HISTORY 105 - Introduction to Religion
Section: 001 From Rastafari to the Sun Dance
Term: FA 2017
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

The objective is to provide a grammar and template enabling students to think, write and discuss in advanced courses on specific religious traditions, and able to deploy a sophisticated vocabulary for the social scientific and comparative study of Religion. The course is intended to provide terms for a shared conversation among students in the Minor, even those studying very different parts of the world and very different religious traditions.

The class aims to show that religions are sets of ideas, discourses and practices that take on a defined, systematic shape in specific historic contexts of comparison and challenge. The course focuses on marginal and often misunderstood traditions of the Americas, giving particular attention to religious phenomena in the African diasporic and indigenous worlds at specific critical junctures in which “religion” acquired a defined profile and played an important role. The course explores, for example, the case of an Afro-Brazilian 19th-century spirit-possession priest in Rio de Janeiro; the transforming experience of the pilgrimage to Mecca for Malcolm X; the case of peyote users becoming a “church” in the 1920s, and then arguing for their rights before the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1993; sacrifice in the 16th century Aztec world at the time of Cortes’s landing; the neo-pentecostal surge in Brazil that emerged from the late 1970s; Rastafari origins, and the meanings of Ethiopia in 1930; emerging forms of so-called “spirituality,” and “Nones” in the present-day U.S.; the Jonestown, Guyana mass suicide of 1978; 20th-21st-century celebrity worship as religious devotion; the religious meanings of bodily endurance and pain in the Lakota sun dance, and Ghost Dance, ca 1889; and the material battles waged over defining the memory of Auschwitz in the post-socialist period, among other cases. In every case, a genuine "understanding" of the material in its own terms will be sought, when possible by reading original documents or first-hand reports, before turning to second-order analysis and theorization. In relation to the United States, the course gives special attention to First Amendment issues of "freedom of religion," and various legal challenges arising since the 19th century.

Course Requirements:

Class and section attendance, participation and discussion section quizzes. (20%); One 5-page essay (15%); Mid-term exam (short answer and identification, one essay) (30%); Final exam (short answer and identification, one essay) (35%).

Intended Audience:

Gateway for students interested in Religion, History, Anthropology, Sociology, the study of race and ethnicity, Law, and other areas. It is pitched to freshmen and sophomores because the reading load is relatively light, but upperclassmen will find challenges in the class as well.

Class Format:

four hours per week. Three hours of lecture, one hour of discussion led by GSIs.

HISTORY 105 - Introduction to Religion
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (DIS)
M 12:00PM - 1:00PM
003 (DIS)
Tu 11:00AM - 12:00PM
004 (DIS)
Tu 12:00PM - 1:00PM
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