Ritual, Performance, and Religion

Exposes students to theories of ritual and performance (Turner, Schechner, Grimes, Geertz, Paden) in religious and non-religious contexts; compares contexts as a way of understanding common structures and what differentiates the religious/non-religious. Guest lecturers (from religion, dance, theater, psychology, English, visual and media studies, cultural anthropology) expose students to a range of approaches to specific kinds of ritual and performance. Possibly involves both class and individual trips to local religious events and performances for fieldwork exercises. No prerequisites.

Religion and Peace: Case Studies in Activism and Reconciliation

Too often religion is cited as the root of conflict, yet often religious leaders and religiously-affiliated NGOs create the impetus for peace-making initiatives. Course uses case studies from different areas of “religious conflict” to examine questions of tolerance and co-existence. Asks questions about place and purpose of dialogue, activism and humanitarian involvement; readings and discussions assess responses to conflict in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Concepts and pedagogies for peacemaking brought to practical application during trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Gandhi: Image and Reflection

Who is Gandhi amidst the thousands of images of him? Course focuses on the writings of, and the popular imagery about, one of the most inspirational figures of modern times, who evoked Einstein’s awe and shaped Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Considers Gandhi’s experiments and journeys across South Africa and India to understand his ideas of justice, method of civic protest, and way of living-with-others. First part of course studies Gandhi’s autobiography and other key writings.

Ethics in South Asia

Explores through anthropological and literary approaches, how ethics is articulated in religious texts and epics, in everyday contexts, and in the performative arts in South Asia. Examines ethical thinking reflected in conceptualization and expressions of personhood, duty, sexuality, family, and community. Explores issues such as the imagination and negotiation of moral authority; the constitution, assessment, and transmission of values; the role of colonialism; and the moral magnetism of epic traditions.

Religion and Race

Discussion of various ways in which “race” has been defined and constructed in recent centuries using categories from biology, sociology, philosophy, genetics, anthropology, etc. Examines how religious traditions and practitioners have actively sought both to eliminate race and have been complicit in maintaining and defending it. Special focus on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the modern period. One course.

Poetry, Desire & Religion

Studies the use of love poetry genres to transform theological traditions in India, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity circa 600-1500 CE; studies ongoing exploration of intersections of the sacred, desire, and expressive language in post-Enlightenment poetry; explores poetry and, more generally, the arts as a performative mode by which a theological relation is posed and enacted in one’s life; introduces students to basic problems, readings, and ideas related to language, hermeneutics and desire; specific authors include: Mirabi, Kabir, Rumi, San Juan de la Cruz, Dickinson, Rilke, H.D., and C

Religion & Politics: The Middle East Today

Explore how religious beliefs and practices shape identities and politics at the individual, local, national and global levels; examine the complexities of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in their diversities as well as other religious traditions such as Baha’i and Zoroastrianism; examine how theological differences shape political conflicts and conversely, how entrenched political conflicts shape religious beliefs of their respective communities. Open only to students in FOCUS Program. One course.