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Asian Spiritualities and Global Affairs

KSGA 30605

Alexander Hsu

Fall 2021

Hsu Course 2
Photo by Paul Stocker.

To understand religion, we should go to Asia: Asia boasts the majority of the world's religions and religious people. In this class, we look at what Asian religious traditions are up to today, and how they inform everyday social and political life. How might religious traditions as diverse as Zen Buddhism and Zoroastrianism inform conflict, coexistence, and cooperation? What is it to be human within worldviews that seem to depart from our own with respect to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, dis/ability, and the natural world? How might society, culture, or economy develop in Sunni Muslim, humanistic Buddhist, or atheist Maoist terms? How might we learn to "scale up" spiritual practices such as shamanism, ancestor worship, radical nonviolence, and mindfulness meditation to solve global problems?

We read historians, anthropologists, and other scholars of religion to explore Asian spiritual routes and roots, from Iraq to Japan and beyond.

Religion in International and Global Relations 

IIPS 60313 (graduate students)

IIPS 30408 (undergraduate students)

Atalia Omer

Omer Course
Photo by Gili Getz.

What is the relation between religion and conflict in international and global relations? What is the relation between religion, violence, and the practices of peacebuilding, locally and globally? How can we understand the role of religion in diplomacy? Why do we need to think about religion's role in Western colonialism, orientalism, and Islamohobia (or racialized anti-Muslim oppression) in order to understand religion in contemporary international affairs? What does religion have to do with political ideology? 

The so-called resurgence of religion to global politics, conventionally dating back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, challenged the secularist myopia that informed policy makers and theorists of international relations, but it took the events of September 11, 2001 to fully catalyze a process of rethinking the role of religion, on both the levels of theory and practice, within the contexts of international relations. Both theorists and practitioners in the arenas of international relations are trying to decipher how to theorize religion into the existing explanatory paradigms of realism, liberalism, and constructivism. 

The course will examine these conversations, dating back to Westphalia of 1648 and the historical role of religion in the construction of the international system of nation-states. Driven by case studies and avoiding simplistic accounts of religious traditions, the course will introduce the students to religion and international relation theory, the practices of peacebuilding, diplomacy, development, and the study of ethnonationalism.

The Common Good and Renaissance Humanism in 16th and 17th Century England

ENGL 20246

Dong Hwan Chun

Fall 2021

Chun Course 2

While the rise of the individual has long been understood as a defining aspect of early modern England (16th and 17th century), this period is also a time when the ideas of the common good and the commonwealth (res publica) became central topics of intellectual conversations. In this course, we will examine how early modern contemporaries in England attempted to understand, define, and reconcile the idea of the individual with the promotion of the common good.

This course focuses on the works of English Renaissance humanists from Thomas More to John Milton who sought to comprehend the present and imagine a better future by looking back toward the classical past.

In examining these scholars' attitudes toward antiquity, students are encouraged to reflect on their own relationship with the past in order to navigate the current political climate where values of the common good are perceived as antithetical to individual rights and freedom.

Politics and Religion in a Secular Age

POLS 30726

Benjamin Sehnert

Fall 2021

Sehnert Course 2
Photo by Dan Nguyen.

What is "secularism" and what does it mean to live in a "secular age"? These questions have become increasingly more urgent in the contemporary world as we witness the rise of religious-based political ideologies (e.g., Christian nationalism, Islamism, Hindu nationalism) that threaten the ideal of a secular modern state. This course both seeks to address these questions as well as problematize the very notion of a modern tradition of secularity in the West and beyond. By tracing the development of the concept of the "secular" from its origins in Enlightenment Christianity, we will investigate the perpetual oscillation between both the proponents of secularism and the reaction against it.

In particular, this course will emphasize the reformulation of the secular ideal after the collapse of Enlightenment metaphysics and religious thought among thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Weber and contemporary American non-foundationalists such as John Rawls and Richard Rorty. Finally, we will survey the so-called "post-secularists" from both Western and Islamic traditions (Habermas, Taylor, Asad, Mahmood) in order to discuss the plausibility, or even desirability, of moving beyond the secular ideal for contemporary politics.

Religious Freedom

CSEM 24104

Mun’im Sirry

June 14 - July 23

Sirry Course3

What is religious freedom? Is it a universal principle? If religious freedom is such a universally accepted ideal, and if most national constitutions claim adherence to this ideal, why do violations still occur? Under what conditions can Islam be compatible with the principles of religious freedom rooted in the West? 

In addressing these questions, this course will draw on recent theoretical and empirical works dealing with the treatment of religious freedom. In this course students will be introduced to the paradox of our age: at the very time that the value of religious freedom is mounting, the international consensus behind it is weakening. Recent surveys showed that governmental restrictions on religion and social hostilities at the global level increased significantly in the past few years. 

This course will address the question of religious freedom from interdisciplinary perspectives. A special attention will be given to issues of religious freedom in Islam and how and why the Muslim world suffers from deficits of freedom today. Given the plurality of religions in our world, where the religious marketplace is contested by a seemingly endless plethora of denominations and traditions, this course confronts students with such questions as to whether it is really possible to protect and achieve absolute religious freedom.  

For more information on this online course, please visit csem.nd.edu