Introduction to Religious Studies

In this introductory course, students will learn about different approaches and debates that shape the academic study of religion. The course surveys a broad range of theoretical and conceptual frameworks that have influenced the field, such as the definition of religion, theories of religion, the comparison of religion, and religion’s psychological, social, and political effects.

Through discussions, exams, and short essays, students learn the following three skills: 1. To view things from multiple viewpoints. 2. To know the social and political contexts that shape the academic study of religion. 3. To make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

Taught in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

Theories of Ritual

This course explores a wide range of rituals ranging from the stereotypical to the unexpected: initiation rites, religious ceremonies, contemporary witchcraft, daily interaction rituals, and soccer hooliganism, among others. Through these case studies, students examine various theories about the definitions, meanings, and roles of ritual, sometimes by conducting mini-fieldwork to observe rituals in action. Course materials will comprise articles, books and films about rituals from all around the world, ranging from a Papua New Guinean village in the 1950s to the contemporary U.S. society.

Taught in Spring 2017

Global Christianities

 While the image of Christianity as a “Western religion” remains influential, the majority of self-identifying Christians today live in the Global South, outside of Europe or North America. This class explores the wide breadth of definitions, narratives, and systems associated with Christian identities around the globe, from Africa to Asia to Latin America. Students will investigate a set of major theoretical themes in the study of Global Christianity, such as personhood, modernity, globalization, and colonialism.

Taught in Fall 2017

Buddhism

This course explores religious themes and movements related to Buddhism in various Asian countries, Europe, and North America, with a focus on modern and contemporary periods. The topics include historical narratives, interpretations of texts, transformations of rituals, diaspora and identity, nationalism and politics, and contemporary pop culture.

Taught in Spring 2018