Graduate-Level Courses of Interest

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Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations 

THEO 60833

Gabriel Reynolds and Mun’im Sirry

Muslim Christian Relations
Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, at his home in the holy city of Najaf, receives Pope Francis on March 6, 2021. Photo: AFP/Ayatollah Sistani’s Media Office

In our course we will consider Christianity's encounter with Islam, from the Islamic conquests of the 7th century to the internet age. The first section of the course is historical. We will examine how various historical contexts have affected the Christian understanding of Muslims and Islam, from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad to September 11 and beyond. The second section of the course is systematic. How are Christians today to respond to Islam, in light of recent world events and recent Church teaching? In addressing this question we will analyze primary theological sources that express a range of responses, from pluralism to dialogue to evangelism. 

Students in this class will be introduced to the Quran, to the life of Muhammad, to the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite Islam, to Church teaching on Christianity's relationship with Islam, and to trends in the theology of religions.


Islamic Law and Constitutions 

POLS 60108

Emilia Justyna Powell, Jennifer Fox, Debbie Sumption

Sharia Court1
A sharia court in Bahrain.

This seminar offers an introduction to Islamic law and Islamic constitutionalism. How does the world of Islam understand the concept of law? What is Islamic justice? Do constitutions of Islamic law states differ from those of the West? How does governance relate to religion in the Islamic world? How did this relationship evolve? Students will consider the meaning of Islamic justice, its embodiment in the legal system, its execution, the way it has evolved, and the principles that underpin it. 

We will examine the role of Muslim religion in the shaping of the law, and how a faith-based concept of law relates to modern governance. The aim of this seminar is to acquire a better understanding of Islamic law as an expression of the divine will, and as a system of laws and justice, through focusing on classic texts, Islamic law states' constitutions, as well as photography, art and sculpture.


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.


Ritual, Ethics, Ethnography

THEO 83423 ANTH 83300

Kimberly Belcher and Todd Whitmore

The aim of this course is to introduce students to fieldwork methodology as this intersects with questions of ritual belonging and ethics. The first third of the course focuses on qualitative research methods (e.g. participant observation and the field interview). The second third of the course will familiarize students with key models and insights of post-colonial ritual studies, provide examples of the use of these models to understand liturgy and religious belonging, and prepare students to integrate ritual theory into their ethnographic work. The final third of the course will raise the question of the relationship between the descriptive and the normative as it has arisen in both cultural anthropology and theological ethnography. Students will be expected both to master key theoretical concepts and to carry out participant observation field research as part of their course requirements.


Modern Religious History

HIST 93015

John McGreevy and Thomas Tweed

Daychavezking Full2
Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, and Dorothy Day.

Scholarly fields are like sustained conversations, and in this graduate seminar we hope to help you enter the ongoing discussion about the historical study of modern religion. Considering both classic approaches and recent innovations, we discuss a wide range of books dealing with the history of modern religion, beginning with global histories and then focusing more on the United States. The instructors hope to encourage reflection about what different spatial scales—local, national, and transnational—obscure and illumine. Along the way, we engage multiple approaches, including social, environmental, cultural, political, and intellectual history. We end the course by returning to historiographical issues and invite seminar participants to summarize their own thinking and propose how they think we should change the scholarly conversation in the years ahead.