406 Space, Narrative, and Religion in India. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Course Description: This course is fundamentally about sacred places and the stories that people tell about and within them. We will explore the role that narratives – mythological, historical, personal, and academic – have played in the creation, maintenance and conceptualization of sacred spaces in South Asia. Each class in the first section of the course is devoted to a particular site or category of sites, and examines the roles that religious texts and iconography play in the traditions with which the sites are associated. In the second section of the course, we will consider ethnographic perspectives on religious journeys. Finally, in the third section, we will focus on the idealization of region or nation as a sacred space, and examines the manner in which narratives are invoked to formulate identities and to negotiate conflicts and differentials of power.


As we navigate these topics, we will explore answers to the following questions: How are  spaces made “sacred”? What are are the multiple types of narratives that come to be associated with sacred spaces, and what roles do they play in their production? How are such narratives transmitted, and for whom? How do religious practitioners utilize these spaces and their narratives in order to negotiate various facets of daily life, and in order to situate themselves within the religious landscape of South Asia?

RELI UN3407 Muslims in Diaspora. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Consideration of controversies surrounding mosque-building, headscarves, honor killing, and other publicized issues that expose tensions surrounding citizenship and belonging for Muslims in North America and Europe. Exploration of film and other media representations of Muslims in the West. There will be additional meeting times for film screenings

RELI UN3425 Judaism and Courtly Literature in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia and Italy. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

The course explores secular Jewish literature composed in the medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean in the context of its Arabic and Romance-language counterparts. After examining the literary, linguistic and philosophical backdrop of Jews in the Islamic Empire, we will focus on poetry and prose of al-Andalus, Christian Spain and Italy. We will look at examples of how Jews depicted themselves and how Christian and converso thinkers portrayed Jews. In addition, we will consider two crossover writers, one Jew in Spain and one in Italy, whose compositions in Castilian and Italian were accepted and integrated into Christian society. Historical materials will accompany textual examples, which span the eleventh through sixteenth centuries.  

RELI UN3430 Indigenous Religious Histories. 4 points.

Nomads, natives, peasants, hill people, aboriginals, hunter-gatherers, First Nations—these are just a handful of the terms in use to define indigenous peoples globally. The names these groups use to describe themselves, as well as the varying religious practices, attitudes, and beliefs among these populations are far more numerous and complex. For much of recorded history however, colonial centers of power have defined indigenous peoples racially and often in terms of lacking religion; as pagan, barbarian, non-modern, and without history or civilization.


Despite this conundrum of identity and classification, indigenous religious traditions often have well-documented and observable pasts. This course considers the challenges associated with studying indigenous religious history, as well as the changing social, political, and legal dimensions of religious practice among native groups over time and in relationship to the state. Organized thematically and geographically, we will engage with classic works of ethnohistory, environmental history, indigenous studies, the history of anthropology, and religious studies as well as primary sources that include legal documentation, military records, personal testimony, and oral narrative.

RELI UN3511 Tantra in South Asia, East Asia & the West. 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

An introduction to the history, literature, and ideology of Tantra and Tantric texts, deities, rituals, and traditions, proceeding chronologically from the early centuries C.E. to current forms of Tantric practice, and primarily covering India, China, and Japan.  Attention will also be given to contemporary iterations of Tantra in the West.  Questions of definition, transmission, patronage, gender, and appropriation link the various sections of the course.  Readings include primary texts, secondary sources, local case studies, and art historical material.

RELI UN3501 Introduction To the Hebrew Bible. 3 points.

An introduction, by critical methods, to the religious history of ancient Israel against the background of the ancient Near East.

RELI UN3517 Queer Theory, Religion, and Their Discontents. 3 points.

For the most part queer studies and religious studies have met each other with great suspicion and little interest in the conceptual resources of the respectively other field. Our guiding questions will be: What does religion have to do with queerness? What does queerness have to do with religion? Queer theory and activists, unless they already identify as religious, often have little or little good to say about religion. Conversely, many religious traditions intensively regulate gender, sex, sexuality, and especially queerness. Beyond the mutual disinterest, anxieties, and animosities, this course will explore how religious studies can enrich queer theory and how queer theory can reshape our thinking about religious studies.


Our course will examine how our questions about religion shift once we start paying attention to queerness, gender, sexuality, pleasure, pain, and desire. Equally, we will examine how queer discourses mobilize religious and theological images and ideas, especially where these images and ideas are no longer clearly recognizable as having religious origins. Together we will wonder about a variety of core issues in queer studies and religion, such as embodiment, sexuality, gender-variability, coloniality, race appearing as religious identity and religious identity as gendered, as well as the role of catastrophe, utopia, and redemption in our experience of the world.


Rather than trying to settle on definitive answers, this course will cultivate a process of open-ended collective inquiry in which students will be encouraged to think autonomously and challenge facile solutions. Students should come away from the course with an expanded sense of how we grapple with issues related to gender, sexuality, desire, and embodiment in our everyday lives and how religion and religious formations are entangled with these issues well beyond religious communities. Moreover, students should experience this course as enlarging the set of critical tools at their hands for creative and rigorous thinking. 

RELI UN3518 Buddhism in East Asian Medical Cultures. 3 points.

This seminar introduces students to the intersections between Buddhism and medicine in East Asia in the premodern period. The course begins with Buddhist ideas and practices concerning health and disease in ancient India over two millennia ago, and follows the eastward transmission of these concerns and activities into China, Korea, and Japan until roughly the 16th century. In addition to secondary studies representing the latest research in this burgeoning field, this course gives special attention to critical readings of shorter selections of primary sources translated into English, including sutras, monastic regulations, recipe collections, liturgical documents, and longevity manuals. Reading these selections through multiple methodological frameworks—social history, history of the body, and material culture, students will gain an appreciation of the rich diversity that characterized Buddhist healthcare practices before the introduction of Western medicine. A fundamental premise of this course is that different currents of Buddhism constituted medical cultures in their own right, a perspective that will help us to complicate conventional notions of both “religion” and “medicine.” We will aim to achieve a nuanced understanding of the ways that healing concerns shaped how monks and nuns related to actors of other therapeutic communities, and therefore emphasis is placed on the social and cultural contexts in which Buddhist medical practices were embedded. Students will thereby acquire a basic grounding in East Asian Buddhism to complement our particular concern with the dynamics of medical history. Previous coursework in Buddhism or East Asian religion is thus recommended but not required.

RELI UN3521 Muslim Masculinities. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

This interdisciplinary course explores a variety of Muslim modes of masculinity as they have developed over time and as they have varied across different regions of the Islamic World. Students examine and problematize the social and cultural construction of masculinity in various parts of the Islamic world, including in the Middle East, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Muslim diasporas of Europe and the Americas. In trying to understand the complex ways in which men and manhood are made in Islamic societies we will center our attention on the perceptions of bodily and social differences in Muslims’ larger articulations of gender and sexuality. A particular focus will be on the relationship between masculinity and violence against women and non-Muslims.

RELI UN3522 MUSLIM MASCULINITIES-DISC. 0 points.

Discussion section for RELI UN3521 - MUSLIM MASCULINITIES

RELI UN3575 Evangelicalism: Sex, Media, and Religion in America. 3 points.

Crossing denominations and encompassing a range of theological commitments, evangelical Christianity can be described as a theological disposition, a mode of hermeneutical practice, a theological-aesthetic sensibility, a mass spiritual movement, a practice of cultivating sacred affect, an errand to the world, and a genre of revivalism. This multidisciplinary seminar will emphasize the role of popular media in constituting an evangelical public, the gendered nature of evangelical subjectivity, the role of sex and sexuality in evangelical self-definition, and the ways that evangelical theological categories have shaped what we think of as "the secular" in the United States.

RELI UN3606 Religion and Media in America. 3 points.

This course examines the role of media in shaping religious identities, beliefs, practices, and institutions using case studies from American history and contemporary American culture. For the purpose of this course, the term media will be interpreted broadly to mean any technique or technology designed to communicate information such as verbal discourses, written texts, visual representations, ritual gestures, sacred objects, and telecommunication technologies. In foregrounding media, we will examine how religious beliefs and practices have been remembered, disseminated, translated, and contested in the American context. Just as important, we will examine how religious groups have negotiated their American identity through media practices and their narrative content.

As we will see, acts of transmission such as writing, mapping, broadcasting, and televising play essential parts in drawing and erasing communal boundaries from both within and without. With this in mind, we will not be attempting to identify what religion is, so much as the ways in which historical actors understood themselves to be religious. We will find that what counts as religion varies, sometimes dramatically, across times, spaces, and cultures; “America” is similarly unstable and contested. Our job, then, will be to understand the role of media and mediation in constituting their contours.

RELI UN3612 The Religious History of Hip Hop. 3 points.

This is an undergraduate lecture course introducing students to the study of religion through an engagement with the history of hip hop music. More specifically, this course is organized chronologically to narrate a history ot religion in the United States (from 1970 to the present day) by mapping the ways that a variety of religious ideas and practices have animated rap music’s evolution and expansion during this time period. While there are no required prerequisites for the course, prior coursework in religious studies, African American studies, and/or popular music is helpful.

RELI UN3630 Religion and Black Popular Cultures. 3 points.

As an exploration of the relationship between religion, race, and popular culture, the course will begin with theoretical readings that expose students to a variety of definitions of and approaches to each of these categories. After tackling these theoretical concerns, the remainder of the course will entail a cross genre and thematic engagement with the terrain of black popular culture(s) in which students will be challenged to apply new theoretical resources in order to interpret a wide range of "religious" phenomena.

RELI UN3901 Guided Reading and Research. 1-4 points.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

Fall 2020: RELI UN3901
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 3901 001/11216  
Gil Anidjar 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 002/11217  
Courtney Bender 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 003/11218  
Clemence Boulouque 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 004/11219  
Michael Como 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 005/11220  
Matthew Engelke 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 006/11221  
Katherine Ewing 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 007/11222  
Bernard Faure 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 008/11223  
David Kittay 1-4 1/5
RELI 3901 009/11224  
Rachel McDermott 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 010/11225  
David Moerman 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 011/11226  
Josef Sorett 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 012/11227  
Mark Taylor 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 013/11228  
Yannik Thiem 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 014/11229  
Zhaohua Yang 1-4 0/5
RELI 3901 015/11230  
Thomas Yarnall 1-4 2/5
RELI 3901 020/00777  
Elizabeth Castelli 1-4 0/5

RELI UN3902 Guided Reading and Research. 3 points.

Independent study in the field of religion.

RELI GU4105 Religion Lab. 4 points.

Discussion Section Required

In their research, scholars of religion employ a variety of methods to analyze "texts" ranging from historical documents to objects of visual culture. This course acquaints students with both the methods and the materials utilized in the field of religious studies. Through guided exercises, they acquire research skills for utilizing sources and become familiarized with dominant modes of scholarly discourse. The class is organized around a series of research "scavenger hunts" that are due at the start of each week's class and assigned during the discussion section (to be scheduled on the first day of class). Additional class meeting on Thursdays.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4105
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4105 001/00625 T 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
Tiffany Hale 4 2/15

RELI GU4120 GENDER IN ANC CHRISTIANITY. 4.00 points.

This seminar considers the difference gender makes in interpreting ancient Christian texts, ideas, and practices. Topics will include gender hierarchy and homoeroticism, prophecy and authority, outsiders’ views of Christianity, bodily pieties such as martyrdom and asceticism, and gender politics in the establishment of church offices. Emphasis will be placed on close readings of primary sources and selected scholarly framings of these sources

Fall 2020: RELI GU4120
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4120 001/00570 M W 6:10pm - 8:00pm
Room TBA
Elizabeth Castelli 4.00 15/15

RELI GU4202 Time, Modernity, Death. 4 points.

The notion of modernity in the West implies a distinctive interpretation of temporality and subjectivity, which grows out of theological and philosophical traditions.  Lutheran Protestantism, as developed by Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, created the conditions for both the construction and the deconstruction of modernism and its extension in postmodernism.  The course will examine these two trajectories by considering their contrasting interpretations of the relationship of human selfhood to time and death.  On the one hand, the death of God leads to a radical immanence in which human subjectivity either is absolutized as the will to power or mastery that dominates or negates all difference and otherness, or is repressed by universal structures and infrastructues for which individual subjects are unknowing and unwitting vehicles.  On the other hand, human subjectivity appears to be finite because its irreducible singularity is always given by an other that can be neither known nor controlled.  The course will conclude by considering the alternative psychological, political, and ethical implications of these two contrasting positions.

RELI GU4204 Religions of the Iranian World. 4 points.

This course is a seminar open to undergraduate and graduate students who wish to gain an understanding of the diverse religious traditions of the Iranian world from ancient to contemporary times. This subject has often been organized around the assumption that a continuous tradition of an Iranian national religious heritage can be identified and traced through from ancient, Zoroastrian to medieval Islamic traditions, and then ultimately to contemporary Shi’ite and minority Zoroastrian and Baha’i traditions. This perspective has presumed that such a legacy has been constitutive and determinative for Iranians’ sense of national identity and for their core religious word-view. From the outset, this course aims to problematize and ultimately overturn this approach, first of all, by historicizing the very idea of Iran and by challenging the assumption that an Iranian identity was even recognizable before the twentieth century, much less constitutive of some unbroken traditions of religious thought or practice. While there may be some persistent threads in language, mythic heritage, and religiosity that one can observe throughout the Iranian plateau and Central Asia across the centuries, it is more useful to examine these as part of a larger matrix of exchanges with adjacent cultural and religious systems. Students will examine a series of interrelated themes that are key to the studies of religion in the Iranian world. While the course does cover material that progresses roughly chronologically from the first millennium BCE to contemporary times, it is not a systematic historical survey. Each week will focus on a cluster of scholarly works and related primary sources on focused topics related to the successive religious traditions in Iran, the Mazdaen dualist traditions, Islam, and Baha’ism. 

RELI GU4205 Love, Translated: Hindu Bhakti. 4 points.

Hindu poetry of radical religious participation-bhakti-in translation, both Sanskrit (the Bhagavad Gita) and vernacular. How does such poetry/song translate across linguistic divisions within India and into English? Knowledge of Indian languages is welcome but not required. Multiple translations of a single text or poet bring to light the choices translators have made.

RELI GU4206 HISTORY, TIME, AND TRADITION. 4 points.

In Refashioning Futures, David Scott asks if the accurate reconstruction of the past of an identity is the crucial point of a theoretical intervention. He ponders, instead, if such a historicist analysis should be followed by an emphatic “But so what?” The importance of asking “so what” is that it allows us to begin to refuse, Scott writes, “history its subjectivity, its constancy, its eternity” and “interrupt its seemingly irrepressible succession, causality, its sovereign claim to determinacy” (105) The question “so what?” requires, in other words, we answer for history’s prominence and providence as well as consider other possible formations of community, temporality, and inheritance not anchored by the weight of ‘history’.
This seminar examines the overwhelming hold of “history” in the present by considering Scott’s poignant “But so what?” We will begin by examining the problem-space of ‘history’ itself and how ‘history’ emerged as the foundation to understanding and ordering religious life globally. We will explore the wide-ranging effects of Enlightenment rationality and Orientalist knowledge production as well as consider the imbrication of history with theology and the secular. This section of the course will help develop a shared set of concepts and problematics, which we will continuously encircle throughout. We will then examine how scholars have troubled this historical conscription, reorienting our understandings of temporality, tradition, and the past. The last half of the course, therefore, considers a range of different methods and theories that undo the importance of ‘history’ while remaining attuned to questions of the past, time, and inheritance

RELI GU4207 Religion and the Afro-Native Experience. 4 points.

African Americans and Native Americans have a shared history of racial oppression in America. However, the prevailing lenses through which scholars understand settler colonialism, religion, and black and indigenous histories focus overwhelmingly on the dynamics between Europeans and these respective groups. How might our understanding of these subjects change when viewed from a different point of departure, if we center the history of entanglements between black and native lives? How does religion structure the overlapping experiences of Afro-Native peoples in North America?

From political movements in Minneapolis, Oakland, and New York City to enslavement from the Cotton Belt to the Rio Grande, this class will explore how Africans, Native Americans, and their descendants adapted to shifting contexts of race and religion in America. The course will proceed thematically by examining experiences of war, dislocation, survival, and diaspora.

RELI GU4212 Modern Buddhism. 4 points.

What most Americans and Europeans call ‘Buddhism’ today is in fact a hybrid tradition dating back to the 19th century. It owes as much to European philosophy and esoteric thought as to Asian traditions themselves and appeared in the context of decolonization. This course will survey the history of this recent tradition, identifying cultural and political trends that contributed to its creation in various geographical areas. Readings include several primary texts by important proponents of Modern Buddhism. The texts should also be read in comparison with the appropriate scholarly works on the Asian traditions they supposedly draw on. One course on Buddhism or East Asian Religions is recommended, but not required, as background.

RELI GU4213 Islam and the Secular: Rethinking Concepts of Religion in North-Western Africa and the Mid. 4 points.

The class offers a critical discussion of the conceptual apparatus of the anthropology of Islam and secularism and of the ways in which it shapes recent interventions in history and theory but also in Islamic studies with a particular focus on North-Western Africa and the Middle East. The questions that will be examined during the class read as follows:


1. What is Islam: a religion or a cultural formation, a discursive tradition or a way of life? How is one to construct a definition of Islam beyond orientalist legacies? Can one define Islam anthropologically outside the tradition itself?


2. How did French and British Empires transform or destroyed Islamic institutions while governing Muslims in the Middle East and North-West Africa? Are these colonial technologies Christian or secular and is there a significant difference between Christian slavery and secular colonialism? To what extent is secularism reducible to an imperial ideology or to Christianity itself?


3. How did Muslims respond to the challenge of modernity and to European imperial hegemony? How can one think philosophically within the Islamic tradition after the hegemony of Europe and colonialism?

RELI GU4215 Hinduism Here. 4 points.

Historical, theological, social and ritual dimensions of "lived Hinduism" in the greater New York area. Sites selected for in-depth study include worshipping communities, retreat centers, and national organizations with significant local influence. Significant fieldwork component

RELI GU4218 Heidegger and the Jews. 4 points.

The conundrum of Martin Heidegger and the Jews continues. The recent publications of Heidegger’s Black-Notebooks reignited the debate over his ties to the National Socialist party and his personal anti-Semitism. These notebooks reveal that Heidegger establishes a philosophical case for his prejudices against Jews, one which arguably cuts to the very heart of his thinking. And yet, many of his closest and most brilliant students were Jewish, and it is becoming increasingly clear that his philosophy has left an indelible mark on twentieth century Jewish thought. This course is divided into two units: In the first unit we will become familiar with some central themes of Heidegger’s thought and explore the question of the philosophical grounding of his political failing. In the second unit we will examine a variety of responses to Heidegger by Jewish thinkers who, in different ways and for different purposes, both profited greatly from his philosophical innovations and levelled profound criticism of his thought and actions. The animating question the course will attempt to answer is: Is it possible, as one student of Heidegger’s had suggested, to think with and against Heidegger?

RELI GU4219 Colonialism and religion in South Asia. 4 points.

This course examines the conceptual trouble wrought by colonial rule in relation to boundaries, both of tradition and identity. We will begin by examining the category of ‘religion’ and how it emerged as an object of inquiry to understand and order life in the South Asian subcontinent. By exploring the wide-ranging effects of Orientalist knowledge production premised on secular historicity, this section of the course will help develop a shared set of concepts, which we willcontinuously encircle throughout. We will then question the role of this knowledge/power nexus in creating and reifying both notions of ‘fluid’ and ‘communal’ boundaries by studying the internal coherence and colonial inflection of several religious traditions in the subcontinent (Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism). In concluding, we will consider how colonialism shifted the parameters of selfhood, creating new grounds, as well as reifying old ones, from which subjects came to contest the parameters of a given tradition.

RELI GU4220 Political Theology. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Prior coursework in Religion, MESAAS, political theory, or related field is advised.

This reading-intensive course will engage the notion of “political theology,” a phrase that emerges within the Western tradition (Varro, Augustine) and has become instrumental in thinking and institutionalizing the distinction between religion and politics over the course of the twentieth century.  We will take as our point of departure the key texts that have revived this notion (Schmitt, Kantorowicz), and engage their interpretation of the Bible and of Augustine and medieval followers. We will then examine the role of Spinoza and Moses Mendelsohn, the extension of the notion of religion to “the East” (Said, Grosrichard, Asad), and conclude with some of the current debates over secularization in the colonizing and colonized world.


The main part of the course will be dedicated to the question of religion as it informs our thinking of disciplinary divisions.  Is religion a sphere than can be isolated? How did it become so? What are the effects of this isolation?   

RELI GU4222 Heidegger and Derrida. 4 points.

This seminar will explore the relationship between Heidegger and Derrida through a close reading of texts in which they consider common questions and issues. Works from both early and late Heidegger will be considered. An examination of Derrida’s writings on Heidegger reveals how he simultaneously appropriates and criticizes Heidegger in developing his critique of the western philosophical and theological tradition. Special attention will be paid to their contrasting interpretations of time and their alternative accounts of the work of art. This course is a sequel to Hegel and Kierkegaard, though the previous course is not a prerequisite for this seminar.

RELI GU4224 Dialectics: Theology and Philosophy between Europe and Africa. 4 points.

What is dialectical reason? Is it still a mode of theological reasoning, as many critiques have argued, or a revolutionary form of secular critique? To what degree did it shape the language of revolutionary Marxism both in Europe and Africa, as the work of Fanon notably testifies? How does it still define the horizon of contemporary philosophy, French theory and postcolonial thinking? The class will address this question. Beginning with Hegel, it will trace the becoming of his legacy in Marx, Fanon, Sartre and contemporary issues in French theory and African philosophy.

RELI GU4228 South Asia and the Secular. 4 points.

This seminar explores different contestations and inflections of the secular in South Asia.We will begin by tracing a genealogy of the secular, which gave rise to a particular discursive grammar. Grounding ourselves in this formative space of the secular, we will study the constitutive nature of imperialism within the secular by examining the disciplining and conscripting role of Orientalism and the colonial state. Though noting these changes produced by colonial rule, this course also explores the arguments scholars of South Asia have made distinguishing between “secularisms” and the production of a tolerant and cosmopolitan South Asian orientation. In conjunction and against these possibilities, rather than consider the religious retrograde or communal, we will consider the continual striving toward political autonomy through disputation in the parameters of a given tradition—which resist incorporation into a broader pluralist or syncretic Indic model.

RELI GU4304 Krishna. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Study of a single deity in the Hindu pantheon as illuminated in art, music, dance, drama, theological treatises, patterns of ritual, and texts both classic and modern. Special attention to Krishna's consort Radha, to Krishna's reception in the West, and to his portrayal on Indian television.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4304
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4304 001/00622 M Th 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Room TBA
John Hawley 4 7/12

RELI GU4305 Secular and Spiritual America. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Majors and concentrators receive first priority.

Are Americans becoming more secular or more spiritual (not religious), or both? What are the connections between secularism and what is typically called non-organized religion or the spiritual in the United States? We will address these questions by looking at some of the historical trajectories that shape contemporary debates and designations (differences) between spiritual, secular and religious.

RELI GU4307 BUDDHISM & DAOISM IN CHINA. 4.00 points.

Prerequisites: one course on Buddhism or Chinese religious traditions is recommended, but not required, as background.
In recent decades, the study of the so-called “Buddho-Daoism” has become a burgeoning field that breaks down the traditional boundary lines drawn between the two Chinese religious traditions. In this course we will read secondary scholarship in English that probes the complex relationships between Buddhism and Daoism in the past two millennia. Students are required not only to be aware of the tensions and complementarity between them, but to be alert to the nature of claims to either religious purity or mixing and the ways those claims were put forward under specific religio-historical circumstances. The course is organized thematically rather than chronologically. We will address topics on terminology, doctrine, cosmology, eschatology, soteriology, exorcism, scriptural productions, ritual performance, miracle tales and visual representations that arose in the interactions of the two religions, with particular attention paid to critiquing terms such as “influence,” “encounter,” “dialogue,” “hybridity,” “syncretism,” and “repertoire.” The course is designed for both advanced undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of East Asian religion, literature, history, art history, sociology and anthropology. One course on Buddhism or Chinese religious traditions is recommended, but not required, as background

Fall 2020: RELI GU4307
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4307 001/11232 M Th 6:10pm - 8:00pm
B60 Alfred Lerner Hall
Zhaohua Yang 4.00 11/22

RELI GU4308 Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah. 4 points.

The purpose of this seminar is to study the interactions between two major intellectual trends in Jewish History, the philosophical and the mystical ones. From the medieval period to the twenty-first century, we will discuss their interactions, polemics and influences. We will compare Philosophy and Kabbalah in light of their understanding of divine representation and in light of their respective Theology and conception of God.

RELI GU4311 Fanon: Religion, Race, Philosophy in Africa and beyond. 4 points.

This class will examine the work of Fanon through its sources, its context and its contemporary interpretations.  

RELI GU4315 Sufis and the Qur'an. 4 points.

This course is a seminar for advanced undergraduates and graduate students who wish to gain an understanding of the complexity and richness of the Sufi exegetical tradition.  the Qur'an has been the main source of of inspiration and contemplation for Sufis for centuries....

RELI GU4318 Interpreting Buddhist Yoga: Hermeneutics East West Quantum. 4 points.

A seminar exploring the meanings of Buddhist Tantra and being, time, space, gender, technology, and mysticism through traditional religious, modern, post-modern, digital, quantum, and Buddhist "hermeneutics," the science and art of interpretation. We will read ancient and modern classics on hermeneutics, by Schleiermacher, Gadamer, Heidegger, Barthes, and Ricouer; Indian and Tibetan works on their systems of interpretation, at least as sophisticated as anything from Europe; and contemporary works on how digital technology brings us into a world of new meaning for everything, including Buddhist yoga.  

Fall 2020: RELI GU4318
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4318 001/11233 Th 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Online Only
David Kittay 4 27/25

RELI GU4322 Exploring the Sharia: Topics in Islamic Law. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

The platform of every modern Islamist political party calls for the implementation of the sharia. This term is invariably (and incorrectly) interpreted as an unchanging legal code dating back to 7th century Arabia. In reality, Islamic law is an organic and constantly evolving human project aimed at ascertaining God's will in a given historical and cultural context. This course offers a detailed and nuanced look at the Islamic legal methodology and its evolution over the last 1400 years. The first part of the semester is dedicated to classical Islamic jurisprudence, concentrating on the manner in which jurists used the Qur'an, the Sunna (the model of the Prophet), and rationality to articulate a coherent legal system. The second part of the course focuses on those areas of the law that engender passionate debate and controversy in the contemporary world. Specifically, we examine the discourse surrounding Islamic family (medical ethics, marriage, divorce, women's rights) and criminal (capital punishment, apostasy, suicide/martyrdom) law. The course concludes by discussing the legal implications of Muslims living as minorities in non-Islamic countries and the effects of modernity on the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4322
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4322 001/00602 T Th 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
Najam Haider 4 9/15

RELI GU4325 Sufism. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.

This is a seminar for advanced undergraduate and graduate students who wish to gain an understanding of the richness of Sufism (Islamic mysticism). We will examine the historical origins, development and institutionalization of Sufism, including long-standing debates over its place within the wider Islamic tradition. By way of a close reading of a wide range of primary and secondary sources, we will examine Sufi attitudes toward the body, Sufi understandings of lineage, power and religious authority, as well as the continued importance of Sufism in the modern world

RELI GU4326 Sufism in South Asia. 4 points.

Sufism has been described as the mystical side of Islam. This seminar for advanced undergraduates and graduate students will examine Sufism in South Asia as a spiritual, ethical and self-forming activity that has been profoundly affected by the historical, sociocultural, political, and everyday environments in which is it experienced and practiced.

RELI GU4355 The African American Prophetic Political Tradition from David Walker to Barack Obama. 4 points.

Through a wide range of readings and classroom discussions, this course will introduce students to the crucial role that the unique African-American appropriation of the Judeo-Christian prophetic biblical tradition has played -- and continues to play -- in the lives of black people in America.

RELI GU4365 Revolutionary Women and Political Islam. 4 points.

Muslim female reformers and revolutionaries were at the forefront of many of the 20th and early 21st centuries’ historic socio-political and religious movements across the Global South. Members of diverse classes, families, and ethnic communities, many worked within the tenets of Islam in multiple ways to construct religious identity and work towards achieving and demanding civil and political rights. Yet the myriad theoretical and popular discourses underpinning emergent and longstanding women’s movements within revolutionary contexts are frequently overlooked. Moreover, representations of Muslim women too often rely on essentialist, ahistorical, static, victim-centered, and Orientalist descriptions and analyses. As a result, shades of difference in interpretation, ideology, practice, and culture are minimized. This course situates Muslim women as complex, multidimensional actors engaged in knowledge production and political and feminist struggles. We will read key texts and analyses from scholars and activists writing on religion, gender, sexuality, family planning, and women’s status in the contemporary Global South. The following questions will emerge in our discussions:“When is a hejab just a hejab?,” “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?,” and “What is an ‘Islamic Feminist’ and Should We Care?” Readings include memoirs, editorials, ethnographies,and political treatises, as well as historical scholarship from North Africa, the Gulf, the Levant,and Southeast Asia.

RELI GU4411 Religion, Mind, and Science Fiction. 4 points.

While not yet fully recognized as a literary or philosophical genre, science fiction, through the “dislocation” it operates, raises (or amplifies) questions that have long been the preserve of religion, metaphysics, or philosophy, and it has brought some of these questions into the realm of popular culture. Science fiction is often perceived as hostile to religion, yet it often blurs the boundaries between science and religion. Recent SF, unlike the traditional “space opera,” revolves around the relations between the human mind and Artificial Intelligence — a challenge that our fast-evolving technoscientific society is confronting with a new sense of urgency. This course examines overlapping issues and questions shared by religion and SF.

RELI GU4412 RECOVERING PLACE. 4.00 points.

Fall 2020: RELI GU4412
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
RELI 4412 001/21383 W 10:10am - 12:00pm
Online Only
Mark Taylor 4.00 4/20

RELI GU4416 Empire and Secularization in Africa: Reform, Mission, Islam. 4 points.

This course examines how Empires paved the way to a new form of domination in Africa. Secularizing processes will be analyzed in relation to imperial histories in Africa. From the Expedition in Egypt to the Berlin Conference, Empires in Africa were both secular and religious. We will examine the multiple ways in which Empires colonized Africa by encountering, regulating or transforming African religious traditions. The class will compare historical geographies of ‘‘North Western’’ and ‘‘North Eastern’’ Africa by focusing on the Maghreb and West Africa but also on Egypt and Sudan. We will examine the relations of Empires with Islam and Christian missions in Africa. We will also examine how African uprisings challenge and challenged Imperial and State powers both before and during the Panafrican movement. We will eventually look at both Imperial and Anti-Imperial legacies in Africa today.

RELI GU4417 Recovering Place. 4.00 points.

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the intersection of multiple disruptions has led to the loss of a sense of place. This has resulted in pervasive alienation and disorientation, which has led to a desire a growing desire to recover place. This course will examine the interplay between Displacement (Migration, Virtualization, Surveillance, Climate, Globalization) and Replacement (City, Rivers, Forests, Country). Special attention will be given to Displacement and Replacement in New York City. Students will have the opportunity to write a term paper or to create a project in an alternative medium

RELI GU4418 On African Theory: Religion, Philosophy, Anthropology. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

What is African Theory? Is a theory African simply because it is rooted in the political present of the continent? Is it African because it corresponds to an African cultural singularity or simply because his authors and inventors come from or live in Africa? This class will examine some central aspects of both African and Africana philosophy. We will study a) how religious traditions shape African theory b) how the influence of colonial anthropology on concepts of African culture and tradition can be challenged c) how African theory relates to African politics of decolonization, in North and "subsaharan" Africa. The major dialectical problem we will examine during the class is the ongoing contradiction between claims of authenticity and demands of liberation, traditionalism and modernism, religion and secularism, culturalism and Marxism.

RELI GU4515 Reincarnation and Technology. 4 points.

A seminar exploring reincarnation, resurrection, and their contemporary cyber-relatives, uploading and simulation.  We'll explore Abrahamic, Amerind, Chinese, Greek, and Indian accounts, the Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation tradition and methodology in detail, and contemporary research on reincarnation, near-death, and out-of-body experiences. We will then turn to contemporary developments in science, religion, and philosophy concerning uploading consciousness to computer media and the probability that we are living a simulation.  We will investigate whether religious traditions are consistent with or expressive of simulated reality, and the application of karma to all of the above.  

RELI GU4516 The Politics of Freud in the Postcolony. 4 points.

This seminar examines the legacies of psychoanalysis through a critical exploration of how its concepts, practices and institutes have operated in colonial and postcolonial contexts. Weekly discussions will look at how practicing therapists, activists, anthropologists and others have extended, subverted and displaced psychoanalytic thought within non-European histories and imaginaries. Topics include challenges to the universality of the Oedipus emerging from early 20th century anthropologist’s studies of kinship in Papua New Guinea, legacies of a self-made South Asian psychoanalyst’s challenges to Freudian orthodoxies, and the study of a psychoanalysis of racism forged out of a Martinican psychiatrist’s encounters with colonial neuroses in Algeria. We will also explore how psychoanalytic concepts have been deployed in debates about repression and sexuality in daily life during the Cultural Revolution and the psychic legacies of Maoism in contemporary China. In addition to reading the work of Freud and his critics, we will encounter primary materials—religious texts, movies, novels—that have been subjected to psychoanalytically-inflected interpretations. While attending to the cultural, racial and political assumptions suffusing psychoanalysis, our seminar will also show how variously situated authors have given this tradition new applications and meanings.

RELI GU4509 Crime and Punishment in Jewish Culture. 4 points.

Explores ethical, cultural, and political dimensions of Jewish criminal punishment from the Bible through modernity, with focus on death penalty and running reference to Foucault's Discipline and Punish. Topics include: interaction between law and narrative; Jewish power to punish; Sanhedrin trial of Jesus; ritualization of execution; prison; torture; martyrdom.

RELI GU4513 Buddhism and Neuroscience. 4 points.

With the Dalai Lama's marked interest in recent advances in neuroscience, the question of the compatibility between Buddhist psychology and neuroscience has been raised in a number of conferences and studies. This course will examine the state of the question, look at claims made on both sides, and discuss whether or not there is a convergence between Buddhist discourse about the mind and scientific discourse about the brain.

RELI GU4514 Defining Marriage. 4 points.

This seminar examines the changing purpose and meaning of marriage in the history of the United States from European colonization through contemporary debates over gay marriage. Topics include religious views of marriage, interracial marriage, and the political uses of the institution.

RELI GU4526 Food and Sex in Premodern Chinese Buddhism. 4 points.

This course is an upper-level seminar on appetite and its management, designed for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Our focus will be on the appetites of food hunger and sexual desire, and how Chinese Buddhist teachings propose to manage these. Food and sex are separate domains of experience, but as the primary objects of bodily appetites, they are analogous. Eating and sex both involve a direct and substantive interaction with the material world that is driven by powerful desires. In Buddhist teachings, these desires are said to bind us to the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra) and to shape the actions (karma), both mental and corporeal, that constitute our moral engagement with the phenomenal world. Hence it is important to know how a Buddhist on the path out of suffering is to manage these activities. What do monastic codes stipulate? What disciplines did lay Buddhists undertake? How are transgressions identified and handled? How do ancient Chinese and Daoist ideas inform the development of Chinese Buddhist attitudes toward sex and diet? How did Chinese Buddhist monastics come to adopt a meatless diet? How do religions use food and sex as tools for determining one's ritual purity (i.e., moral worth)? We will explore these and related topics. Despite the common perception of Buddhism as a world-denying religion focused on transcending bodily needs, Chinese Buddhists (and their Indian or Central Asian counterparts) engaged in numerous body practices with worldly benefit, while at the same time mitigating the dangers of desire through various doctrinal and practical means. This course is an exploration of those means. 

RELI GU4535 Buddhist Contemplative Sciences. 4 points.

This course will explore key Buddhist contemplative sciences, including: stabilizing meditation; analytic insight meditation; the four immeasurables; form and formless trances; mind training; and the subtle body-mind states activated and transformed through advanced Tantric yoga techniques. These will be explored both within their traditional interdisciplinary frameworks, as well as in dialog with related contemporary arts and sciences.

RELI GU4562 Wittgenstein and Religion. 4 points.

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, and probably one of the most widely read by non-philosophers. His influence on a number of intellectual disciplines (philosophy, politics, theology, social science, history, etc.) has been considerable. This course will focus on Wittgenstein’s own writings and their reception, with a focus on the study of religion and anthropology.

RELI GU4611 The Lotus Sutra in East Asian Buddhism. 4 points.

Prerequisites: open to students who have taken one previous course in either Buddhism, Chinese religions, or a history course on China or East Asian.

The course examines some central Mahayana Buddhist beliefs and practices through an in-depth study of the Lotus sutra. Schools (Tiantai/Tendai, Nichiren) and cultic practices such as sutra-chanting, meditation, confessional rites, and Guanyin worship based on the scripture. East Asian art and literature inspired by it.

RELI GU4613 Silence. 4 points.

We live in a world of noise where incessant buzz and endless chatter are used as strategies of distraction deployed for political and economic purposes. Increasingly invasive technologies leave little time for quiet reflection and thoughtful deliberation. As the volume rises, silence becomes either a tactic for repression or a means of resistance.


This course will consider the question of silence from the perspectives of theology, philosophy, literature, politics, and art. Special attention will be paid to the role silence plays in different religious traditions. An effort will be made to create a dialogue among philosophical, theological literary, artistic, and film treatments of silence.


Questions to be considered include: How does the importance of silence change with time and place? What are the theological and metaphysical presuppositions of different interpretations of silence? What is the relation of changing technologies to the cultivation of, or resistance to silence? What are the psychological dimensions of different kinds of silence? What is the pedagogical value of silence? How can silence be expressed in music, the visual arts, and architecture? How does the importance of silence change in different social, political, and economic circumstances? Do we need more or less silence today?

 

RELI GU4615 Media and Religion. 4 points.

Typewriters, trains, electricity, telephones, telegraph, stock tickers, plate glass, shop windows, radio, television, computers, Internet, World Wide Web, cell phones, tablets, search engines, big data, social networks, GPS, virtual reality, Google glass.  The technologies turn back on their creators to transform them into their own image.  This course will consider the relationship between mechanical, electronic, and digital technologies and different forms of twentieth-century capitalism.  The regimes of industrial, consumer, and financial shape the conditions of cultural production and reproduction in different ways.  The exploration of different theoretical perspectives will provide alternative interpretations of the interplay of media, technology, and religion that make it possible to chart the trajectory from modernity to postmodernity and beyond.

RELI GU4616 Technology, Religion, Future. 4 points.

This seminar will examine the history of the impact of technology and media on religion and vice versa before bringing into focus the main event: religion today and in the future. We'll read the classics as well as review current writing, video and other media, bringing thinkers such as Eliade, McLuhan, Mumford and Weber into dialogue with the current writing of Kurzweil, Lanier and Taylor, and look at, among other things: ethics in a Virtual World; the relationship between Burning Man, a potential new religion, and technology; the relevance of God and The Rapture in Kurzweil's Singularity; and what will become of karma when carbon-based persons merge with silicon-based entities and other advanced technologies.

RELI GU4617 Image Theories in Chinese Religions. 4 points.

What does “image” mean in Chinese intellectual traditions? How did proponents of different religious persuasions construe the relationship between images and their referents differently and how did such construal change over time? Why did the practice of fashioning images often give rise to controversies in Chinese history? What makes images the object of adoration as well as destruction? Throughout the course, we will tackle these questions from diverse perspectives. The first half of the course examines a variety of accounts from Chinese indigenous classics and treatises. The second half looks at how discourses of the image further diversified after the arrival of Buddhism in China. 

RELI GU4626 Reading (In Theory). 4 points.

This reading-intensive course will engage, over time with essential texts of the current critical canon. Offered over a series of semesters, it is aimed at developing a practice of reading: close or distant, and always attentive. Let us say: slow reading. What does it mean to read? Where and when does reading start? Where does it founder? What does reading this author (Freud, for example) or that author (say, Foucault) do to the practice of reading? Can we read without misreading? Can we read for content or information without missing the essential? Is there such a thing as essential reading? Favoring a demanding and strenuous exposure to the text at hand, this course promises just that: a demanding and strenuous exposure to reading. The course can be repeated for credit.

RELI GU4630 Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy. 4 points.

Examination of topics in the religious philosophy of Tibet.

RELI GU4637 Talmudic Narrative. 4 points.

  This course examines the rich world of Talmudic narrative and the way it mediates between conflicting perspectives on a range of topics: life and death; love and sexuality; beauty and superficiality; politics and legal theory; religion and society; community and non-conformity; decision-making and the nature of certainty.  While we examine each text closely, we will consider different scholars’ answers – and our own answers – to the questions, how are we to view Talmudic narrative generally, both as literature and as cultural artifact?

RELI GU4807 Divine Human Animal. 4 points.

This course focuses on "thinking with" animals (Levi-Strauss) through the lens of the religious imagination. The concentration will be primarily on "Western" religious cultures, especially Judaism and the question of Jewishness.

RELI GU4998 Religion and the Indian Wars. 4 points.

The frontier is central to the United States’ conception of its history and place in the world. It is an abstract concept that reflects the American mythology of progress and is rooted in religious ideas about land, labor, and ownership. Throughout the nineteenth century, these ideas became more than just abstractions. They were tested, hardened, and revised by U.S. officials and the soldiers they commanded on American battlefields. This violence took the form of the Civil War as well as the series of U.S. military encounters with Native Americans known as the Indian Wars. These separate yet overlapping campaigns have had profound and lasting consequences for the North American landscape and its peoples.


This course explores the relationship between religious ideology and violence in the last half of nineteenth century. Organized chronologically and geographically, we will engage with both primary sources and classic works in the historiography of the Indian Wars to examine how religion shaped U.S. policy and race relations from the start of the Civil War through approximately 1910.

RELI GU4999 GLOBAL INDIGENOUS RELIGIOUS HISTORIES. 4.00 points.

Nomads, natives, peasants, hill people, aboriginals, hunter-gatherers, First Nations—these are just a handful of the terms in use to define indigenous peoples globally. The names these groups use to describe themselves, as well as the varying religious practices, attitudes, and beliefs among these populations are far more numerous and complex. For much of recorded history however, colonial centers of power have defined indigenous peoples racially and often in terms of lacking religion; as pagan, barbarian, non-modern, and without history or civilization. Despite this conundrum of identity and classification, indigenous religious traditions often have well-documented and observable pasts. This course considers the challenges associated with studying indigenous religious history, as well as the changing social, political, and legal dimensions of religious practice among native groups over time and in relationship to the state. Organized thematically and geographically, we will engage with classic works of ethnohistory, environmental history, indigenous studies, anthropology, and religious studies as well as primary sources that include legal documentation, military records, personal testimony, and oral narrative