Fall 2017 Courses


Courses relevant to Religions and Public Life


Muslim Women Across the Ages

Instructor: Mona F Hassan
This course explores the diverse realities of Muslim women’s lives, from the origins of Islam to the present, through autobiographical and biographical accounts situated in their social, economic, political, and cultural contexts. The women we will encounter through textual and audiovisual materials represent a wide range of personal backgrounds, including scholars, mystics, merchants, philanthropists, poets, slavegirls, feminists, and Islamists. We will metaphorically travel across the globe and time to understand the multifarious facets of Muslim women’s lived experiences.

Hip Hop and Religion
Instructor: Joseph Winters
For many people, hip-hop and religion are incompatible. Hip-hop seems to be defined by materialism, arrogance, violence, misogyny, and a general rejection of sacred ideals and values. In this course, we will challenge these assumptions by exploring the intersections between hip hop and religion, while questioning what these terms mean and signify. We will examine aspects of hip-hop (rap lyrics, video images, cultural rituals, films) that explicitly or implicitly express religious commitments and sensibilities.

Fragmented Memories: Polish and Polish Jewish Culture Through Film
Instructor: Beth Holmgren
Analyzes, compares, and assesses representations of Polish Christians and Polish Jews—their life experiences, interactions, shared and separate fates—in documentaries and fiction films made in Poland from the 1930s to the present day. Includes films by Wajda, Polanski, Munk, Kieslowski; also a 2008 documentary about pre-World War II Christian-Jewish relations in Poland by Jolanta Dylewska. All films screened with English subtitles.

Jesus in Film
Instructor: Mark S Goodacre
Studies a variety of cinematic and television films that focus on Jesus; compares and contrasts documentary approaches with dramatic depictions; views the films alongside scholarship on Christian origins and asks what these films reveal about their creators, their social locations, and their source material; investigates the reception of these films in both academic and popular culture.

Religion & Politics
Instructor: Mohsen Kadivar
Examines ethical crises of Islamic regime: Did Islamic Republic promote ethics or decline morality? Analyzes tensions between secularism, democracy and theocracy; semi-democracy and semi-dictatorship; Shi’i doctrine of imamate and the theory of guardianship of the jurist; I.RI. Constitution; the doctrine of justice versus the privileges of the ruling political order; the role of Shari`a in law making; controversial religious issues in reformist discourses; women’s rights; religious and ethnical minorities; identity, diversity and power; traditionalists, reformists and fundamentalists; the administration of two supreme leaders and six presidents; Shi’a authorities and revolutionary guards

Islam in Asia
Instructor:Mustafa O Tuna
Focus on the northern tier of Muslim-inhabited lands. The early spread of Islam among continental Asia’s non-Arab peoples. The evolution of Muslim religious and cultural institutions under Mongol, Central Asian, Russian and Chinese empires. Asian Muslim encounters with European modernity and experience of Muslims under and after Soviet/Chinese socialist regimes.


Buddhism and Christianity
Instructor: Richard Jaffe
The study of the global encounter between Buddhists and Christians from the sixteenth century to the present. Topics to be covered include missionary encounters, conversion, polemical literature, inter-religious dialogue, and religious exchange, as well as the portrayal of these interactions in literature and the arts. At least one previous course in Buddhism or Asian religions and a course in religious studies is recommended.

Faith and Reason
Instructor:Reinhard Huetter
Seminar will take up the impulse given by the encyclical Fides et Ratio and explore the relationship of faith and reason, of theology and philosophy, on the threshold of a new century.

Most Segregated Hour
Instructor: Valerie C Cooper
The Christian church remains the most segregated institution in America. It has been nearly sixty years since the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education that began public school integration. And it has been almost fifty years since Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963. Yet, most Protestant congregations still reflect the racial makeup of their pre-Civil Rights era counterparts. This course explores why this is so and asks how we can move forward toward a religious life that better reflects the diversity of the nation

The Next Christendom: The Rise of Christianity Outside the West
Instructor: Xi Lian
In 1900, 80 percent of the world’s Christians were in Europe and North America. One hundred years later, 60 percent of them live in the global south and east. This course will not survey the institutional growth of Christianity throughout the non-Western world. It focuses instead on some of the central themes and patterns in the rise of global Christianity, including its tendency toward charismatic exuberance, its appeal as a modernizing force, and its capacity to inspire political reform and to mobilize the masses for social change.

African American Religion Through the Literary
Instructor: Joseph Winters
In this course, we will examine and trouble the notion of African American religion by reading different genres of literature. By engaging slave narratives, autobiography, fiction, and the critical essay, the aim of the course will be to re-imagine categories that are associated with black religion: piety, spiritual, opacity, trauma, liberation, transgression, anguish, intersectionality, and the ‘afterlife of slavery.’ Two general ideas will motivate the direction(s) of the course. For one, black religiosity is not reducible to institutional forms like the church. Secondly, any endeavor to study black piety, or blackness more generally, requires multiple genres and approaches.

Theorizing Religion
Instructor: Hwansoo Kim
Late nineteenth- and twentieth-century theories, interpretations, and approaches to the study of religion