A focused analysis of the academic study of religions and cultures in global contexts provides a common grounding in influential methods and theories, historical issues, scholarly debates, and current disputes about the genealogy of the fields of religious, cultural and global studies with the aim of elucidating resources for grappling with challenges of modernity, identity, secularism, and globalization.
As part of a winter colloquium, all students are required to attend a minimum of four scholarly events (such as talks by PhD students and current MA Thesis students for the Religion and Culture Graduate Students Association, visiting scholars and Wilfrid Laurier University faculty, Religion and Public Life Conference), and a minimum of four ASPIRE workshops to develop professional and scholarly skills. Students will also be expected to develop written reports and analyses based on these talks and workshops. Credit will be established on a pass/fail basis.
A supervised research project leading to a public presentation.
An independent thesis project to be undertaken on an approved topic based upon research connected with the discipline and in accordance with the guidelines of the department.
A consideration of a particular text or body of texts, in translation or in the original language.
Until the end of the 20th century, the social scientific view of modernity seemed settled: it entailed the differentiation of religious and secular spheres, as well as the privatization and eventual disappearance of religion. However, global events invited the reassessment of this widely-held view of modernity as ‘secularization’ or as the positive triumph of ‘secularism.’ This course will introduce students to this now rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of ‘secular studies,’ which is transforming debates in the study of religion, culture, history, politics, philosophy, and beyond. The first part of the course looks at the conceptual and theoretical ideas about secularism and secularity. The second part of the course looks at different ‘cases’ and explores how they have taken up and are modifying earlier debates.
Globalization is above all an ethical challenge. Students in this course will critically discuss diverse works on the ethical encounter that is globalization and will explore issues raised by the growing coincidence of moral responsibility and global survival.
An analysis of religion, social sciences, social structures and social dynamics.
An analysis of religion, psychology and personality formation.
An exploration of the theoretical and practical relationships between language, ideology, and religion through analyses of social-scientific theories and ethnographic or historical case studies. Emphasis is given to political- economic, ethno-cultural, socio-religious, and ecological conflicts related to colonial and neo-colonial contexts from around the world, including indigenous struggles.
Religion and politics have been intertwined since time immemorial, but in the modern West they came increasingly to be seen (both practically and normatively) as separate spheres. This privatization of religion has been progressively challenged in recent decades, the more so as non-Western colonies have achieved independence, the Cold War has ended and been replaced by what some see as a clash of religiously-defined civilizations, and globalization has accelerated. The focus of the course is largely contemporary, looking at the role of religion as such, and of particular religions in our globalizing world. The course examines a variety of religions, regions, forms of political involvement, and themes (including religion-state relations around the world; religion, ‘fundamentalism’, political violence and peacebuilding; religion and international relations; religion and global civil society; religion, political parties and electoral behaviour; religion and international development; religious diversity, immigration and politics; religion and nationalism; religion and democracy).
This course examines post-colonial thought in the context of religious reconstruction and transformation. Of particular concern are the links between post-colonial social movements and the emergence of religious traditions. A second major theme is the consideration of the implications of these critiques for contemporary societies and theoretical and methodological approaches for the academic study of religion. Third, we will explore the meaning of the term post-colonial and in particular the signification of the “post” in post-colonial. As our course readings and audio-visual selections demonstrate, the meanings shift and change depending on the socio-cultural and political context. Though contemporary in focus, the course will contextualize the discussion of post-colonial thought and religion through historical analysis.
In this course, we explore the historic and contemporary approaches to Islam and Muslim Experiences and are introduced into a variety of topics that include identity and cultural politics, Quranic Hermeneutics, Sufism, nationalism, as well as Islamism. We also examine contemporary scholarship to analyze major debates in contemporary Islamic thought and practice, such as interaction of tradition and modernity, the relationship between the individual and community, and the construction of gender norms.
This course exposes participants to major issues in the academic interpretation of Asian religions and cultures. By engaging with methods and theories for the study of Asian religions, culture, literature, history, and society, participants develop an understanding of the history of fields of Asian studies, investigate critical methods applied to Asian sources, and engage with contemporary debates. Readings address mutual encounters between outside interpreters of Asian religious cultures and dynamic responses from within, elucidate possibilities and limitations of cross-cultural dialogue, and challenge deeply embedded ideological biases and constructions of alterity. Themes and topics include re-evaluation of Orientalism, assessment of universalist assumptions of the ‘World Religions’ model, and alternative approaches to Asian religions, literary cultures and history in current scholarship.
This course has been designed to focus on the narratives of and about structural and direct violence. The stories and silences of perpetrators and victims of violence are explored, as well as the role that narrations of violence may play, for example, as propaganda in times of war, or as evidence in war crimes tribunals.
The course addresses the delicate balance between dialogical understanding and the quest for critical objectivity in intercultural encounters. Questions addressed include: Does dialogue require understanding the Other in the Other’s own terms, or that we understand the Other as best as we can given our prejudices and biases? How do we define the Age of Terror? Is dialogue possible with extremists?
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