Global Politics and Religion Research Group

Select Related Courses, 2016-17

Fall 2016

Religion, Race and Global Politics (B. Hurd): This seminar examines critical themes at the intersection of religion, race, and global politics. It will explore how particular constructions of "religion" and "race" inform contemporary scholarship, and authorize national and international legal and governmental practice. These questions will be examined in a variety of contexts ranging from antisuperstition laws in Haiti, to the rise of Christian free enterprise in the aisles of Wal-Mart, to the celebration of "moderate" religion at the US State Department, to the politics of immigration, and beyond. Topics include religion and the rise of the nation-state; the politics of religious establishment and religious freedom; the role of race in the formation of the disciplines of religious studies and international relations; the formation of modern vocabularies of religious exclusion (e.g., "superstition," "vodou," "folk religion"); and the role of religiosity and religious affect in neoliberal experience. Our readings will traverse disciplinary boundaries to explore these questions by drawing on new work that draws together the study of international relations, religion, law, anthropology and history.

Islam, Gender, and Sexuality (N. Mouftah): This course explores gender and sexuality from the birth of Islam in seventh-century Arabia to Muslim communities in the United States today. The course has two primary aims that inform each other and are at times in tension. Firstly, students will examine diverse cosmologies and debates regarding gender and sexuality in the Islamic tradition and Muslim societies. At the same time, it will reflect on how recent theories of gender and sexuality impact the study of religion, and Islam in particular. Among the questions we will pursue are: How is gender constructed in classical Muslim sources? How has the history of the early Muslim community been variously interpreted to create “Islamic norms”? How do changing social, historical, and political conditions influence Islamic discourses on women’s bodily autonomy, masculinity, and desire? Is there such a thing as Islamic feminism and what might it look like? Who speaks for and against it? What are the possibilities for egalitarian transformation in Islamic thinking and the Muslim world? This is a reading intensive course that draws on primary source texts (the Quran, prophetic tradition, Islamic law), as well as ethnography, literature, film, and media.  

Winter 2017

Histories of Islam in the United States (W. Cadwell): This course will explore the overlapping histories of Islam in the United States from the presence of enslaved African Muslims in the original colonies to present day debates over the place of Islam in secular society. Special attention will be paid to the role of Muslims in the African diaspora as an enduring social, cultural, and political force shaping this history. Students will therefore learn especially about the routes of Islam through plantation slavery and slave rebellion, as well as twentieth-century Pan-African organizing, the Civil Rights movement, and hip hop. We will also connect this history to more recent trends in immigration, the "War on Terror," and state surveillance of mosques. There are no prerequisites, though it is highly recommended that students arrive with an understanding of the basic terminology of Islamic studies, and a keen interest in exploring the Islam's connection to issues of American race, religion, colonialism, and secularism.

Spring 2017

Introduction to Islam (B. Ingram): This course introduces Islam, one of the major religious traditions of world history. We will develop a framework for understanding how Muslims in varying times and places have engaged with Islamic scripture and the prophetic message of the Prophet Muhammad through diverse sources: theological, philosophical, legal, political, mystical, literary and artistic. While we aim to grasp broad currents and narratives of Islamic history, we will especially concentrate on the origins and development of the religion in its formative period (the prophetic career of the Prophet Muhammad, the Qur'an, Islamic belief and ritual, Islamic law, and popular spirituality) and debates surrounding Islam in the contemporary world (the impact of European colonialism on the Muslim world, the rise of the modern Muslim state, and discourses on gender, politics and violence).


Seminar in Religion and Values: The Anthropology of Scriptural Religions (R. Launay): 

For most of its history, the anthropology of religion has focused on what used to be called “primitive” religions. In the last few decades, anthropologists have begun to turn their attention more systematically to scriptural religions -- Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism. First of all, anthropologists have ceased to define their discipline as the study of “primitive” peoples. Moreover, many of the peoples they study have by now adopted one or another of these scriptural religions, making their presence difficult to ignore. One way or the other, the anthropological study of scriptural religions raises specific theoretical problems which articulate well with recent trends within the discipline at large. In the first place, any study, anthropological or other, of these religions entails a sensitive understanding of their history. More concretely, the analysis of scriptural religion at any specific place and time entails the investigation of the articulation of a global tradition with its local practice.