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.

American Apocalypse: Beat Generation Spirituality

Places Beat Generation spirituality in its contexts by study of sources and texts that influenced individual figures, specifically, the reading, world view, and practice of Kerouac, Snyder, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and di Prima; identifies the Asian and Native American texts and translations available to Americans in the post-war era and outlines Western influences (Thoreau, Spengler, Skinner, Reich, Neitzsche), reading these in relation to key my themes of American identity and destiny in the post-War era. One course.

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.