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RELIGST 81: Exploring Indian Religions

This course provides an overview of Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism. We will spend approximately half the course on Hindu thought and traditions from the Vedic period until the present day, emphasizing the diverse forms of this religion in different times and places. The second half of the course will be devoted to religions that emerged in South Asia (e.g., Jainism) and those that came to find a home and particular forms of expression on the subcontinent (e.g., Islam). Throughout students will read selections from a range of theological texts, epics, and literature that have permeated many aspects of daily religious life in India. We will also emphasize ritual activities, visual experiences in temples, and networks of pilgrimage places that dot the subcontinent. We will often pair primary sources (in translation) with later interpretations and impacts of those texts in modern South Asia. We will also survey the modern incarnations more »
This course provides an overview of Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism. We will spend approximately half the course on Hindu thought and traditions from the Vedic period until the present day, emphasizing the diverse forms of this religion in different times and places. The second half of the course will be devoted to religions that emerged in South Asia (e.g., Jainism) and those that came to find a home and particular forms of expression on the subcontinent (e.g., Islam). Throughout students will read selections from a range of theological texts, epics, and literature that have permeated many aspects of daily religious life in India. We will also emphasize ritual activities, visual experiences in temples, and networks of pilgrimage places that dot the subcontinent. We will often pair primary sources (in translation) with later interpretations and impacts of those texts in modern South Asia. We will also survey the modern incarnations of particular Indian religious traditions throughout South Asia and the diaspora. By the conclusion of this course, students will be conversant with the texts, beliefs, and practices of the major Indian religions in their cultural and historical contexts and also have a working knowledge of basic categories important for the study of religion more broadly.
Last offered: Autumn 2014 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, GER:EC-GlobalCom, WAY-ED

RELIGST 91: Exploring American Religious History (AMSTUD 91, CSRE 91, HISTORY 260K)

This course will trace how contemporary beliefs and practices connect to historical trends in the American religious landscape.
Last offered: Spring 2018 | UG Reqs: WAY-ED, WAY-SI

RELIGST 113: The Religious Life of Things

Temples, prayer beads, icons, robes, books, relics, candles and incense, scarves and hats, sacred food and holy water; objects of all sorts play a prominent role in all religions, evoking a wide range of emotional responses, from reverence, solace and even ecstasy, to fear, hostility and violence. What is it about these things that makes them so powerful? Is it beliefs and doctrines that inspire particular attitudes towards certain objects, or is it the other way around? Many see a tension or even contradiction between religion and material pursuits and argue that the true religious life is a life without things. But is such a life even possible? This course adopts a comparative approach, drawing on a variety of traditions to examine the place of images, food, clothing, ritual objects, architecture and relics in religious thought and practice. Materials for the course include scholarship, scripture, images and at least one museum visit.
| UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 114: Yoga: Ancient and Modern

In both Western popular culture and the Indian political arena, Yoga has become emblematic of the cultural heritage of India. But how did the phenomenon that is global postural yoga, with its secular wellness ethos and athleticism, come into existence? And how does it relate to the contemplative and ascetic disciplines that were practiced in the premodern Indian past? This course explores the early history of yoga through its philosophy and esoteric practices, concluding with a look at the ramifications of yoga in contemporary culture and politics. Participating in a yoga class is recommended. 2 units of independent study (S-NC) are offered for those who participate in a weekly yoga class and write short reflections on the experience.
Terms: Win | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 117: Christianity in 21st-century America (AMSTUD 117R)

As the largest religion practiced in the United States, Christianity not only shapes the lives of a large number of its citizens but also impinges on public discourse, policies, and debates. This course investigates the ways in which Christianity in America is changing and what these changes bode for its role in the public and private spheres. Issues include shifting demographics lead to declining numbers in 'mainline' denominations; the polarization of Christian conservatives and religious 'nones'; interfaith toleration and cooperation alongside interreligious conflict; the rise of 'spiritual, not religious' young adults; the effects of immigration; religion and science.
Last offered: Spring 2017 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, GER:EC-AmerCul, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 124: Sufi Islam

The complex of Islamic intellectual and social perspectives subsumed under the term Sufism. Sufi mystical philosophies and historical and social evolution. Major examples include: Qushayrî, Râbi'a, Junayd, Hallâj, Sulamî, Ibn al-'Arabî, Rûmî, Nizâm al-Dîn Awliyâ'. Social and political roles of Sufi saints and communities. Readings include original prose and poetry in translation, secondary discussions, and ethnography.
Last offered: Autumn 2015 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 129: Milk and Honey, Wine and Blood: Food, Justice, and Ethnic Identity in Jewish Culture (JEWISHST 129A)

This course examines Jewish culture and the food practices and traditions that have shaped and continue to shape it. Students learn to prepare a variety of meals while studying about the historical and literary traditions associated with them, such as the dietary `laws¿ and the long history of their interpretation, as well as the cultivation of eating as devotional practice in Jewish mystical traditions. We will explore how regional foods the world over contribute to the formation of distinct Jewish ethnic identities, and how these traditions shape contemporary Jewish food ethics. The course includes guest visits by professional chefs and food writers, and field trips to a local winery.
Last offered: Spring 2019 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 130: Sex and Gender in Judaism and Christianity (FEMGEN 130, JEWISHST 120)

What role do Jewish and Christian traditions play in shaping understandings of gender differences? Is gender always imagined as dual, male and female? This course explores the variety of ways in which Jewish and Christian traditions - often in conversation with and against each other - have shaped gender identities and sexual politics. We will explore the central role that issues around marriage and reproduction played in this conversation. Perhaps surprisingly, early Jews and Christian also espoused deep interest in writing about 'eunuchs' and 'androgynes,' as they thought about Jewish and Christian ways of being a man or a woman. We will examine the variety of these early conversations, and the contemporary Jewish and Christian discussions of feminist, queer, trans- and intersex based on them.
Last offered: Winter 2017 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, GER:EC-Gender, WAY-ED

RELIGST 133: Muslims, Jews, and Christians: Conflict, Coexistence, and Collaboration (JEWISHST 123)

Relationships between Muslims, Jews, and Christians today are informed by a multitude of complex and often painful histories. These faith traditions emerged out of deep and sustained engagement with one another sharing theological and ethical principles, and revering many of the same figures and there have been many periods of rich and productive interaction. Yet there have also been areas of dissension and conflict, and periods when theological, social, or political disagreement devolved into violence and oppression. In recent times (especially following the Holocaust and the establishment of the modern State of Israel), religious, political, and intellectual leaders of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities, in the U.S. and around the world, have recognized the need to forge deeper and more meaningful relationships with one another. Knowledge and understanding of the perspectives that different communities and individuals bring to bear on their entangled past, present, and future more »
Relationships between Muslims, Jews, and Christians today are informed by a multitude of complex and often painful histories. These faith traditions emerged out of deep and sustained engagement with one another sharing theological and ethical principles, and revering many of the same figures and there have been many periods of rich and productive interaction. Yet there have also been areas of dissension and conflict, and periods when theological, social, or political disagreement devolved into violence and oppression. In recent times (especially following the Holocaust and the establishment of the modern State of Israel), religious, political, and intellectual leaders of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities, in the U.S. and around the world, have recognized the need to forge deeper and more meaningful relationships with one another. Knowledge and understanding of the perspectives that different communities and individuals bring to bear on their entangled past, present, and future are a critical part of efforts to resolve intransigent conflicts and advance mutual interests. This course explores some of the most significant moments of interaction through literature and art, polemic and dialogue that have shaped engagements between Muslims, Jews, and Christians throughout history, and examines both prospects and pitfalls for engagement in the present and future.
Last offered: Summer 2019 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 139: Religion along the Silk Road

From roughly the year 1 to the year 1000, a vibrant trade route stretched across Central Asia, linking Europe, India and East Asia. Along this route, merchants bought and sold the silk that gave the route its name, along with paper, ceramics, spices, precious stones and any number of other commodities. Together with these trade goods, merchants, missionaries, farmers and artisans who participated in this vast commercial network, exchanged ideas, scriptures, practices and beliefs, including those associated with major religious traditions; Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism, Manichaeism and Islam followed the same routes as silk and spice. In this course we will examine the spread of all of these religions across the Silk Road, what happened when they interacted, and what this tells us about the relation between commerce, trade and geography in the pre-modern world.
Last offered: Spring 2018 | UG Reqs: WAY-ED, WAY-SI
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