Nonviolence, Activism, and Contemplative Life

Discipline: Religion General
Instructor: Coburn
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 09:25
End: 10:40
Field Work: Day 5 - Cape Town - Wednesday, 30 October | South Africa
Prerequisites: One or more courses in the academic study of religion (Religious Studies) Download Syllabus

This course explores a central paradox that runs through religious life. One the one hand, one of the
distinguishing features of contemplative life is the aspiration to live in the present moment, timelessly,
On the other hand, contemplatives have often been deeply involved in activist struggles to improve
the social and political conditions of their time and place. How can this be? Examples from around the
globe will engage students in understanding the dynamics of this paradox in different traditions and in
different cultural settings, including those on this semester’s itinerary.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 5 - Cape Town - Wednesday, 30 October

Our field lab will take place in Cape Town. Cape Town is a multiracial city that includes vibrant Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. Islam was introduced by slaves brought over 300 years ago from Indonesia. The Jewish community traces its history to religious persecution in Europe. An estimated 80 percent of South Africans are Christians, and St. George’s Anglican Cathedral was the site of much interfaith protest during the struggle against apartheid. Guided by South African peace activist Terry Crawford-Browne (a former SAS professor, who will also be a wonderful resource for further inquiry), the walking tour of downtown Cape Town will include a mosque in Bo-Kaap, the Jewish Center, the Slave Lodge and St. George’s Cathedral. The visit to the Cathedral also includes an opportunity to walk the labyrinth (praying with your feet) to meditate upon the experiences. Please note: modest dress is required for the mosque. No shorts, short skirts, or exposed midriffs permitted.   Women should bring a scarf to wear as a head-covering.  Students will be provided with one or more questions to address in their field lab reports, which should be 3-5 pages (750-1250 words) in length.  Academic Objectives: 1.  To introduce students to recent examples of contemplative, nonviolent activism 2.   To introduce students to the challenges and promise of interfaith collaboration. 3.   To provide students with the opportunity to engage in actually doing “comparative religion.” 4.   To deepen students’ understanding of the complementary relationship between “text” and “context”

       (classroom and field program) in religious studies.