ASIAN 306 - What is Religion?
Fall 2017, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
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What are people looking for when they turn to religion, and what kind of fulfillment do they find in the experience? Why did religion seem to have disappeared by the mid-20th century before returning with a vengeance only a few decades later? Is “religion” sui generis or was it invented in the 19th century, the product of the Western scholarly imagination? The goal of this course is to engage students in analyzing the many facets of religion by introducing them to important contemporary themes and to the writings of key thinkers who have influenced contemporary understanding and study of religion. We will discuss the construction of the modern concept of religion and its career as a theoretical concept, as an academic discipline and as a public discourse. Students should expect to become acquainted with philosophical approaches to the study of religion and to the work of theorists who have contributed to some of the main debates in modern religious studies. By way of reference to studies of Asian and Western religious traditions, students will also be expected to examine a variety of critical issues that intersect with the contemporary study of religion, such as gender, colonialism, metaphysics, nihilism, belief, love, politics, capitalism, mysticism and spirituality, secularization, postmodernism, and pluralism. The course is divided into two parts: (1) 5 to 6 week Introduction to the Main Concepts in the Study of Religion, and 2) 7-8 week Advanced Study of Selected Themes in the Contemporary Study of Religions.

Course Requirements:

Mandatory attendance and participation. Midterm: 15 multiple-choice and short answer questions. Final: 20 multiple-choice and short answer questions. One-page summaries in which student’s clarify their understanding of reading assignments and identify and summarize the central ideas and concepts argued by the authors. In addition, adduce at least two key questions that can be shared with the rest of the class due at the end of each class and marked Pass/Fail. One 3-4 page paper that tests students’ ability to analyze, compare and synthesize different readings and use them to compose theoretically reflective papers. Students are encouraged to use summary papers as basis for this assignment. A final research Paper (8-10 pages) in which students pick a key concept and develop it using resources beyond the class readings. The paper should draw on archival material (journals and periodicals) outside of the class readings and can be tailored to specific disciplinary interests.

Intended Audience:

This course will appeal to undergraduates in multiple fields including Asian Studies, Religion, History, and Comparative Literature.

Class Format:

Meets weekly for 3 hours as a small seminar


ASIAN 306 - What is Religion?
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
9/5/17 - 12/12/17

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