Contemporary Western Religious Thought [CRN 77171]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Stewart
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1040
End: 1200
Field Work: Day 3 - Sunday, 23 October | Senegal
Prerequisites: One (1) A lower-division religion or philosophy course. Per the instructor: One (1) political theory course will also meet prerequisite. Consideration of introductory political science course meeting prerequisite if student has high GPA. Download Syllabus

This course explores contemporary religion, its nature, types, and forms of expression. We will focus specifically on contemporary religion in Latin America. We will work through New Worlds: A Religious History of Latin America by John Lynch (Yale Press) paying particular attention to Brazil, Cuba, and Peru. We will cover the history from the first Christian evangelists’ arrival in Latin America to the dictators of the late twentieth century. We will pay attention to the reception of Christianity by native peoples and how it influenced their social and religious lives with special attention to how Indian religion and ancestral ways have survived within the new Christian culture (for example, The Virgin of Guadalupe). The course follows the development of religious culture in Latin America by highlighting significant historical and religious events: the response of religion to the Enlightenment, the emergence of the Catholic Church from the wars of independence, the growing challenge of liberalism and the secular state, and in the twentieth century, military dictators’ assaults on human rights. Following Lynch, the course focuses on these key themes: the Spanish and Indian struggle for justice, the Catholic Church’s position on slavery, the concept of popular religion as distinct from official religion, and the development of liberation theology.

Field Work

Country: Senegal
Day: 3 - Sunday, 23 October

In this lab we will visit significant Muslim and Christian sites in and around Dakar, including the Sufi community of Yoff Layene along with local dignitaries, and a Christian convent.  We will also visit the famous (some would say infamous) statue at the edge of the city, the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine.  The purpose of this lab is to gain a familiarity of the religious institutions and sites of urban Senegal with an interest in examining the ways in which religion is practiced in its particular contexts.  We shall also consider the ways in which religions are integrated into pre-existing (or concurrently formed) ideas of the nation and of national and geographic identity.  The question of the role of colonialism in defining religious identity and shaping religious practices will also be considered. Field Class Report: Students will write a 5-6 page Field Class paper that: (1) describes in detail 2 or more distinct observed elements of the site visit (such as particular rituals, beliefs, historical aspects, architecture, etc. of the religion), (2) offers a reflection on the different meanings of these elements for the religious practitioner and for the student, (3) illustrates in some detail (with ample citation) how the experience of or encounter with these 2 or more elements enriched the student’s understanding of some class reading or lecture, (4) explains the way history, doctrine, and practice are interrelated through these observed elements, and (5) reflects on some observed similarities