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Fall 2019

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The following descriptions of courses being offered by the Department of Religion in Fall 2019 were submitted by the course instructors.

Specific information regarding the dates, times, and locations of these courses may be found in the Registrar’s official webpage: Schedule of Courses for Fall 2019.

*Here are the listings of our Fall 2019 courses in PDF format.

 **If you are looking for a complete syllabus for a course, check the Syllabi area for availability.

REL 2071 Religion and Sustainability – Chris Lomelin

This course examines the relationship between religion and sustainability and explores how the world’s different religious traditions address the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Topics include social and environmental justice, sustainable consumption, and sustainable agriculture and will highlight multiple religious perspectives

REL 2121 American Religious History (online) – David Hackett

This course offers an introductory overview of the American religious experience from an historical and cultural perspective. The interaction of American religions and cultures is examined in three chronological periods: 1) Colonial America 1500-1800 2) Nineteenth Century, and 3) Twentieth Century.

REL 2210 Hebrew Scriptures – Stahl

This course offers an academic introduction to the Hebrew Bible (roughly equivalent to the Christian Old Testament). As such, the Hebrew Bible itself will serve to provide an overall framework for the structure of the course. After preliminary classes introducing the course and defining the topic of study, the class will move through the Hebrew Bible in a roughly historical sequence largely oriented to the order of the prose books of the Bible, with special topics and issues integrated into the course along this general trajectory. No prior background in the subject matter or study of the Hebrew Bible is required or presupposed.

REL 2300 Intro to World Religions (online) – Vasudha Narayanan 

When you complete this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain basic world views, rituals, and beliefs of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Chinese religions, Japanese religions, Indigenous Religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. 
  • Problematize the category of religion and identify your own working definitions.
  • Identify the social, political, and cultural factors that come into play in the formation and understanding of a given religion.
  • Equipped with this knowledge of different religious traditions, and the contexts in which they thrive, identify your own vantage point, as well as engage with different cultures and countries in an informed, respectful manner.

REL 2930 Jewish Culture: Jews Jewishness and Judaism – Rachel Gordan

This course introduces students to the Jewish religious tradition in its various historical and contemporary manifestations. We will be asking: how has Judaism changed, over time? What divisions does it have, and how does it respond to the challenges of modernity? To answer these questions, our readings and discussion will cover core Jewish “stories” and their ongoing impact on the Jewish religious tradition, Jewish beliefs and practices, key literary classics of the Jewish tradition, varieties of classical and modern Jewish religious expression (for instance, philosophy and mysticism), and the contemporary Jewish movements. Although this is not a history class, we will proceed chronologically in order to appreciate the historical development of Judaism and the roles that memories of the Jewish past play in motivating Jewish religious practices and commitments. In addition to learning more about Judaism and the Jewish people, you will also have the opportunity to broaden your academic horizons, learn valuable lessons regarding the study of religion in general and, it is hoped, improve your analytic and presentation skills. This course is open to everyone. There are no pre-requisites, and no knowledge of religious studies in general or Judaism in particular is presupposed.

REL 2315  Religions of Asia – Jonathan Edelmann

This course examines the religious dimensions of human culture, focusing on Asia, especially ancient and medieval Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. While reading Asia’s ancient scriptural and philosophical texts, we will also reflect on how Asian is interpreted in modern Western scholarship, popular media, and new spiritual movements. There is, thus, a comparative component here, one that encourages discussion of Asian religion in comparison with modern expressions.

REL 2362 Intro to Islam – Ali Mian

This course offers a critical survey of Muslim belief and ritual in historical perspective. Yet, Muslims have not always used the word, “Islam,” to refer to the constellation of ideas and practices elaborated and embodied by the Prophet Muhammad and the early believers. This course unpacks the modern construction of Islam as religion, but also introduces students to Muslim doctrines, devotional acts, and socio-cultural institutions. To that end, we will read about the Islamic religious tradition from a number of thematic angles: community, historical self-consciousness, scripture, memory, theology, sectarianism, law and jurisprudence, mystical experience and practice, gender, sexuality, race and racialization, and secularity as well as globalization. In this way, we will use various crucial themes to survey key characteristics of Muslim experiences from late antiquity to modern times. At the same time, we will also study issues of representation and translation in Islamic studies. This course therefore brings two objects of study under critical scrutiny: “Islam” (by studying various accounts by and about Muslims) and “Islamic studies” (by studying various representations of “Islam” within multiple disciplinary frameworks, including religious studies, history, cultural anthropology, area studies, and political science).

IDS 2935  (Quest) Nature, Spirituality & Popular Culture: From Disney to Avatar- Bron Taylor

Beginning with the period since Walt Disney began making animal-focused documentaries and animated films in the 1930s, continuing up through the blockbuster motion picture Avatar (2009) and the Animal Kingdom Theme part further expressing its themes, this course takes a global tour examining the religious, spiritual, ethical, and political dimensions of artistic productions, scientific representations in museums, and other cultural inventions (such as theme parks), in which nature takes center stage. We will explore the international cultural tributaries, influences, and controversies such productions engender, for they constitute important ways that environmental ethics, and quests for environmentally sustainable livelihoods and lifeways, are expressed and promoted. The course will enhance students’ abilities to interpret these cultural productions and their evocative power, explore their own reactions to these social phenomena, whilst learning to think more deeply about their own places in, and obligations to, the natural world. The course will also help students to recognize how different worldviews — the philosophical, religious, and scientific understandings of the universe and biosphere — are expressed and promoted in popular culture. This will also enhance students’ international sophistication as they learn from where and when the world’s predominant religions emerged — for example Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Hinduism in Asia, Judaism, Christianity and Islam from the Near East — while also learning about the worldviews and ethical orientations typical of indigenous traditions, among contemporary Pagans and devotees New Age and science-inspired nature spiritualities. Analytic tools from the Humanities and humanistic social sciences will also be provided in order to enhance student understanding of important trend at the intersection of nature, spirituality, and popular culture.

IDS 2935 (Quest) Women and Religion in American Literature- Rachel Gordan

This course examines best-selling fictions dealing with women and religion, first in the immediate post-WW2 period and then in the late 20th century, as the popular culture pendulum swung in a more secular and, for women, “liberated” direction.  Emphasis is placed on understanding works in historical context as well as on critical self-reflection; students are invited to understand how, like the authors they study, their own position as people with specific gender identities and relationships to religious practice (including being a non-religious person) affects what and how they read.

REL 3076 – Cults and New Religious Movements – Erin Prophet

This course examines the “cult” and “new religious movement” in the context of modernity. Students will explore common typologies of religious groups, the dynamics of charismatic leadership, the sociology of small-group behavior, millennialism and apocalypticism, schism, violence, and government response, and models of conversion— including “brainwashing.” They will investigate how new religious groups push the boundaries of social norms concerning family, work and community, and trace the dynamics of tension and accommodation as groups change over time. Specific groups to be reviewed include the Shakers, Mormons, Peoples Temple (Jonestown), Rajneeshies, Branch Davidians, and Wicca. Methodological approaches include sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. Students will perform case studies or engage in comparative work on two or more groups. They will also develop a toolkit for evaluating the phenomenon of new religion through close reading, discussion, and written and oral presentation. Most classes include a short clip of a film, TV show or documentary (5-10 min) that can be further explored by students outside class.

REL 3098 Religion, Medicine, and Healing: Contemporary Perspectives (online) – Robin Wright

The focus of this course is on traditional healers and alternative healing practices in various religious traditions around the globe. The most important themes we shall discuss are: the efficacy of religious symbols for the healing process; cross-cultural notions of the body, pain, and healing; embodiment of healing powers by religious specialists; ritual performances and their meanings; the importance of sound, sonic imagery, and music to healing processes; the relations of healing practices to cosmology, metaphysics, and sacred narratives; and, the transformations of self and meaning that emerge during or from a cure. The healing traditions we shall study, by ethnic groups or geographical regions, are the following: (1) Indigenous peoples’ shamanisms; (2) Asian, Eurasian, and Southeast Asian Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Sufism; (4) Judaism and Christianity (Charismatic Catholicism and Pentecostalism); (5) Naturopathy and Nature Religions. We shall also examine the issues involved in discussions of Intellectual Property Rights. Among the central questions discussed for each tradition are: How does each contrast with Western bio-medicine? What relations does each maintain with conventional Western bio-medical systems? Is our current national health system capable of collaborating with non-Western forms of spiritual healing? Or are the interests of the industrial and pharmaceutical complex a hindrance through market control, predatory production of herbal remedies in ways that are damaging to peoples and the environment? This course also raises a fundamental question of “Healing the Earth,” which lies at the heart of our and many other societies’ principal illness, that has been popularly called the “disconnect with the natural world”, including the barriers we’ve constructed historically separating us from traditional societies by symbolic and political domination, massive alterations of the natural environment, and a blind trust in the future of high technology. This course argues that the way to healing ourselves and re-establishing a sustainable relationship with our “home” – the planet earth – and its aboriginal inhabitants is through healing the ‘nature disconnect’ on various fronts. The lessons of ancient traditions coupled with a re-scaling of ‘modern medicine’ are valuable starting-points towards this overall humanitarian goal.

REL 3108 Religion and Food – Victoria Machado

Explores the relationship between food and religion by investigating food in the context of specific religious traditions, such as Christianity, and examines food as a moral and ethical category in religious and secular contexts, e.g., organic and locavore.

REL 3171 Ethics in America – Anna Peterson

This class has a twofold purpose: to teach crucial ways of thinking about ethics as an academic discipline while also enabling students to reflect on and analyze ethical issues facing contemporary American society. We will focus in particular on the problems and opportunities created by the diversity in different areas of American cultural and religious life. As a foundation for thinking about ethical dimensions of contemporary issues, the course will provide an overview of ethics as an academic discipline, including introductions to major ethical theories and thinkers. We will also examine particular case studies, focusing on religious, racial, and cultural diversity in the U.S. We will explore the ways that issues such as justice, integration, cultural autonomy, and the common good shape visions of an ethical society. We will also address various obstacles – cultural, economic, and political – that make those visions difficult to achieve.

REL 3321 Early Judaism and Christianity – STAHL

This course will trace the developments from Ancient Israelite religion to Early Judaism (concentrating on the Hellenistic and Roman periods), and the emergence of Christianity from this Jewish matrix (including both the indebtedness of Early Christianity to Judaism and the Early Christian [and to a lesser extent Jewish] polemic against its sibling). The course does presuppose some background on the part of the student in terms of both course content and critical methodology.

REL 3330 Religions of India – Vasudha Narayanan

This course focusses on the religious traditions and cultural diversity seen in the Indian subcontinent. The lectures and discussions will span the following areas:

  • (a) a historical introduction to the Hindu tradition;
  • (b) thematic studies including domestic and temple rituals, discussions on the status of women, and Hinduism in the diaspora; and
  • (c) a study of the “minority” traditions in India.

We will strike a balance between a historical approach and a thematic one whereby sacraments, rituals, and other issues and activities that are religiously important for a Hindu family can be explained. This will include discussion of issues that may not be found in traditional texts, and I will be supplementing the readings with short journal and magazine articles, videos, and slides. For instance, we will raise many questions concerning the practice of Hinduism, and pay particular attention to the experience of women. Why do the Hindus (especially women) wear a mark on their foreheads? What kind of diet do they follow? How do Hindus worship at the home shrine and at the temple? How do they celebrate their festivals? What do they say during their weddings? Why has yoga generally been unimportant for the average Hindu for the last one thousand years or so? What do the Hindus mean by auspicious times and sacred places? How does the caste system function when marriages are arranged?

The larger questions we will be indirectly addressed in the course will include the following: Are the Indian concepts of “Hinduism” and western concepts of “religion” congruent? How has colonial scholarship and assumptions shaped our understanding of south Asian Hindus and the “minority traditions” as distinct religious and social groups, blurring regional differences? How are gender issues made manifest in rituals? To what extent does language identity overshadow religious identity? How does religious identity influence political and social behavior? How do Hindus in south Asia differentiate among themselves and what criteria do they use?

In the third part of the course we will discuss “minority” religions of India. This will include discussions on Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam.

REL 3370 Religions of Africa – Benjamin Soares

This course is an introduction to the study of religion in sub-Saharan Africa as a contemporary phenomenon as well as the outcome of historical processes.  We will examine so-called African traditional religions, spirit possession, Islam, and Christianity. Through the close reading and discussion of selected articles and monographs and viewing of films/videos, religions in various societies, past and present, will be explored in their complexity and diversity. The course familiarizes students with research methods and identifies empirical and theoretical shifts in the anthropological, comparative, and historical study of religion in Africa.

REL 3938 Global Religion in the U.S. – David Hackett

This course explores the dynamic multi-religious landscape of the US with special focus on Global Christianities, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu traditions in the most recent period of post-1965 immigration.  Over the past fifty years the ethnic composition of the United States has gradually changed with new immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. What are the religious dimensions of America’s new cultural mix? What changes have taken place in the religious landscape of America’s cities and neighborhoods? How have new religious traditions changed as they have taken root in American soil? And how is America changing as the freedom of religion cherished by America’s founders is now cherished by Global Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus who have come to America as immigrants?

REL 3938 Spirituality and Health Care – Erin Prophet

In the twenty-first century, spirituality and health care are intersecting in new ways. Traditional and indigenous medical practices are increasingly being sanctioned by and integrated with Western biomedicine. Health providers are expected to be aware of patients’ spiritual needs. Students will learn about: The historically shifting boundaries between medicine, psychology and religion in the West. How to evaluate the health impact of patients’ religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. Whether and how the effects of spiritual practices can be measured. The latest findings from the cognitive science of religion, including theories regarding the innateness of religious ideas. Finally, they will evaluate different models for integrating traditional and alternative therapies with Western biomedicine and learn best practices for assessing and meeting patients’ spiritual needs.

REL 3938 Indigenous Religions of the World – Robin Wright

This course seeks to understand comparatively the religious traditions of indigenous peoples from selected areas of the globe: the cultures of the Pacific, including Polynesia and Melanesia. The central objectives of our studies of these religious traditions are to comprehend the principles by which cosmogonies (the creation) are founded, cosmologies (worldviews) are constructed, the variety of beings that populate the cosmos are inter-related, and eschatologies (views on the end-of-times) are envisaged. The course will begin with readings on the ways in which scholars have approached the study of traditional religions. Then, we will discuss the ways in which native peoples understand the cosmos, their place in it and the moral responsibilities humans have in relation to each other and to all other living entities. We will also discuss how religious traditions have actively shaped their histories of relations with non-indigenous peoples (the West), which can often be seen in religious movements, for example, prophetism. 

Following this introduction, the course enters into a reading and discussion of ethnographies and comparisons among the religious traditions of native Hawaiians; native peoples of Fiji; the Maori of New Zealand; peoples of Papua New Guinea. 

A series of central themes and questions will guide our readings, discussions and paper-writing:

Cosmogony, or, the beginning of the cosmos;

  • Systems and properties of inter-related temporal and spatial structures of the cosmos;
  • Sacred geography (and especially, sacred sites) and astronomy in traditional cosmologies;
  • How do indigenous religious traditions actively incorporate notions of history and change into their spiritualities ?
  • How do different peoples understand their “place” and moral responsibilities in the cosmos and relations to other beings ?
  • Understandings of illness and health, the process of healing, within the wider context of beliefs about spiritual power in the cosmos;
  • The influences of Christianity and the nature of conversion from the perspectives of native peoples;
  • Ideas of an imminent end-time, both in the traditional and the post-Christian context;
  • How Western views of indigenous religious traditions have denigrated and misrepresented them in the history of colonialism. How has the Christian understanding of history prevented the West from respecting indigenous religious traditions ?

Besides the Readings, an important part of this course will be a series of films mixed of ethnography, history, and issues related to sacred lands and indigenous spiritualities.

REL 3938 Yoga, Before and Now – Jonathan Edelmann

Ancient and modern worlds meet in this course to explore the oldest references to yoga and the newest innovations bringing yoga to a wide range of places. The interdisciplinary approach of this course combines the study of yoga as theory and practice, site visits, guest speakers, and opportunity for individualized project development in a small class size.

We will learn about yoga related projects on campus like UF Mindfulness, Shands Arts in Medicine, UF Center for Spirituality and Health, and the Department of Neuroscience, connecting yoga to philosophy, medicine, art, and science. We will visit local sites like Flow Space, Amrit Yoga, and others to learn how yoga practices are taught and implemented in the community.

REL 3938 Islam in Europe – Jep Stockmans

The course Islam in Europe is an introductory course that aims to provide the students with a basic knowledge of the presence of Muslims in Europe and all the issues that surround this presence. The course starts out with a thorough historical background, looking at early encounters and the early presence of Islam in Europe. Hereafter the course moves on to discuss more contemporary issues such as marginalization, secularism, the “clash of civilizations,” and Orientalism. The emphasis will be on depicting the obstacles with which Muslims in the West are confronted. However, the socio-political situation of Europe will also be discussed in order to frame these obstacles within the broader European context. The student will be presented with both perspectives and how these issues create polemical and practical divides in Europe as well as the practical consequences of these divides.

REL 3938 Christian/Muslim Relations – Ikram

Christians and Muslims have been living together since the birth of Islam in the seventh century. Despite a wide array of interactions including, but not limited to, collaboration, tolerance, and respect, Christian-Muslim relations have often been expressed as confrontational and antagonistic. Through lectures, videos, and readings this course will explore the contemporary religious realities to better understand how different communities within each tradition interact and relate with one another. The course will also survey the historical developments of Christian-Muslim relations over the centuries and across various geographical ranges.

REL 3938 Religion and the Caribbean – Priyanka Ramlakhan

What counts as Caribbean religion and why? This course will examine historical and social contexts that have shaped how religion is constructed and expressed in the Caribbean. It will explore themes of colonialism, race, gender, pluralism, creolization, diaspora, resistance, authenticity, ritual performance, and music, among others that are specific to each locale we examine. Religions of consideration include: Indigenous traditions, Christianity, Islam, and Afro-Creole traditions including Rastafarianism, Spiritual Baptist, Voodoo and the Orisha traditions.

REL 4611 Israelite Religion: ORIGINS OF MONOTHEISM – STAHL

The concept of monotheism stands at the conceptual foundation of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as religious traditions. Yet, how did this religious concept first emerge in antiquity? This course examines the origins and development of monotheism and its congeners from a historical perspective, considering its social, religious, and political contexts through time. In considering how social and political structures shaped monotheism and its precursors in ancient times, students will be introduced to the problems and methods of historical inquiry, as well as critical theory on political authority, space and place, identity, and memory. In addition to readings from the Hebrew Bible, students will engage with ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and non-biblical Jewish sources that provide the broader cultural context needed to understand the evolution of early monotheism and its religious significance in human history.

REL 4933 Senior Seminar (Comparative Study) – REL 4933

This course is a capstone seminar for religion majors. Our aim is to engage in both the field of religious studies and important religious issues in the larger society. This semester our course will compare and contrast how different scholars of American religion have recently conceived of “religious experience” (defined with terms such as spirituality, mysticism, and fanaticism) and its relationship to history and contemporary society

REL 4936 – Religious Extremism – Terje Ostebo

What is religious extremism? How do we define extremism? Who are the extremists? Is religious extremism meaningful as a concept? This course digs into these questions and provides the students with knowledge about what is called extremism within the major religious traditions, such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The course focus on current affairs – in different contexts across the globe. It critically explores what we mean with religious extremism, juxtaposing it with the assumed moderate.