RELI 140 - Religion in America
This course explores the broad topic of “Religion in America.” It aims to familiarize students with the diversity of religious experience and expression locally and to expose them to some of the themes and issues crucial to the intersection of religion and culture in America. What exactly is religion and what role does it play in American society? In what ways are religion, spirituality, secularity, and/or magical thinking intrinsic parts of American cultural life? How and why should we study religion? Focusing on several contemporary themes, this course introduces students to the dynamic field of religion in America. Readings across a range of topics will expose students to issues central to understanding religion in the modern world and the religious concepts, ideas, and institutions that populate and animate everyday life in the U.S.
RELI 141 - African American Religions
This course introduces students to the study of “African American Religions.” We begin by problematizing the very concept around which the course unfolds, asking what the interpretive category “African American Religion” concerns and querying what, if anything, might its analytic value be? From there we embark on an archaeology of religious innovation, appropriation, exchange, and transformation as it relates to the experience of Americans of African descent, their religious sites and communities, and their multifaceted religious productions in colonial and post-colonial North America (primarily the U.S. and Caribbean). Readings and lectures employ both diachronic and synchronic perspectives and cover a range of topics from conversion, magic and possession ritual, to processes of globalization, creolization, “syncretism/anti-syncretism,” and themes of domination and resistance. This course makes use of a variety of sources from anthropology, history, folklore, and religious studies and invites students to reflect critically on the relationship between culture, power, and history in the formation of a so-called “black religious experience.”
RELI 246 - Supernatural Encounters: Zombies, Vampires, Demons and the Occult in the Americas
LEARN MORE: https://www.unc.edu/discover/maymester-2020-supernatural/
This course takes advantage of the general popularity and public fascination with zombies, vampires, demons, ghosts, and other supernatural entities. Using a critical framework, students will consider examples of these phenomena in the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America, and connect them to larger issues of ethnocentrism, culture contact, social inequality, imperialism, strategies of cultural resistance, and rapid social change. Rather than dismiss tales of the supernatural as merely superstition, this course aims to understand these beliefs as meaningful ways in which people everywhere vent anxieties, articulate experience, and contest domination. This course makes use of a variety of sources from anthropology, history, folklore, and political economy and invites students to reflect critically upon the varied social, cultural, and historical contexts of supernatural encounters in the Americas.
RELI 247 - Uncertain Truths: Conspiracy Theories, Aliens, and Secret Societies in America
This course explores the social dynamics of power, secrecy, paranoia, and suspicion, in order to lay bare the multiple relations between conspiracism, religious/magical thinking, and the social construction of truth. In addition to investigating the social and historical contexts that give rise to conspiracy thinking and the various shapes conspiracism takes in the modern world, students will consider conspiratorial lore as an important mode of political participation and contestation.
RELI 322 - Theories of Religion
This course introduces students to various theoretical and methodological approaches to the academic study of religion. It aims to familiarize students with the diversity of religious experience and expression and to expose them to some of the methods and theories used to study and explain that diversity. Readings cover a range of topics and introduce students to influential thinkers, classic texts, and major theories and concepts in the study of religion. Various subjects are explored, including magic, witchcraft, spirit possession, and ritual.
RELI 352 - Anthropology of Christianity
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the Anthropology of Christianity. In addition to exposing students to major themes of interest in the field, this course aims to familiarize students with the diversity of Christian religious experience and expression globally and to explore the concrete mechanisms through which that diversity takes shape in various cultural contexts. It also looks to consider the historical and sometimes strained relationship between Christianity and the discipline of anthropology. In addition to learning about and critically engaging with accounts of Christian diversity from a number of viewpoints and from several parts of the world (including Latin America, Africa, and Asia), students will explore various themes from cultural change and globalization, to demonization and syncretism, to issues of race and gender, accommodation and resistance, the nature of conversion, and religious power and authority.
RELI 427 - Spirit Possession and Mediumship
This course explores the phenomenon of “spirit possession” and introduces students to various theoretical and methodological approaches to its academic study. It aims to familiarize students with the diversity of religious experience and expression and to expose them to some of the methods and theories used to study and explain that diversity. In addition to critically engaging with accounts of spirit possession from around the world, students will explore various related themes of gender, power, and religious and cultural change.
RELI 526 - Dimensions of Evil
The purpose of this course is to explore the meaning of evil. By investigating the ethical and moral dimensions of evil, as well as its social uses, its figuration in cross-cultural religious texts, folklore, ritual, theology, and political imaginaries, this course looks to develop a critical framework for understanding the diverse manifestations and varied cultural renderings of evil in the modern world. Students will explore a range of related themes from the Devil and the demonic, to Satanism and the occult, to the evil eye, and connect these ideas to larger moral and philosophical issues regarding conceptions of the good, universalism vs. relativism, knowledge and power, social alterity, political authority, transgression and deviance. Beginning with a historical genealogy of evil in cross-cultural perspective and building a critical analytics from there, this course makes use of sources from philosophy and anthropology, to history, folklore, sociology, and religious studies, and invites students to reflect critically, and through an interdisciplinary lens, on the social, philosophical, and moral life of evil.
RELI 700 - Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
The purpose of this core seminar is to introduce graduate students to the field of Religious Studies as an academic discipline and to explore the theories and methods used by scholars to study and explain “religion.” The course covers the historical development of the concept of religion, methods for its study, and theories for its explanation. How have scholars defined religion? How have they studied it? Why study religious phenomenon at all? In addition to introducing students to the canonic texts that have shaped the field, this course aims to provide students with a strong foundation for their own critical interventions in Religious Studies as they prepare themselves for professional careers in academia.
RELI 721 - Christianity and Cultural Change
The purpose of this course is to introduce graduate students to the ethnographic study of contemporary Christianity. In addition to exposing advanced students to major themes of interest in the anthropology of Christianity, this course aims to familiarize students with the diversity of Christian religious experience and expression globally and to explore the concrete mechanisms through which that diversity takes shape and contours social life, politics, gender relations, and economic practices in various cultural contexts. It also looks to consider the history and sometimes strained relationship between Christianity and the discipline of anthropology. Besides learning about and critically engaging with accounts of Christian diversity from around the world (including Latin America, Africa, and Asia), seminar participants will explore various themes from cultural change and globalization, to demonization and syncretism, accommodation and resistance, the nature of conversion, religious power and authority, and the problem of belief. This course looks to function as a graduate seminar in the anthropology of religion, with special focus and attention on Christian cultural practices, and to prepare graduate students planning to do research on contemporary Christianity to situate their projects in relation to a growing body of literature. For those working on other religious traditions, on top of furnishing a strong foundation for further reading in the ethnography of religion and equipping participants with a set of theoretical tools and questions that are good to think with, this seminar offers an opportunity to ponder the multiple ways in which this literature might provide excellent material for developing comparative projects and arguments.