The Religion and Politics major is a coordinate major that is comprised of courses taken from two departments: Government & Law and Religious Studies. Included below are the course offerings both both departments.

Government & Law Department: 

GOVT 101: Introduction to United States Politics

This course is an examination of the American political system, its institutions and processes. Topics studied include political behavior, the Constitution, the Congress, the Presidency, the courts, and current foreign and domestic issues. Recommended for students who have not had an adequate secondary school preparation in American government. [SS] Clarke, Kincaid, Murphy, SoRelle

GOVT 102: Introduction to International Politics

This course reviews the main issues and problems confronted by the international system and the literature devoted to them. The course deals with phenomena such as peace and war, integration and disintegration, economic and military assistance, and formulation and execution of foreign policy. Special emphasis is placed on stability and change in the global system. [SS]  Cho, Peleg, Park

GOVT 103: Introduction to Comparative Politics

This is a survey of governments and politics in the industrialized and Third World countries. The course examines the question of what it means to compare political systems and explores the historical setting, nature of political participation, political values, governmental structures, and political performance of selected countries in Western Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America. [SS]  Fabian, Stewart-Gambino, Van Dyck

GOVT 104: Introduction to Political Theory

This course introduces students to several of the most important thinkers and themes in the tradition of political theory. The topics and texts of the course vary, but students can expect to confront such issues as justice, equality, and power, and to read both classic and contemporary authors. Feola, Miller, Silverstein

GOVT 207: Racial & Ethnic Minorities in American Politics

This course examines the role of racial and ethnic minority groups in United States politics. We will focus on four main minority groups (Blacks, Latinos/Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians) assessing their engagement and influence in governmental processes historically and today. Specific topics covered during the semester include: how race has shaped American political institutions, laws, and practices over time, the formation of minority political attitudes, participation rates, and the degree to which racial and ethnic minorities are represented in the local, state, and federal levels of government. A strong focus will be placed on the salience of race in the post-Obama era.
Prerequisite: GOVT 101 or permission of the instructor

GOVT 211: State and Local Government and Politics

Examines what state and local governments do and why. Topics include state constitutions; state legislative, executive, and judicial processes and policymaking; state and local budgets, taxes, and spending; county, municipal, special-district, and school-district governments and services; state and local parties, elections, interest groups, and media; intergovernmental relations; Native American tribes, homeowner associations, and associated states; and selected policy issues such as civil rights, crime, business and economics, health care, and environmental protection. [SS, V, W]    Kincaid

GOVT 213: Law and Society

Investigation of the dynamics of the legal process in the regulation of social conflict, change, and control. Topics include philosophical sources; the administration of criminal and civil justice; and litigation as politics. [W]    Silverstein

GOVT 215: Campaigns and Elections

Elections rest at the heart of America’s representative democracy. This course offers a general introduction to U.S. elections, with special attention paid to electoral campaigns. We will explore such questions as: What legal structures shape how American elections are conducted? What strategies do candidates follow to win elections? What is the purpose of political parties in elections? Do race, gender, religious, and other social identities affect electoral outcomes? What role do media play in elections?   SoRelle
Prerequisite: Govt 101 or permission of instructor

GOVT 218: Politics of Public Policy

This course explores how politics influence each step of the U.S. policymaking process.  We will explore how political dynamics shape why some issues get on the agenda while others don’t; why some solutions are considered and others ignored; and how citizens, interest groups, elected officials, and bureaucrats sway policy outcomes. We will examine these questions using case studies of several current economic, social, regulatory, and foreign policy issues in the U.S.  [SS, W] SoRelle
Prerequisite: Govt 101 or PSTD 251 or permission of instructor

GOVT 220: The United States and Latin American Relations

It is impossible to understand the expansion of the US’s international role in the past two hundred years without knowledge of our country’s relationship to the rest of the Americas, particularly the nations in Latin America. This course introduces students to the United States historical relationship with Latin America from the early 1800s to the present day. Students examine events and US policies from multiple ideological and national lenses, critically evaluating the debates that color so-called “objective” accounts of history. Stewart-Gambino
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or 103, or permission of instructor

GOVT 223: Politics of Africa

Analysis of selected sub-Saharan states with particular attention to common institutional features such as ethnic pluralism, weak political parties, dominant public bureaucracies, dependence on external forces, and the problems associated with them: limited capacity to innovate, rural stagnation, ethnic competition, corruption, and military intervention. The South African situation is likewise examined.

GOVT 225: Politics of Russia, the Other Post-Soviet States, and Eastern Europe

After a brief examination of the politics of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe before World War II, the bulk of the course looks more in depth at developments in this region during and after the cold war. The final section of the course examines the post-1989/90 transition process toward democracy and a market economy in Russia, the other post-Soviet states, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and touches on the issue of NATO expansion to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. [GM2, SS] Fabian

GOVT 226: Political Regimes and Regime Change

There are two main types of political regime: democracy and everything else. Historically, democracies have differed from non-democracies in two key ways: (1) they have permitted citizens to remove governments regularly and peacefully, and (2) they have not killed large numbers of their own citizens. Why did the West democratize early? Why has most of the developing world democratized since the 1970s? Under what conditions do regimes (i.e., democracies and non-democracies) achieve long-term stability? [W]   Van Dyck
Prerequisite: One of the following:  Govt 101, 102, 103,  104, or permission of instructor 

GOVT 227: Latin America Politics

This course examines the dynamics of political and economic change in modern Latin America, with a focus on six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Topics include industrialization and the advent of mass politics, Marxist revolutions and movements, military coups and dictatorships, the neoliberal turn, the third wave of democratization, the challenge of democratic consolidation, and the recent resurgence of the left. The course compares a variety of theoretical approaches (modernization, dependency, cultural, institutionalist, leadership-centered) in an effort to explain both general processes of change and important differences between countries. [W] Van Dyck
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or 103, or permission of instructor

GOVT 230: International Politics of the Middle East and Persian Gulf

The course examines topics such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the struggle for domination in the Arab World, the role of the superpowers in the region, and the politics of oil. An analysis of international political processes in some of the Middle Eastern countries is used to examine explanations for the foreign policies of these countries. The course assesses different solutions to problems confronted by the nations of the Middle East. [GM2, W]   Peleg

GOVT 231: Global Environmental Politics

Global Environmental Politics bridges international politics and environmental issues, offering an explicit focus on environmental problems and policies in the global context. Students in this course will study the development of global environmental regimes and analyze the successes and continuing deficiencies of political responses to various environmental issues, such as air pollution, water quality, waste management, climate change, and energy use. [SS, V, W] Fabian
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or permission of instructor

GOVT 232: International Political Economy

Investigates the dynamics of wealth and power at work in the contemporary world. The course combines the analysis of politics, governance and institutions, and the production and distribution of wealth with the study of the social, cultural, and moral contexts in which power operates and wealth is created.
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or permission of instructor

GOVT 238: East Asian International Relations

This course explores the major analytical perspectives on the sources of stability and conflict in East Asian international relations and evaluates them by using empirical evidence from the East Asian region since the “clash civilizations” in the 19th century up to the current regional order. Topics for discussion include U.S. strategy in East Asia, the impact of the rise of China on regional security, nuclear proliferation, territorial disputes, nationalism, economic interdependence, and regionalism.     [GM2, SS] Park      
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or permission of instructor   

GOVT 241: The Politics of Fashion

Examining the fashion system, a multibillion dollar worldwide industry, this course raises issues of appearance, beauty, gender, and sexuality; power, liberation, and oppression; and class distinctions and equality. To develop a political theory of fashion, the course studies the practice and production of clothes and style, and analyzes texts from literature, sociology, history, and cultural studies. [W]    Miller
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 242: African American Political Thought

This course explores classic texts, questions, and debates addressed by contemporary African American political theory. We will ask: What are the similarities, differences, and overlaps among varying strains of African American political thought? How do they each deal with core concepts of freedom, identity, citizenship, and community? How do they respond to one another through time? Throughout the course, we will consider our times in light of this history of political thought.  [H, GM1, V, W]  Miller
Prerequisite: One of the following: GOVT 104, AFS 102, ENG 246, PHIL 102, HIST 119, HIST 261, A&S 214, or permission of instructor

GOVT 244: Modern Political Theory

An examination of selected theoretical texts from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. The separation of political theory from religious discourse, the rise of the state, and the development of liberal and democratic thought are examined. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau are usually treated. [SS, V, W]    Feola, Silverstein
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 245: Early American Political Thought

This course studies the theoretical and political struggle to define American politics that took place among Puritans, radical democrats, liberal individualists, and liberal nationalists. Early 19th century reactions to the liberal founding are also explored. Authors studied often include Winthrop, Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, the Federalists, Emerson, and Douglass. [W]  Miller
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 246: Recent American Political Thought

The themes of racial conflict, equality, the rise of the state, social Darwinism, education, and the changing role of women are explored. The course does not emphasize the historical contexts of ideas, but seeks to discover what is true and relevant for the present in texts written from the Civil War to the present. [W]  Miller
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 248: Capitalism and Its Critics

This course examines both the political goods that are associated with capitalism (freedom, democracy, etc.) – and challengers (classic and contemporary) who argue that this economic form has rather more problematic social effects. We will read texts that address a wide range of questions, ranging from poverty, to capitalist labor markets, to the marketization of greater domains of life (e.g. bodily organs, water, education), to the impact of market values on democratic practice.  [SS, V, W]    Feola
Prerequisite: Govt 
104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 258: Political Opinion and Participation in the United States

This course examines Americans’ political views and behaviors, including what citizens think about and do politically, as well as why they make the political choices they do. Topics include the causes and effects of partisanship; whether Americans’ political choices are “rational”; who tends to vote (and why); the impact of values and group identities on political choices; political persuasion and influence; and the role of cognition and emotion in political decision-making.   [SS]
Prerequisite: Govt 101 or permission of instructor

GOVT 270: Chinese Foreign Policy

This course examines the sources and conduct of Chinese foreign policy from both historical and theoretical perspectives. The first part of the course explores major factors that influence China’s foreign relations, including the international system, domestic politics, and nationalism. The second half of the course turns to the practice of Chinese foreign policy over a wide-range of issue areas, such as China’s relations with the United States, trade, regionalism, nuclear proliferation, energy, and climate change. [SS] Cho
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 102, Asia 101, or permission of instructor 

GOVT 271: The New Deal and American Politics

The New Deal transformed American politics, setting the framework for modern day debates about the role of the federal government in American society. This course examines the New Deal and the years immediately following it (roughly 1933-1953 from a range of historical and theoretical perspectives, as well as original source materials.  
Prerequisite: GOVT 101 or permission of the instructor

GOVT 309: Scope and Methods of Political Science

Acquaints students with social science inquiry—the process by which political scientists develop research questions and attempt to find answers. The course explores various approaches to political inquiry, ways to structure and critique arguments, methods to conceptualize a research question and develop causal models, means to create a testable hypothesis, and how to evaluate various methods of data collection. The final section focuses on data processing, analysis, and introductory statistics. Helps evaluate political science material and enables them to undertake a social science research project.

GOVT 310: Politics, Policy, and Law in American Federalism

Explores American federalism as a system of democratic self-rule and share rule, and examines how federal-state-local government relations shape law, politics, and policy in the United States. Topics include: covenantal origins and constitutional theory of American federalism; historical transformations; legal, political, administrative, and fiscal dynamics of intergovernmental relations; and the impacts of federalism on such policy issues as civil rights, business and the economy, taxation, environmental protection, and foreign affairs. [GM1, SS, W]   Kincaid

GOVT 311: Constitutional Law and Politics in the United States

Constitutional adjudication as a political process which generates and manages social conflicts regarding the basic allocation of governmental authority in the American system. Topics include judicial review, limits on executive and legislative power, federalism, and the court and social change.   [W]  Murphy
Prerequisite: Govt 101 or permission of instructor

GOVT 313: First Amendment in the United States: Law and Politics

This course examines the development of constitutional doctrine as it relates to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Topics include freedom of expression, church-state relations, and freedom of the press. [W] Murphy, Silverstein
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 101213311314315, or permission of instructor

GOVT 314: Liberty in the United States: Law and Politics

Many of the social conflicts that the law considers relate to claims of rights grounded upon conceptions of liberty as a fundamental value of the constitutional system of the United States. This course explores the concept of liberty, its place in United States law and politics, and its application to questions of constitutional and political rights. Topics include privacy and criminal justice. [W]  Murphy
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 101213311313, 315, or permission of instructor

GOVT 315: Equality in the United States: Law and Politics

Many of the social conflicts that the law considers relate to claims of rights grounded upon conceptions of equality as a fundamental value of the constitutional system of the United States. This course explores the concept of equality, its place in U.S. law and politics, and its application to questions of constitutional and political rights. Topics include discrimination on grounds of race, gender, etc., and remedial programs such as busing and affirmative action. [WSilverstein
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 101213311313314, or permission of instructor

GOVT 320: The Presidency and Executive Politics

This course explores the dynamics of executive politics, with primary emphasis upon the structure and operation of the United States Presidency. Topics include the organization of the Presidency and the Executive Branch, models of presidential power and leadership, the process of presidential selection, relationships with other parts of the political system, and executive politics and public policy. [WClarke
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 101211, 311321, or permission of instructor

GOVT 321: Congress and the Legislative Process

This course analyzes the process of lawmaking in the United States Congress within the context of the legislative process generally. Topics include the structural and functional development of the institution, the rules and norms which govern interaction, congressional elections, leadership and party organization, relationships with other parts of the political system, and public policy. Clarke

GOVT 331: Politics of the European Union

Major changes are taking place in governance, decision making, and relations between the people, institutions and states that form the European Union. These changes are the main topics covered in this course: the origin and history of European integration, common agricultural policy, monetary integration and relations with other parts of the world. Each year, with a select focus on one EU member and one specific policy, the class will participate in the Mid-Atlantic European Union simulation, held in Washington, DC.     Fabian
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or 103, or permission of instructor

GOVT 332: Globalization and Security

This course explores the various ways in which globalization is (re)shaping the concept and practice of international as well as national security. Throughout the course, we will examine the major concepts and issues in the globalization of security from both the theoretical and empirical standpoints. Topics for discussion include migration and national security, terrorism and asymmetric warfare, defense privatization, economic sanctions, and collective security.    [W]  Park
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or permission of instructor

GOVT 334: American Security Policy

A study of the formulation, implementation, and effects of U.S. foreign policy. The course will examine and analyze U.S. defense and foreign policy vis-à-vis Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa; the decision-making community, and such concepts as globalism, imperialism, nuclear and limited war; insurgency; threat perception; confrontation and coexistence; and foreign policy ethics. [WPeleg
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or permission of instructor

GOVT 336: International Conflict

An examination of different forms of international conflict: nuclear war, conventional war, guerrilla war, limited reprisals, etc. Explanations for international conflicts are suggested in interdisciplinary terms. Some better-known historical and contemporary conflicts are analyzed. The course also deals with the effectiveness of various solutions for the elimination or the minimization of conflict on the international level.  [SS, V, W]  Fabian
Prerequisite: Govt 102 and one course from Govt 221-239, or permission of instructor

GOVT 341: Contemporary Political Thought

This course studies those 19th and 20th century thinkers most discussed by political theorists today. We will attempt to chart both the institutional forms of, and theoretical responses to, modern power. Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Weber, and Foucault are often studied in this course. [W]
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 366, 367: Special Topics

An offering on a subject selected by the instructor to meet student and departmental needs as conditions permit. Announcement of the subject is made in advance.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

GOVT 380: Internship

A combination of independent activities including selected readings, satisfactory completion of an internship or working assignment in a public agency, and a written report covering both reading and work assignments. Limited in enrollment by the availability of acceptable projects. Fabian
Signature of the Instructor Required 

GOVT 390, 391: Independent Study

Subjects are chosen and arrangements are made to suit the needs of each student in consultation with the instructor.
Signature of the Instructor Required

GOVT 401: Representation, Apportionment, and Democratic Participation

At the core of representative democracy is the notion that the people can be substantively present in the process of governance even though literally absent. This seminar will use theoretical, empirical, legal, and comparative perspectives to explore this paradox. Topics include apportionment, gerrymandering, and voting rights. Satisfies exposure to U.S. politics subfield. [W]
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 215, 310311313314315, Hist 258, or permission of instructor

GOVT 405: US Foreign Policy in a Changing World

This seminar deals with the challenges to American foreign policy in the contemporary world. It compares the predictable environment of the Cold War and the competition with the Soviet Union to the unchartered waters of the post-Cold War era. The seminar begins by analyzing alternative paradigms of today’s world both in terms of the distribution of power (uni-, bi-, tri-, or multi-polar system) and in terms of the fundamental nature of international conflict (state-based power politics, clash of civilization, religious fundamentalism). It then examines possible U.S. responses to this “deregulated” world dealing with classical dilemmas of American foreign policy (e.g. isolationist tendencies vs. interventionism, U.S. as a world policeman vs. a “reluctant sheriff”). The seminar will cover U.S. policy vis-a-vis different regions and countries (Europe, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Russia, the Peoples’ Republic of China) and toward a variety of issues (human rights, weapons of mass destruction, NATO expansion). Satisfies exposure to international politics subfield. [W]     Peleg
Prerequisite: Govt 102 plus one from Govt 221-238 or Govt 334, or permission of instructor

GOVT 407: Law and Social Movements

This course examines the relationship between law and social movement activism. The course explores whether or not the use of the legal system by social movements contributes to their attempts to advance reforms. Particular attention will be paid to the development of law by the following social movements in the United States: the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the movement for gay and lesbian rights, and the animal rights movement. Satisfies exposure to U.S. politics subfield. [W]     Silverstein
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 213311313314315, or permission of instructor

GOVT 410: Personality and Supreme Court Decision Making

This course examines the relationship between the evolution of the personalities of members of the United States Supreme Court and their decision making. Particular attention will be paid to the application of the “life cycle” paradigms to the jurisprudence of various justices. Satisfies exposure to U.S. politics subfield. [W]     Murphy
Prerequisite: One of the following: Govt 311313314315, Hist 258, or permission of instructor

GOVT 412: Politics of European Integration

This will be an advanced course on the challenges as well as the opportunities for further integration that face the European Union. Drawing the lesson from centuries of divisions, tensions, conflicts and war, European leaders initiated what can now be regarded as the most successful experiment of regional integration in the world. This course analyzes the process of European integration since 1945, by reviewing the EU’s history of enlargement, its main institutions and key policies. Satisfies exposure to international or comparative politics subfield. [GM2, SS, W]   Fabian
Prerequisite: Govt 102 plus one from Govt 221-238, or permission of instructor

 GOVT 414: Political Thought through Literature

In this course, we will study some dimensions and themes of politics that can be reached by literature differently than by traditional works of political theory. We will read classic texts and think about their political meanings, understanding politics in its broadest sense. Works that may be treated in the course include Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Don Dellilo’s White Noise. Satisfies exposure to political theory subfield. [W]  Miller
Prerequisite: Govt 104 or permission of instructor

GOVT 415: Nationalism in World Politics

This course explores the concept and practice of nationalism, with a particular emphasis on the role that it plays in world politics. We will survey the main concepts and theories in the study of nationalism, identify the major actors and processes in the politics of nationalism, examine the emergence of nationalism as a major force in international relations, and investigate various links between questions of national identity and interstate cooperation or conflict. Satisfies exposure to international or comparative politics subfield. [GM2, SS, W]   Park
Prerequisite: Govt 102 plus one from Govt 221-238, or permission of instructor

GOVT 416: Critical Theory: Power and Resistance

Should theorists just describe the world or, in cases of injustice, should they endeavor to change it? This course will explore an interconnected set of efforts to fulfill this latter task, through a wide variety of texts concerning power, domination, and the possibility of liberation. Although we will begin with Marxist concerns for class and exploitation, the second half of the course will interrogate forms of violence associated with race, normality, and gender. Satisfies exposure to political theory subfield. [WFeola
Prerequisite: Govt 104 and one of the following: Govt 241, 243244245246, 248, 341, Phil 260, or permission of instructor

GOVT 417: Latino Immigration and American Politics

This course investigates the role of Latino immigrants in the U.S. political system. We will explore patterns of Latino immigration historically and today, theories of immigration, Latino citizen and non-citizen political attitudes and rates of political involvement. The course also evaluates the creation of both pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant policy outputs and considers the influence Latinos will have on American politics in the future. Satisfies exposure to U.S. Politics subfield. [SS, GM1, GM2, V, W]
Prerequisite: Govt 101 and one of the following: Govt 211, 215227258315, Hist 275, or permission of instructor

GOVT 418: Democracy, Inclusion, Exclusion

Inclusion is often cited as a core democratic value. What exactly does it require, however? And, to what degree do liberal democracies meet (or fail to meet) this ideal? This course will explore the promise and limits of this political ideal, and chart a variety of concrete ways that groups are excluded from full political membership. Over the semester, we will consider these questions through issues of immigration, race, poverty, and sexuality. Satisfies exposure to political theory subfield. [W] Feola
Prerequisite: Govt 104 and one of the following: Govt 241, 243244245246, 248, 341, Phil 260, or permission of instructor

GOVT 419: Global Governance

This seminar explores the main actors and processes of global governance. We will assess the role of power, international institutions, transnational networks, and ideas. Specific topics of inquiry include global economic governance, the environment, third-world state building, international justice, military intervention, nuclear proliferation, and global terrorism. We will apply competing analytical approaches to different issue areas, as they intersect with the nature and management of global governance in the 21st century. Satisfies exposure to international politics subfield. [SS, GM2, W]      Cho
Prerequisite: Govt 102 plus one from Govt 221-238, 270, 322-336, or instructor’s permission

GOVT 420: Topics in Latin American Politics

Government 420 is an advanced seminar in Latin American politics. The course begins with a “crash course” in contemporary Latin American political history (Weeks 1-4) and, after that, proceeds thematically, exploring a particular topic in depth each week. Topics include the perils of presidential constitutions; the origins and significance of stable party systems; the resurgence of populism in the contemporary period; the decline of corporatism and the rise of new social movements; the changing role of the Catholic Church; the problem of state weakness; and the recent left turn. In examining these topics, we compare a variety of theoretical approaches (modernization, dependency, cultural, institutionalist, leadership-centered) in an effort to explain both general processes of change and important differences between countries. [W] Van Dyck
Prerequisite: Govt 102 or Govt 103 and one additional International or Comparative elective

GOVT 421: American Political Economy

This course examines the political development and function of the U.S. political economy. We will explore how political institutions and policies shaped economic arrangements from the founding to the present, and how economic interests, inequality, and identity influence U.S. politics today. The course will also explore in depth four aspects of U.S. political economy: the rise of finance, the welfare state, business regulation, and organized labor. This seminar will devote considerable attention to original research.  [W] Sorelle
Prerequisite: Govt 101 plus one of the following:  Govt 211, 215, 218, 258, 271, 310, 320, 321, PSTD 251; or permission of the instructor.

GOVT 495, 496: Thesis

An independent research project on a topic to be selected by the student and approved by the department. A student must undertake such a program for two semesters to graduate with honors.
Signature of the Instructor Required


Department of Religious Studies: 

REL 101: Religions in World Cultures

This course introduces religion by surveying the worldviews, practices, and institutions of global religious traditions. It considers both common and
distinctive spiritual preoccupations of religious practitioners and the astounding variety of religious expression across the human family. It examines the historical development of religions, their sacred writings, their myths, rituals, and symbols, and their contemporary forms. The course is also concerned with methods of studying religion. [GM2,H,V]

REL 102: Contemporary Religious Issues

Questions confronting Western religious traditions in the 20th century including the condition and stature of humans in the world of technology, the conflict between old and new moralities, the crisis of belief and disbelief, and being human in modern society. Offered fall and spring semesters. [SS,V]

REL 103: Religion, Myth, and Fantasy

A study of the nature of fantasy and the fantastic, and their relation to religion and religious expression, in both West and East. Students examine various texts and tales, as well as films, from a wide range of historical times and traditions, focusing on the modes through which they convey different kinds of religious experience, beliefs, and meanings. Themes include fate of the soul after death, conflict of good and evil, and boundaries between the real and the unreal. Offered fall semester. [H, GM1]

REL 104: Saints, Mystics, Ecstatics

An introduction to the comparative and historical study of religion through an examination of three often interrelated types of religious personality: saint, mystic, and ecstatic. After considering classic and recent studies of these three types from both Western and Eastern perspectives, the course analyzes autobiographical, biographical, hagiographic, iconographic, and cinematic portrayals of representative figures, focusing upon the expression of the figures’ defining experiences and followers’ responses to the persons’ lives and experiences. [GM1,H]

Theory & Methods

REL 240: Theories of Religion

What is religion? What is the nature of religious belief? What roles does religion play in society? How can we study and understand religion? There have been many attempts to answer these questions from sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, comparative religion, and the feminist critique of religion. This course examines representative theories of the nature and study of religion, paying close attention to the contexts within which these theories arise, and how effective they are in understanding religious beliefs and practices.[H,SS,W]

Prerequisite: 1 course in Religious Studies or Permission of Instructor


Transformations (Traditions and Practices)

REL 211: Hinduism: Unities and Diversity

An introduction to the vast, complex religious traditions of India known as Hinduism, with readings from some classic works of early Hinduism, such as the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and Hinduism’s extensive oral and written mythological tradition. Hindu worship and meditation are studied, as well as the religious foundations of the caste system. Issues in contemporary Hinduism are also considered. This course counts toward Asia Culture Cluster and Asian Studies major and minor. [GM2, H, V]

REL 212: Buddhism: From India to Asia and Beyond

An introduction to the development of Buddhism and its spread throughout Asia. The course begins with the rise of Buddhism in India and the development of Buddhist philosophy and religious practice. It then examines Buddhism in China, Japan, Tibet, southeast Asia, and the West, focusing on adaptations in Buddhist practice and belief in different environments. Counts toward Asia Culture Cluster and Asian Studies major and minor. [GM1, GM2, H, V]

REL 213: Judaism: Faith, Communities, Identity

An introduction to the religion, history, and literature of the Jewish people. Among the areas covered are: the Biblical heritage; the development of rabbinic Judaism; ritual and the holy life; the reactions of Judaism to modern developments such as political emancipation, the Holocaust, and the state of Israel; and contemporary Jewish problems. [GM1, H, V]

REL 214: Christianity: From Jesus to the Third Millennium

A study of the main branches of Christianity—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—with reference to their common Biblical inheritance, historical developments, characteristic doctrines, and institutional expressions. Readings are assigned in authors representing the viewpoints studied. [H,GM2, V]

REL 215: Islam: History, Faith, and Practice

A study of the origin and growth of Islam as a religious, cultural, and political force in the world. Beginning with the founding by the Prophet Muhammad in the early 7th century, the course presents a detailed explanation of the Qur’an, as well as the core beliefs and obligations. The course also explores the content and practical application of the Sharia, Islam’s holy law; the differences between the Sunni and Shiite forms in their historical, theological, and sociopolitical perspectives; and Islam’s strength and influence in the contemporary world. [H,V]

REL 216: Religions in Africa: Historical and Contemporary Expressions

This course is an introduction to the study of traditional African religious systems, thought, and experience. The course explores the way African religions are related to different forms of social organization and conflict, notions of authority, and power. It also explores the ways African religious thought and practice have been affected by and transformed through colonization, missionary activity, and the continent’s integration into the global economy. [GM2, SS, V, H]

REL 231: Religions in American History and Culture

A survey of the histories of religious communities, faiths, and practices in North America, particularly the United States, from the colonial period to the present. The religious histories of Native Americans and of peoples of Europe, Africa, and Asia who later arrived, are all considered. Emphasis is on issues raised by the repulsion and attraction, conflicts and blending, of belief systems (including Sioux, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, African American, Mormon, and Buddhist). [H]

REL 232: Religions in Latin America

This course focuses on how religious practices and beliefs have contributed to culture, ethnic identity, and public life over time in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The role of the Catholic Church in colonization and nation formation, and its place in popular culture is considered. Other topics include the rise and spread of Protestant Christianity in the region as well as indigenous and African-origin religions. [H,GM1]

Representations(Texts and Contexts)

REL 201: The Biblical Imagination: Torah, Prophets, Writings

An Introduction to the religion of ancient Israel this course is an examination of Biblical perspectives on the great questions through close reading of selected texts; appropriation and interpretation of the book as “Scripture” by both Jewish and Christian communities. [H,V]

REL 202: Christian Scriptures

An introduction to early Christianity with special attention to its Judaic context, the life and teachings of Jesus, the letters of Paul, and the rise and expansion of the Christian community. [H,V]

REL 203: Religion and the Literary Imagination

This course interprets the religious meanings and implications of a selection of 20th century novels. The focus is upon the problematic relationship of the religious protagonist to society and God, or to some other ultimate concern. Other themes considered include the conflict of faith and doubt, tensions between religious commitment and aesthetic yearnings, moral and ethical responsibility in the confrontation with evil, and religious dilemmas arising from the encounter between different cultures and religions. [H,V,W]

REL 204: India’s Religious Texts: Sacred Word, Sacred Sound

This course introduces the oral and written traditions of South Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam with selections from a range of texts including the Vedas; biographies of the Buddha; and Hindu, Sikh, and Islamic mystical and devotional poetry. The course examines the use of oral and written traditions in religious practice. [H,V]

REL 207: The Quran

A study of the Quran that focuses on the origin and compilation of the text, a sociocultural history of its interpretation, and its function in Muslim life. The course also examines the Quran as scripture and its major themes. [H,V]

REL 260: Global Muslim Literature and Film

This course introduces students to global Muslim culture and civilization through literature and film.  Geographic regions include the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, North America and Europe; historical periods span both pre-modern and modern. Topics covered include but are not limited to: constructions of race, religion, and gender; diaspora and immigration; political Islam and Islamophobia in cultural contexts. Course materials focus on fictional storytelling although they may be rooted in actual historical events. [H,GM2]

Power and Difference

REL 217: Latino/a Religions: Not Just Catholicism 

A study of the religious traditions of Latinas and Latinos in the United States. The course looks at various forms of Catholocism, the growth of Protestantism in Hispanic communities, and a variety of Afro-Caribbean religions. Emphases are placed on the lived devotions of Latinas/os, on the differences among Mexican, Caribbean, Central and South American groups, and on the role of religion in ethnic identity formation and maintenance. [GM1, H, V]

REL 222: Interreligious Cooperation and Conflict

This course explores the intersection of religion, ethics and politics through the lens of interreligious cooperation and conflict.  It focuses on the connected histories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the “Abrahamic faiths”- through a study of doctrine, ritual and social life.  Special attention is given to practices of representing “nonbelievers” and to historical interactions between the religious communities in order to highlight the complexity, fluidity and dynamism of religious identity.  [H, GM1, V]  Prerequisite: REL 101 or permission of the instructor. 

REL 225: Sex, Gender, and Religion

How have religions helped shaped attitudes about traditional gender roles? This course explores ideas about gender and sexuality in the world’s major religions. Topics include ideas about gender from texts and oral traditions, ideas regarding gender and spiritual capability, and the connection between religious notions of gender and larger social, political, and economic issues. The course also examines various feminist critiques of religion and reform movements within religious traditions. [GM1, H]

REL 228: Religion and Politics in Africa

This course is a critical introduction to the study of politics and the way religious forces and discourses have shaped and continue to shape general notions of the good in African societies and nations. The course will begin with classic studies of institutions of social and moral order in Africa and will move through the way African religious and political systems came into articulation with the colonial and postcolonial state. The second half of the course will examine moral quandaries like political corruption, and moral reform movements like Pentecostalism, against the backdrop of economic structural adjustment and the decreased sovereignty of African nations. [GM1,GM2,H,SS]

REL 305: Muhammad and Prophecy

This interdisciplinary seminar examines the life of Muhammad, who ranks among the most influential persons in world history.  After probing the nature and meaning of prophecy, this course surveys Muhammad’s life in detail, while drawing a portrait of early Arab social, cultural, political, and economic life.  The course also explores the problem of succession after Muhammad’s death, which spawned the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims. [H, GM1]

REL 308 Visual Culture and Religious Identity

This course introduces the concept of visual culture as a window into the study of religion. Secondary texts are juxtaposed with primary sources. These sources suggest that the construction of religious communities and identities has taken place in the context of cultural exchange. We look at how various traditions have used images to construct community boundaries and ideologies. What and when have communities shared, disputed, and diverged? How has the presentation of “others” been an aspect of religious identity? [H,GM1, W]

REL 309 Jews in the Americas

This course analyzes Jewish life, religious practice, and identification throughout the Americas. Rather than taking a single national framework, we compare Jewish life in multiple local and national contexts, evaluating how particular contexts have influenced Jews; how Jews have influenced various societies, cultures, and religious practices; and the construction of transnational Jewish networks, practices, and identities. We evaluate contexts individually as well as in exchange with each other. We also consider the roles of various languages in Jewish life, including Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, English, Spanish, and Portuguese (though all readings are in English translation).
[H, GM1, W]

REL 350 Religious History of the Americas

Typical narratives of religious history in the Americas start with the arrival of Christian Europeans on the eastern seaboards who then inevitably move westward across the hemisphere, converting or displacing all in their path. This seminar-style course presents alternatives to this colonial story by examining various histories and ethnographies of religious people that move, instead, on north/south axes, from west to east, or in multi-directional ways. Emphasis is placed on transnational flows and cultural contact. [GM2, W]


Additional Department Electives

REL 223: Religious Healing and Health

An examination of how various religious traditions understand sickness and health and how they try to restore wholeness to sick individuals and groups. The efficacy of religious healing, the interface between modern medicine and folk healing, and the importance of cultural narratives in restoring the sick to health are all considered. Academic analyses of religious healing as well as firsthand accounts of religious and folk healthcare are studied. [H, SS]

REL 224: Religious Ethics

A study of the bases of normative claims about behavior in various religious traditions. Materials from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and other religious traditions are used. Topics include freedom, responsibility, and destiny. [H]

REL/A&S 250: Anthropology of Religion

As the United States and European colonial powers expanded into places like Africa, Native North America, Melanesia, and Australia (to name a few), different national traditions of anthropology developed an ever evolving toolbox of approaches and techniques for understanding the religious lives of Euro-American Others. This course is an introduction to this “toolbox” of anthropological theories and methods for studying religion from the Victorian era to the present. The course will also attend to voices in the discipline critical of the way anthropology constructs “religion” as an object of analysis. [SS]

REL 301: Philosophies of Religion

An examination of central problems and current issues in the philosophy of religion as treated in classic texts of the field: definitions of religion; ‘proofs’ of God’s existence; the nature of religious experience, faith, revelation, and miracle; the problem of evil; human destiny; religious naturalism; religious language; atheism and unbelief; religious pluralism; and religion and gender. We discuss these subjects from a rational, critical, objective perspective, taking into account the historical-cultural contexts of the authors. [H, V, W]

REL 304: Spirituality and Transformation

What is spirituality?  How and why do human beings seek to transform themselves?  This course explores these and other questions primarily through the lens of Islamic mysticism (Sufism), but also through Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) and the booming American Self-Help industry.  Sources include both primary and secondary texts, including translations when appropriate.  Active participation and lively discussion are encouraged. [H,GM1]

REL 306: Jewish Responses to the Holocaust

Investigation of reactions to the Holocaust in the context of reactions to and explanations for catastrophe in the history of Judaism. Study of Jewish literature that addresses the problem of suffering and of Holocaust writing that challenges traditional responses. Examination of modes of Holocaust memorialization and their role in contemporary Jewish life and thought. [GM1,H,W]

REL 307: The Jewish Experience in Poland

The course traces the development of Jewish civilization in Poland, the
spiritual and demographic heart of Judaism, examining distinctive Jewish
movements and institutions in the early modern Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth, the life of the shtetl (small town), and the flowering of
secular Jewish culture in the early 20th century.  The course also
considers the complex issue of Jewish-Polish relations before, during, and
after World War II and the Holocaust and the fate of Jews in postwar
communist Poland.  Finally, the course examines the “New Jews” of
contemporary Poland and the politics of memory expressed in current popular media, memorials, museums, and culture festivals.  Texts include histories, drama, fiction, travel writing, and films. [GM1,GM2,H,W]

REL 310: Sacrifice: Violence and Ritual

What do the Eucharist, the ritual slaughter of oxen, and military service have in common? They all share sacrificial elements; the giving up of something, often the life of some being (broadly understood), in order to constitute the sacredness or boundary of a community. This course examines the role of sacrifice in religion, ritual, gender relations and even secular social formations such as nationalism. The course thus explores both theories of sacrifice and the significance of sacrifice in different social and historical contexts. [H,SS,GM1,GM2]

REL 351-360: Special Topics

These courses study subjects of current interest to students and members of the staff.

Faculty-Directed Projects

REL 390, 391: Independent Study

Open to junior or senior religious studies majors or minors. Students select a specific area of interest for reading and investigation in consultation with the faculty adviser and subject to the approval of the department. Students confer regularly with advisers on their work and prepare an essay on an approved subject. Open to other qualified juniors or seniors with permission of the department.

Senior Project Options:

REL 490: Senior Capstone

Students who major in religious studies develop a capstone project under the direction of a faculty member in the department, following the established, written guidelines available in the department. This takes place in the first semester of the senior year.[W]
Prerequisite: Students must be religious studies majors

REL 495, 496: Honors Thesis

Students desiring to take honors should inform their department advisers by the end of the second semester of the junior year. Honors work involves a guided program of independent reading and research culminating in a thesis on a topic to be selected by the student in consultation with his or her adviser and approved by the department. All honors projects must be conducted in accordance with the established written guidelines available in the department. Honors candidates enroll in 496 only upon successfully completing Religious Studies 495. [W]