In the Classroom

The seminars listed below intersect most directly with the LCR theme of Global Religious Circuits but other seminars also feature units or topics that bear on this theme. Please consult the course atlas for details.

Spring 2017

RLHT 735 - Global Feminisms and the Study of Women and Religion in the Americas: Theological Perspectives
Monday, 1:00-4:00
Dianne Stewart & Bobbi Patterson

This seminar explores a range of feminist and womanist theological traditions as they have emerged within communities across the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. Emphasis will be placed upon how racial and ethnic heritage impact theological reasoning and imagination in the selection of sources, methods and hermeneutical strategies. While most of the texts cover Christian theological perspectives, we will consider the works of theologians who are committed to engaging indigenous/African spirituality and religious thought and to producing theologies that contribute to interreligious dialogue and comparative theology.

RLR 700 Ancient Religions in the Academic Study of Religion
Monday, 3:00-6:00
William K. Gilders

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?  That is (with apologies to Tertullian for the appropriation and reframing of his famous question), what has the study of religion in (say) 2nd century BCE Athens to do with the study of religion in (say) 21st century CE Jerusalem?  In other words, what is the place of the interpretation of the religious traditions of Antiquity—ancient Israelite religions, Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, the Mysteries of Isis, Mithraism, Vedic religions, to identify just a few—within the wider academic study of religion (“religious studies”)?  This seminar, welcoming doctoral students from throughout the GDR and beyond, will focus on addressing this basic question, which will lead to the exploration of a number of issues and problems in the study of religion: the role of the interpretation of ancient religions in the emergence and development of “History of Religions”; evolutionary models of religious development and their legacy in the academic study of religion;  theories on the relationship between “myth” and “ritual” (and the definitions of those categories); challenges involved in studying ancient traditions with present-day “heirs” (e.g., Second Temple Judaism) versus the study of “dead” traditions (Mithraism); the nature of evidence (textual and iconographic); how scholars of ancient traditions can engage with the “ethnographic turn” in religious studies (while “fieldwork” with, e.g., ancient Mesopotamians remains impossible, until someone invents a functional time machine); what scholars of ancient religions can learn from studies of present-day traditions and what scholars of present-day traditions can learn from work on ancient religions; the various meanings of the category of “religion” itself.

RLR 700/ ICIVS 713 – Islamic Theology and Philosophy
Monday, 4:00-7:00
Vincent J. Cornell

This course is an introduction to the major schools of Islamic thought, with particular attention given to the question of theological authenticity. Topics covered include Kharijism, Kalam theology, Mu'tazilism, Ash'arism (al-Juwayni and al-Ghazali), Maturidism, schools of Islamic Philosophy (al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes), Hermetism, and the modern legacy of classical schools of Islamic theology.

RLR 700 - Afrofuturism among Postmodern Theologies
Tuesday, 9:00-12:00
Thee Smith

This seminar will explore ‘Afrofuturism,’ defined immediately below, as a postmodern resource for theological reflection and discourse.  It will also introduce seminar members to phenomenology as a descriptive discipline in the academy for connecting such topics.  Afrofuturism is defined in temporal terms as “an emergent literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past” (Wikipedia). The time-specific references here invite us to develop a phenomenology of time consciousness that correlates traditional pasts with imagined futures.  In that connection the seminar will begin with two traditional West African cultural referents that are temporal and performative respectively: “sankofa” and “ashé.” Kwan Booth, a Black futurist writer and editor, describes this movement as "pan-diasporic, trans-generational, hyper-global" and its projects as "maps of culture to create virtual, actual and mystical space to dial up the future."

Sankofa is the Adinkra wisdom symbol of the bird that looks backward at its tail to signify the temporal dynamic of ‘returning to the past in order to go forward into the future’ (more simply stated it means, return and get it).  Ashé refers to the “flash of the spirit” (Robert Farris Thompson; 1983) that has been popularized as “spiritual command, the power-to-make-things-happen, God’s own enabling light rendered accessible to men and women” (ibid. p. 5).  A related performance reference construes “the Yoruba word for prayer [as] ‘She orisha’: to ‘make’ the god” (Jahnheinz Jahn, Muntu: African Culture and the Western World, 1961, p. 63). 

In that connection one African theologian has attempted to correlate past and present performative vectors in terms of ‘reinventing’ Christianity.   “Questions of a singular community of a bygone age are still ours today insofar as they have been [determined by] . . . a ‘problematic of the universal’” [consider here: universalizing communities, universal salvation, universalist theologies, etc.].   “Christianity arose in response to just such a situation. Hence its original, and originating problematic is open to repetition—not in the form of a reiteration of ‘the same thing as back then,’ but in its reinvention” (F. Eboussi Boulaga, Christianity without Fetishes: An African Critique and Recapture of Christianity; 1984, pp. 86-87; cf. Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, 1913).  With these temporal and performative vectors beckoning us we will conclude the semester with an array of phenomenological descriptions; descriptions of the Afrofuturist resources available to Christianity in particular, among modern and postmodern theologies, for reinventing itself in terms of its “originating problematic.”

RLR 700 – Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding
Thursday, 2:30-5:30
Elizabeth Bounds

The purpose of this course to deepen understanding of religions' roles in fostering and sustaining violence and conflict, as well as religions' ability to transform conflict and build peace. It will start with an overview of theories of contemporary conflict resolution and violence and then address a series of issues in the theory and practice of religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, including: liberal peace, nationalism, and secularism; religious violence and terror; memory, ritual, and place; non-violent resistance; and restorative justice and reconciliation. Readings will attend to both theoretical frameworks and global ethnographic studies (including the United States), with the ethnographic texts aligning with student interests. This course is the core required course for the Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Concentration. Selected Texts Oliver Rowbotham et al, Contemporary Conflict Resolution Atalia Omer and Scott Appleby,eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding (online at Emory Library) Daniel Philpott and Scott Appleby, Strategies of Peacebuilding Oren Stier, et al., Religion, Violence, Memory, and Place Michael Jackson, In Sierra Leone Assorted chapters and articles.