INTLSTD 209 - Death, Immortality, and Afterlife
Winter 2022, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is   Hybrid (see other Sections below)
Subject: International Studies (INTLSTD)
Department: LSA II: International and Comparative Studies
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/5/22 - 4/19/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


“What makes us human?” We may think that it is our ability to use language, or our capacity for abstract thinking, making history, crafting art, and developing religions, or is it our cognitive facility to conceptualize death and immortality? This course aims to answer these questions by resorting to the long and distant past, known as deep history, that spans from the prehistorical to the present. Realizing that this question goes beyond the capacity of any single academic discipline, we turn to history, cultural anthropology, archaeology, palaeontology, developmental psychology, comparative religions, art, and literature to explore the universal human search for the meaning of death and immortality. Cultural practices around death and immortality, like burial and mortuary rituals and telling stories about the afterlife, have marked the human experience since the emergence of homo sapiens. This course maps such practices to probe into the uniqueness of human beings compared to our closest hominid ancestors, especially the Neanderthals, to ask if they also have ritual burials, and if they so, how does this change our definition of being human. We then turn to the beginnings of the religious expression in prehistory leading to the foundations of the world’s major religions. Finally, we end by exploring how present communities imagine, negotiate, and ritualize the deaths of the living and the lives of the dead.

This course includes two museum visits, an observation of a religious ritual, and watching documentary films. The final assessment is based on a project that scholars choose and develop throughout the semester. This course is an approved credit for STS—Science, Technology and Society major and Religion minor. It is co-developed and co-taught with Dr. Ramy Aly at the American University in Cairo and includes 6 class meetings on Zoom.

Course Requirements:

Two essays, response papers, and a final project.


INTLSTD 209 - Death, Immortality, and Afterlife
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
1/5/22 - 4/19/22

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