Spring 2015


African and African American Studies 162 - Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity: Seminar                 

Jacob Olupona


This seminar explores historical, theoretical, methodological, and conceptual issues central to the study of indigenous religions of the world. It examines the critique of indigeneity and explores emerging topics about the role that religion plays in indigenous peoples' lives, communities, and societies. Special topics will explore issues related to land, environment, conversion, health, the state, gender, aggression, violence, justice, and human rights. The seminar examines the interface of indigenous religions and modernity, colonial and postcolonial conditions, and local and global forces that shape the practices of indigenous traditions in various regions of the world.


Anthropology 1400 - Quests for Wisdom: Religious, Moral and Aesthetic Experiences in the Art of Living                  

Arthur Kleinman, David L. Carrasco, and Michael J. Puett


New interdisciplinary curriculum centered on 5 kinds of quests for wisdom that involve moral, religious and aesthetic pursuits and that focus on practices of mentoring and caregiving. Students will engage in short lectures, interactive discussions, student led seminars, and music and film. Students' required projects include a personal story that narrates an experience in the art of living and writing assignments that focus on assisting and accompanying experiences of others.


Culture and Belief 19 - Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies        Ali S. Asani


The course is an introduction to the fundamental concepts of Islam and the role that religious ideas and institutions play in Muslim communities around the world. Its main concern is to develop an understanding of the manner in which diverse notions of religious and political authority have influenced Muslim societies politically, socially and culturally. Through specific case studies of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the course considers the role played by ideologies such as jihad, colonialism, nationalism, secularism, and globalization in shaping the ways in which Muslims interpret and practice their faith today. The course briefly considers the contemporary situation of Muslim minorities in Europe and the United States. The course, through on-campus and on-line options, allows those enrolled to engage with students from all over the world.


Economics 1450r - Religion and Political Economy

Robert J. Barro and Rachel M. McCleary


Recent research on religion has stressed social-science approaches. Parts of the work assess effects of economic and other forces on religious participation and beliefs. This topic includes models of secularization and of competition among alternative forms of religion, including analyses of the Reformation. Religious conversion and the club model of religious participation will be considered. Other aspects of the research analyze effects of religiosity on microeconomic variables, including work effort, thrift, education, health, and violence. Parts consider the impact of religion on macroeconomic outcomes, including economic growth. Additional work considers the interplay between religion and political institutions, including the role of state religion and interactions with Communism and democracy.


History of Science 101 - Communities of Knowledge: Science, Religion, and Culture in Medieval Europe and the Lands of Islam                 

Katharine Park and Ahmed Ragab


Explores the development of scientific ideas and practices in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, focusing on the circulation of texts, people, and objects. Special attention to intellectual, social, and institutional contexts.


History of Science 109 - Science and Religion in the Middle East: Agents, Places, and Controversies                 

Ahmed Ragab


The course addresses the history of questions of science and religion in the Middle East from the medieval to the modern period, looking at how different scientific and religious views and discourses interacted through history. From translation of Greek science and philosophy in the ninth century, to educational reform, legalizing dissection, and organ transplantation, the course surveys important discussions on science and religion in the Middle East and Islamic world, and sees how scientific and religious views and discourses developed over time. The course pays special attention to questions of colonialism, translation, and the development of different institutions of learning in the Middle East.


History of Science 146v - Bodies in Flux: Medicine, Gender, and Sexuality in the Modern Middle East

Soha Bayoumi


This course examines how bodies, genders and sexualities in the modern Middle East, from the nineteenth century to the Arab revolts, have been shaped and represented via changing and competing discourses. Through a variety of historical, ethnographic, media and literary readings, the course studies multiple and dynamic representations of bodies in flux: medicalized bodies, gendered bodies, sexualized bodies, (re)productive bodies, aging bodies and bodies in revolt. The course pays special attention to medicine and science in their interaction with laws, traditions and religious practices. Some of the topics covered include analyzing histories of and discourses on slavery, femininity and masculinity, homosexuality, health, reproduction, disabilities, circumcision and genital cutting/mutilation and gender-based violence.


Islamic Civilizations 172 - Knowledge and Authority in Muslim Societies         

Ousmane Oumar Kane


This seminar will investigate the ways in which the production of knowledge affects the construction of authority in the Islamic world. It will look at how various forms of religious knowledge are acquired, legitimated, transmitted and/or contested within Muslim communities. Several types of knowledge will be: exoteric knowledge based on the Koran and other Islamic sciences, mystical knowledge as developed by the Sufis, and talismanic knowledge. Ulama trained in the exoteric sciences derived their authority from the conventional knowledge of the Koran, and religious sciences. Sufi masters derived theirs from their purported ability to explain the hidden meanings of the Koran, to provide spiritual training and guide the disciple in the path toward spiritual fulfillment. Finally, the credibility of talisman makers rested largely on their ability to use religious texts for purposes such as healing and bringing luck. Of course, the boundaries between these figures of authority are not rigid and some of them may engage in the activities of the other. The first part of the seminar will focus on pre-colonial Muslim societies and the second part on the impact of Western hegemony on the transmission of knowledge and construction of authority in the postcolonial Islamic world. Seminar participants will compare and contrast historical and contemporary experiences of transmission of knowledge and production of authority in various parts of the World of Islam and investigate the historical linkages between these regions.


Religion 1046 - Introduction to Religion and Ecology             

Daniel McKanan


This course will explore the intersection between religious traditions and ecological activism, with special attention to current conversations about "ethical eating." We will consider both the resources that religious traditions provide to ecological activists and the ways these activists have challenges aspects of traditional religion. The course will also function as a general introduction to the multiple ways of knowing that comprise the scholarly study of religion, with attention to scriptural interpretation, history, ethnography, theology, ethics, and comparative studies.


South Asian Studies 196 - Capitalism and Cosmology in Modern India                 

Shankar Ramaswami


This course will explore the lives, politics, and cosmologies of working-class persons in modern India. The course will examine contemporary debates on globalization, development, and ecology; workers' experiences of factory work, informality, and agitations; and workers' religious practices, theologies, and cosmological visions. Core concerns of the course will include inquiries into the appropriate categories for understanding workers' lives and visions, and the possibilities for autonomous, nonviolent politics among working people in India. The course will draw upon a range of sources, including anthropology, history, religious studies, epics, and Hindi cinema.


Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1144 - Gender and Science                 

Sarah S. Richardson


Why are women well represented in some fields of scientific study but not others? How do gender beliefs influence the content of scientific knowledge? How is gender encoded in the practices and norms of science? This course explores the intersection of gender and science from Bacon's seventeenth-century call to "raise a masculine science" to the present. Topics include: girls, boys, and science education; gender and technology; women in the science professions; bias and objectivity in science; and gender and science in literature, film, and popular culture.


Green Buddhism: Faith, Ecology, and Activism (HDS 3016)                     

Willa B. Miller


This course examines the growing movement within the Buddhist community to address the issue of environmental degradation and climate change through the avenues of Buddhist ethics, theological discourse, and community activism. The class will read passages from ancient textual sources, beginning with the Pali Buddhist Canon and continuing into Buddhism's diaspora, that frame nature as sacred, and that value the earth as a vehicle of religious reflection and practice. We will also look at modern discourses from Buddhist-inspired authors and teachers that call for activism, and those that consider a shift from an anthro-centric religion to nature-centric religion. The class will address topics such as the relationship between consumer culture, religion and the state of the environment in the 21st Century. Readings include a variety of theoretical considerations of religion and the environment such as Gary Snyder's Practice of the Wild, Evelyn Tucker's anthologyBuddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, and John Stanley and David Loy's anthology A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. In addition to readings, class participants will develop an "outdoor practice", designed to relate to ecological or natural world as inspiration for study and/or ministry, and will keep a weekly reflection journal. The course will host several visiting speakers, experts in this field, over the course of the semester.


Religion and World Politics: Connections and Collisions (HDS 2861)   

J. Bryan Hehir


This course will examine from a historical and analytical perspective, the role of religion in the modern state system: its place, its absence and is recent resurgence. Offered jointly with the Harvard Kennedy School as IGA 121.


Religion, Society and Governance (HDS 3353)                 

Jocelyne Cesari


Heaven on Earth?: Exploring Religious Freedom and Governance for Islam and Christianity in Europe and in the United States. In this course, we will investigate the relationship between modernization, politics, and religion in western democracies. We will systematically analyze the status of religion within the modern nation?states through several case studies both diachronically and synchronically. We will look into different case studies (France, Germany, Spain, the USA) that illustrate the different conceptions of secularism and different political recognition of freedom of religion. We will expand our discussion by analyzing if, why and how Islam is a challenge to secular democracies by addressing different crises from the Rushdie Affair to the cartoon crisis. We will particularly focus on human rights, freedom of speech, and women status. Finally, we will also take into account the influence of transnational religious and secular movements on the debate of freedom of religion and tolerance in Europe and the United States.