RELI 4741: Contemporary Issues in the Study of Religion

Instructor: Dr. Kim Stratton

Course Format: Synchronous Online.

Course Description:

RELI 4741: Contemporary Issues in the Study of Religion is the sequel to RELI 3741: Classical Approaches to Religion. The first course, RELI 3741 examines the origin and development of theories of Religion that emerged part and parcel of the Enlightenment and colonial expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. This period of rapid cultural change exposed western Europeans to other cultures and belief systems that were comparable to Christianity at a time when many Europeans were beginning to question the theological claims of the bible. The concept Religion emerged at this time and scholarly interest focused especially on explaining the origin and purpose of what was understood to be a discrete and universal area of human activity and experience. This course, RELI 4741, considers influential theoretical developments that have ensued since the so-called post-modern turn at the end of the 20th century. This contemporary period is characterized by a critique of the forms of knowledge that preceded it, including the very concept Religion. This course will begin with critical reflections on the discipline of Religious Studies. We will consider how the study of Religion has been shaped by Protestant biases and supported colonialist agendas. Next, we will read influential thinkers beginning with Foucault and Derrida, whose critical approaches—discourse theory and deconstruction—have contributed significantly to defining the post-modern period and its debates. Moving beyond the foundations of post-modernism, the course will engage with Post-Colonial approaches, Gender theory, Affect theory (which reflects upon the emotions and experiences of embodied subjects). We will consider racialized interpretations of religious symbolism, cultural memory, and the power of religious narrative to construct identity, among other topics to be decided.
Course Objectives:
Students who complete this course successfully:
1. will be able to apply at least one theory from this course to illuminate an example or case study of their choice in major Final Project.
2. Will be able to summarize and explain academic articles that engage theoretical approaches discussed in the class (chosen from list provided by professor)
3. Will demonstrate thoughtful engagement with the assigned readings every week in constructive class discussions.