This course studies the three major branches on the Abrahamic religious tree: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It proceeds by tracing the history of each tradition from its founder/s and origins through the variations that developed as it gained adherents far removed geographically, culturally, and socially from the context of its birth. The survey culminates with an analysis of the different responses that arose in each tradition to the challenges of modernity. The course attends to the rituals by which each faith has been enacted and passed along, as well as the various codes of behavior and doctrine it has prescribed. Along the way it asks students to draw comparisons among the three traditions in an effort to determine what all of them truly share (which make them a recognizable ‘family’ among world religions) as well as where they diverge, and why. The course concludes with reflections on the prospects for amity and/or conflict among these faiths and the significance of the same for world affairs today and in the future.
Field WorkCountry: India
Date: October 26, 2017
As a prominent port in the trans-oceanic trade, Kochin long attracted traders from many lands and faiths, including those we associate with Western monotheism. We will visit three houses of worship connected with these: the Paradesi Synagogue (founded by Portuguese Sephardim in 1558), St. Francis Church (the first church built by Europeans in India), and the Kanjiramattam or Sheikh Farriddudin mosque. We will take a guided tour at each site and converse, if possible, with clergy and laity present.
1. To become better acquainted with the design, décor, and functions of the ritual spaces in which Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are practiced.
2. To learn the historical significance of these edifices and see how they function within their current communities.
3. To reflect on how these spaces compare with their counterparts in lands where their adherents are proportionately more numerous or even the predominant population.