Religion

Chair: Lauren Osborne

Ralph H. Craig III

Daniel J. Schultz

Stan Thayne

Jonathan S. Walters

Xiaobo Yuan

 

Affiliated Faculty

Daniel Smith, Classics

 

About the Department

The goal of the study of religion at a secular college is religious literacy. Religious literacy, an important dimension of cultural literacy, entails both a cognitive component (knowledge of religions and of the religious dimension of culture) and proficiencies (the acquiring of skills relevant to the analysis of religion). Courses in religion have the objective of conveying knowledge about the world’s religion, and of developing skills of analysis, interpretation, and communication.

An individually designed combined major which integrates the study of religion with work in another department can be arranged.

Learning Goals

  1. Students who major in Religion will gain an understanding of the breadth and diversity of religious traditions throughout the world, building the capacity to understand the roles religion has played in varied cultural and historical contexts.
  2. Students who major in Religion will gain substantive, in-depth knowledge of at least two different religious traditions in their multiple dimensions through the study of such things as primary texts, theological content, socio-historical development, and that tradition’s manifestations in different cultural locations.
  3. Students who major in Religion will acquire sophistication in the historiographical, methodological, and theoretical challenges of studying particular traditions, and the category of “religion” in general.
  4. Students who major in Religion will be able to carry out independent research. Specifically, they will be able to:
    • Formulate a sophisticated question.
    • Conduct the appropriate research in order to answer that question.
    • Present their answers to that question in writing that meets the highest standards of conceptual clarity and readable prose.
    • Discuss orally the subject matter of their research in a substantive and precise manner.
    • Locate their own methodological approach to their research question within the broader field and articulate the contributions and limitations of their chosen method.

Distribution

For students who started at Whitman College prior to Fall 2024, courses in Religion count toward the humanities distribution area; selected courses also count toward cultural pluralism.

For students who start at Whitman College in Fall 2024 or later, please refer to the General Studies section for a full list of courses that count toward each distribution area.

Programs of Study

Courses

Credits 4

An introduction both to religion as a reality of human history, culture, and experience, and to the study of religion as a field in the humanities and social sciences. Topics include the nature of religion; theological; and social scientific theories of religion; sacred scriptures, East and West; religious thought about the nature of ultimate reality, the human condition, and the path to salvation in several traditions. Not a survey of world religions, but an introduction to religion using cross-cultural materials and a variety of approaches. Three class meetings per week. Open only to first- and second-year students.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

Looking across a range of religious traditions, this course examines the modes of the human senses in relation to religious experience, drawing on both primary and secondary literature. We will ask such questions as: are the senses acting as a means allowing for perception of the divine, or some kind of experience or contact? Are they a medium for self-discipline, in either a positive sense through the cultivation of a pious self, or negatively, through denial? Are the senses serving as a metaphor, and, if so, to what end? We will also interrogate the boundaries and relationships between senses. Open only to first- and second-year students.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course takes food as a central node around which to explore different religious traditions. We explore why food plays such a big role in the constitution of religious identities, social bodies, and ethical systems throughout the world. Topics will include food prohibitions and taboos; rituals of fasting and feasting; the ethics of eating and provisioning; food's role in healing, sacrifice, and myth; and diverse foodways that span a variety of sites, religious practices, and historical time periods. Open only to first- and second-year students.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course is an introduction to the academic study of religion. Topics for the sections vary from semester to semester and year to year, depending on the particular interests of the instructors, but every course will consider some aspect of the phenomenon of religion and study it in a comparative perspective. Open only to first- and second-year students. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

When Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they did not typically recognize Indigenous rituals, beliefs, and practices as “religion.” Over time, however, European Enlightenment categories such as “natural religion” were applied to Indigenous practices, with significant implications. This course will be both an excavation of the category of religion and a history of religion in Native America, including its contemporary setting. We will consider how religious, anthropological, and other Euroamerican categories have influenced and been involved in the production of “Indigenous religion” and Indigeneity in North America, as well as ways these categories have been co-constituted with/as/against race. The course will also focus on Native American engagement with Christianity, missionary work to Indigenous peoples, Native “conversion,” and U.S. reform efforts, such as federal boarding schools. We will consider how religion has functioned within the U.S. legal system, particularly in cases where Indigenous peoples have sought to protect their lands and practices under the rubric of religion. Particular attention will be given to religion in this region, with sections on Washat, or the Seven Drums religion of the Plateau peoples, First Salmon ceremonies of Pacific NW peoples, the missionary work of Myron Eells (son of Whitman Seminary founder Cushing Eells), and the missionary efforts of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman—namesakes of Whitman College—among the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla people, and the complicated issue of memorializing and remembering the so-called “Whitman Massacre” and legacy. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor. May be elected as Anthropology 153. Open only to first and second year students.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

How has the apocalypse been imagined in various religious traditions? How have those apocalyptic visions been inscribed into the popular imagination? This course considers how the end of the world has been understood in the context of different traditions, taking a comparative approach in studying apocalypse as a genre, a means of persuasion, a worldview, a motif, and more. Course materials will include texts as well as film and television media. Possible sources and topics may include: the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, selections from the Qur’an, apocalyptically-oriented new religious movements, the phenomenon of doomsday preppers, the Left Behind series of Christian thrillers and accompanying films, and The Leftovers book and television series. Open only to first- and second-year students.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

The end of the world has felt imminent for some time now. The biblical Prophets Enoch and Ezra’s visions of the earth held in judgment, Revelation’s visions of Rome buried and burned for its imperial evils, and the threat of environmental or existential ruptures found throughout contemporary film each demonstrate an enduring fixation with the calamitous end of this world and the potential for a “new earth” rid of suffering. How might climate change—experienced as a slowly unfolding series of plagues, disasters, and deaths—engage with concepts like judgment, justice, and hope? If we consider the root meaning of “apocalypse” as a “revelation” or “unveiling,” what does the current ecological crisis reveal about our world? This class analyzes Jewish apocalyptic literature alongside Modern film and climate discourse to explore the manifold meanings of a world brought to its end. May be elected as Classics 171.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)

The work of African American writer James Baldwin has probed the enduring contradictions of America’s troubled history with race and the legacies of slavery. Drawing from both his literary and non-fiction work, this course explores how Baldwin excavates, confronts, and rewrites his own story and the story of America through the lens of religion, race, and sexuality. We will consider the political dimensions of Baldwin’s autobiographical writing and study the ways Baldwin reads the racial imaginary of literature and film. We will examine the ambiguities of Baldwin’s Pentecostal upbringing, something he rebelled against yet continued to deploy rhetorically in his writing. Students will learn to analyze how forms of literary and visual representation produce, rank, and value racial difference. The course will also incorporate the perspectives of Baldwin’s interlocutors, in addition to exploring contemporary voices that engage enduring problems of race and its entanglements with religion. May be elected as Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies 180.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

What is religion, and why is its study important in the twenty-first century? This course engages students with classic and contemporary theories about religion, and considers a variety of methods in the transdisciplinary field of religious studies.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

Who are American Muslims? Can Islam be an American religion? This course interrogates the history of American Islam and Muslims. Examining the religion of Islam within the American context offers a key opportunity to consider its intersections with the categories of race, gender, immigration and nationhood, and multiculturalism. Topics covered may include Islam of African peoples enslaved in the Americas, immigrant and diaspora communities, Black Islams such as the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple, and Islamophobia and the racialization of Muslims. No prior background in the study of Islam required. Course materials include readings and films. Assignments include papers and presentations.  May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course provides an overview of the religious tradition of Islam in a global context. We will encounter a lived tradition: one that is constantly defined, redefined, and contested through the beliefs and practices of Muslims in interpretation of scripture, ritual life, literature, art, and other modes of expression. Themes that may receive attention include foundational sources and literatures such as the Qur’an, hadith, and shari`a, as well as the role of the Prophet Muhammad, Sunni and Shi`i traditions, political Islam, and Islam in America. The sources for the course include both readings and films. May be taken for credit toward the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major. 

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course offers an exploration of the Qur'an, the scripture of Islam. In introducing the text, we will examine the historical and literary context in which it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in seventh century Arabia. Through close reading we will survey the many messages, themes, and literary and poetic styles found in the text itself. Special attention will also be given to the range of methods and approaches that Muslims have used in interpreting the Qur'an, and to the role played by the text in ritual life.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course surveys the ways Jews and Jewish thought have navigated the intellectual, political, and spiritual challenges of modernity. From the Alhambra Decree of 1492 which expelled Jews from Christian Spain, to Jewish emancipation in the 19th-century Europe, to the Holocaust in the 20th-century, and finally to the 1948 formation of the state of Israel, modern Jewish experiences constitute an alternative modernity, one that draws from and profoundly challenges European enlightenment universalism. This story of clash and confluence will begin with the excommunication of Baruch Spinoza, the so-called “first modern Jew,” and our investigations will move through pathways of Jewish enlightenment (Moses Mendelssohn) and existentialism, Zionism and the Jewish Question, theological feminisms, and ending with Levinas and Derrida. This course will survey the diverse landscapes of Jewish modernity, with special attention to dynamics between secularism and traditionalism, individualism and nationalism, exile and homeland, and Judaism and Christianity.  Course taught in English. Students electing to take the German Studies section will complete some reading in the original German and may complete some writing, and discussion assignments in German. May be elected as German Studies 219.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course aims to acquaint students with a working knowledge of the vocabulary, topics, and history of Christian Thought. What are its sources, patterns, and forms of meaning making? What does Christianity have to say about God, bodies, reason, faith, sex, desire, ecology, life, and death? The readings for this course will draw from the Bible, a range of canonical and contemporary theological voices, literature, and philosophy. Students will acquire theological literacy in the Christian tradition, the ability to detect and discern Christianity's historical entanglements with other discourses, and the knowledge needed to negotiate ongoing cultural contestations over religion.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

As global capitalism reaches into every corner of human life, what role does religion play in the reproduction of social inequalities, labor practices, and exploitative economies? Did religion sow the seeds of capitalism? How might religious traditions and practices be used to critique capitalism and reimagine the culture it created? In this course, we delve into the entanglements between religion and the dominant economic form of the modern world: capitalism. Areas covered include classical social theories of religion and capitalism (Marx, Weber, Tocqueville, Durkheim); contemporary examples of interactions between religious practice and capitalist processes; and the mobilization of religious traditions in critiquing and resisting capitalism. Topics may include the “Confucian ethic” and economic growth in East Asia; Islamic financial institutions; the effect of Pentecostalism’s explosive growth on the economic experiences of African and Latin American communities; the marketization and commodification of religion; and more. May be elected as Anthropology 223.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course explores lived religions through an anthropological lens. Through a wide range of ethnographic readings both classical and contemporary, we will delve into topics like myth, ritual, magic, witchcraft, ghosts, healing, religious experience and social movements, while examining how religion intersects with politics, race, gender/sexuality, and economics in diverse socio-cultural contexts. Through the course, we will also take stock of how theories of religion have been integral to the development of anthropological thought, contributing to comparative methodologies and cross-cultural ethnography. In addition to learning about global religious cultures, students will design a locally-focused research project to better understand our own region's religious landscape. May be elected as Anthropology 224.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course examines Christianity in its multiplicity and diversity, from its origins in a pluralistic ancient Mediterranean world to the spread of Christian practices and cultural forms throughout the globe. Through engagement with anthropology, history, theology, and literary texts, we will explore how various Christian texts, concepts, institutions, practices, and narratives have circulated among different populations in distinct socio-historical contexts. The course centers around two key questions: How has Christianity been formed and reformed through its global encounters? And how have these encounters in turn shaped the world as we know it?  May be elected as Anthropology 225.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

Religion is deeply woven into the historical fabric of American life. From the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas (Cahokia) to the pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, from the emergence of new religions like Mormonism to movements for social justice such as abolitionism and civil rights, religion cuts across the American experience—its political, legal, social, and cultural formations. This course offers an archaeological, historical, and ethnographic survey of religion in the United States, examining not only the ways it has been encoded in the nation’s founding documents and institutional practices, but also in the diversity of its lived forms. The course will investigate the ways religion becomes a site of contestation and identity formation. It will explore how religion is entangled in the many contradictions of American life, its forms of national storytelling, and the practice and afterlives of slavery and settler colonialism. May be elected as Anthropology 226.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course takes a comparative thematic approach to reading across the three scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions—the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. Although they originate at different moments in history, in the context of different religious traditions, a common vocabulary of themes, narratives, genres, and poetics appears across all three. We will take a thematic approach by reading the scriptures as literature, in conversation with one another, and in so doing, raising the issue of the possibilities and limitations of a comparative perspective.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

Whitman College was originally founded as a seminary named after two missionaries who were sent to this region to convert the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples to Christianity. Though the college now has no official ties to Christianity, we continue to bear the names of the Whitmans, house artifacts collected by our missionary founders, repent of our mascots, mark and wash our monuments, and have a mission statement outlining our goals and aspirations. Is Whitman haunted? Are all secularisms haunted? In this class we will consider the present politics of Whitman College in light of our archives, collections, and relationships, as well as broader scholarship on religion and secularism. May be elected as Politics 260.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)

How are race and religion related? If we reject the idea of race as a fixed biological essence and think of it instead as a product of human history, how do we understand religion’s role in the historical production of race? This course explores the ways religions reinforce and resist practices of racialization, and further asks how religious identity itself comes to be understood in racial, ethnic, and/or nationalist terms. The course will examine pre-modern and modern forms of anti-Semitism, Orientalism and Islamophobia; it will ask whether the caste system in Hindu South Asia can or should be understood in terms of race; and it will take up religion’s complex entanglements in the slave trade, the plantation system, and European settler colonialism in the Americas. We will read from the primary source historical texts (Valladolid Debate), a selection of foundational theorists (such as Sylvia Wynter, B.R. Ambedkar, Hannah Arendt, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon), and a range of contemporary voices and perspectives. May be elected a Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies 270.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course offers an in-depth exploration of a wide variety of texts drawn from across Buddhist traditions. Buddhist literature is vast in scope and extremely rich in imagination, offering to its readers a fantastic world populated by Buddhas, advanced bodhisattvas, heavenly paradises, supernatural occurrences, profound philosophical discussions, and enigmatic words of wisdom. We will focus both on placing these texts within their proper historical context within the development of Buddhism and engaging them creatively as modern readers. Taken together, this literature can help us learn to think and imagine otherwise possibilities for relating to the world and moving forward into the twenty-first century. May be taken for credit toward the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 2 Max Credits 4

One-time offerings of studies of selected authors, themes, or religious traditions at the intermediate level. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course presents individuals who have created religious and spiritual lives amid the variety of possibilities for religious belonging. By engaging this canon of memoirs, we will take seriously the writings of theologians, religious laity, spiritual gurus, pop icon philosophers, LGBT clergy, religious minorities, and scholars of religion as foundational for considering religious authority through popular, institutional, and otherwise forms of religious leadership. Themes of spiritual formation and religious belonging as a process—healing, self-making, writing, converting, renouncing, dreaming, and liberating—characterize the religious journeys of the writers, thinkers, and leaders whose works we will examine. Each weekly session will also incorporate relevant audiovisual religious media, including online exhibits, documentary films, recorded sermons, tv series, performance art, and music.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course examines issues of gender and religion as they intersect with global political discourses about women’s rights and competing definitions of agency. The study of global religions have been transformed in important ways by encounters with postcolonial and feminist scholarship; similarly, the persistent interest in religious forms of life have shaped how scholars think about gender, sexuality, and feminism in transnational contexts. In this course, we will explore how these dialogues between feminism, postcolonial studies, and religious studies may inform and transform our understandings of categories like “women” and “religion.” Questions explored will include: why have women’s bodies and forms of religious dress become charged sites of these negotiations? What assumptions concerning moral agency, freedom, and public/private space invest these sites with meaning in the first place? Why does the sensibility of being modern and politically progressive depend so heavily on particular representations of the appropriate roles and behaviors of women and religion? May be elected as Anthropology 303. May be taken for credit towards the Gender Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course considers the roles of bodies and embodiment as related to the religious tradition of Islam. What is the role of the body in Islamic thought and practice? How are different bodies understood and treated in Islamic contexts? In what ways might the category of Islam as a religion intersect with race? Themes that may receive attention include ritual performance via the body, fashion and clothing, gender, sexuality, disability, race, and theoretical discourse of embodiment. The basics of Islam will not be covered in the course; while there are no prerequisites, it is highly recommended that students have prior course experience relating to Islam, or in Religion, Gender Studies, or Indigeneity, Race, And Ethnicity Studies. May be taken for credit toward the Middle East area for the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major, Gender Studies major or minor, or Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course will engage with philosophy, religious studies, phenomenological theory, post-colonial and cultural studies scholarship in order to critically analyze mediated religion and other parts of social life on a global scale. We will consider the many meanings of mediation, from the larger social level of mass communication to the individual level of the body, in which larger beliefs are individually mediated through ritual and performance. Themes that may receive attention include: the use of electronic fatwas in modern Muslim societies; the rise of American televisual evangelism; the global and local markets for religious cultural products; the representation of religious identities—particularly the rise of Islamophobia—in media; and the prominence of fundamentalist and nationalist religious politics across the globe. Lectures, discussions, and tests. May be elected as Film and Media Studies 307. When Film and Media Studies 307 is not offered, Religion 307 may be taken for credit toward the Film and Media Studies major or minor. May be taken for credit toward the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course explores the ways in which Islam has been conceived, represented, and contested through sound. How does hearing or saying affect the practice of religion? What makes a particular sound religious, with regard to either its production or its experience? Topics will include the call to prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, the “problem” of music in Islam, and genres of Islamic music from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts (such as ghazals--love poems set as songs --and Islamic rap, for example), sermons, and other audio artifacts. The course will draw on both reading and listening assignments. May be taken for credit toward the Film and Media Studies major or minor or the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major. May be elected as Music 310.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines the concepts, literatures, and practices associated with mysticism in Islam (Sufism), and the lives of related figures. We will draw on both close reading of mystical literatures, as well as studying the integration of the practices and individuals into Sufi orders into society in a variety of geographical and historical contexts.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

How has the modern development of religion in East Asia shaped the region’s historical experiences and contemporary life-worlds? In this course, we examine how an imported concept — “religion” (宗教) — has transformed the sociopolitical landscapes of greater China, Japan, and Korea. With readings from anthropology, religious studies, and other related fields, the class will explore thematic topics set in contemporary East Asian contexts through a multi-religious lens. In addition to looking at 20th-21st-century restructurings of East Asian traditions like Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Shintoism, we also focus on Christianity’s impacts in the region as well as emerging, hybridized religious movements in the region. Topics include: religious communities’ role in modernizing and nationalizing projects; religion and violent conflict; relationships between religious organizations and the state, under democratic, socialist, and capitalist orders; and East Asian religions’ contemporary influences in globalized mass media and pop culture.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

Missionaries have often been understood or depicted as proto-anthropologists, as early ethnographers, or as a foil against which the field of anthropology has defined itself. Some critics have situated missionaries as anthropology’s repressed other. In this class we will explore the long encounter between Europe and the so-called New World through writings describing that encounter--writings by explorers, missionaries, naturalist-ethnologists, “Natives,” and, eventually, by professional anthropologists. We will consider material resemblances, collaborations and antagonisms, and the ways in which anthropology is both heir to and a departure from missionary practice. Special attention will be given to the anthropological missionary work of Myron Eells, son of the founder of Whitman Seminary. The course will be interdisciplinary, drawing on scholarship and methods from Anthropology and Religious Studies and works on secularism. May be elected as Anthropology 350.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

What kinds of queer possibilities, spaces, and practices do we find internal to religious traditions? How do religious imaginations, narratives, bodily disciplines, and ritual practices open onto what Ashon Crawley has termed “otherwise possibilities”? How might queer religion offer visions of social and political transformation? Paying close attention to the boundaries that structure sexual, gender, and religious discourse — for instance, boundaries between nature and culture, immanence and transcendence, and modernity and tradition — this course takes up the question and status of “queerness” in relation to religion. Topics to be discussed include (but are not limited to) queer ecology, queer theologies, queer ethnographies across different cultural and historical settings, and queer methodologies/reading strategies. May be elected as Anthropology 365.  

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

How do people talk with god(s)? What marks language as “religious”? What elements of power, identity, and agency are enacted through linguistic interactions between humans and the sacred? In this course, we explore these questions by looking at the role of language in diverse forms of religious life. Readings will examine how different genres of speech, text, and communicative practice mediate relationships between humans and the divine or otherworldly, with topics including ritual and sacramental language, prayer and confession, conversion narratives, shamanism and spirit possession, speaking in tongues, translation, and other linguistic phenomena. We will also consider how religion shapes popular language ideologies — that is, how religious beliefs structure the way we understand the authority, intentionality, or function of language itself. In addition to reading texts drawing from anthropological theory, religious studies, and ethnographic analyses of religious language in action, students will engage with films and primary source materials to contribute their own analyses of “religious language.” Classes will be discussion-centered, with assignments a mixture of short written responses, analytical essays, and a culminating research-driven assignment. May be elected as Anthropology 366.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

Affect is notoriously difficult to define. Often associated with bodily intensities, potentials, sensations, and capacities, the concept of affect contrasts with cognition and rationality, and challenges formal structures of meaning and representation. Emotions, on the other hand, are culturally meaningful feelings, with regularized patterns and normative expressions. In this course, we bring these two concepts together by exploring how both affect and emotion shape our social world. How are political commitments viscerally felt? What sensations attach people to religious beliefs? How are emotions (like anger or grief) strategically mobilized in social movements? More broadly, we ask: how do experiences of affect, emotion, passion, and sensation inform how people navigate the world? Focusing on scholars of the “affective turn” in anthropology and religious studies, this course introduces students to theoretical and ethnographic scholarship that bring attention to how feelings, sensations, and embodied energies reside in and transform the world, as well as how feelings become meaningful in different cultural and religious contexts. Topics include the role of affect in political and religious movements; the cultural significance of emotions (and the limits of representation); collective effervescence and spiritual ecstasy; eco-anxiety and the embodied atmospherics of climate catastrophe; the circulation of “bad feelings” in mass media; and other examples of the affective dimensions of social life. Classes will be discussion-centered, with assignments a mixture of short written responses, analytical essays, and a culminating research-driven assignment. May be elected as Anthropology 367.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

How is religion imagined in modern literature? In what ways has literature itself become a species of religious thought? This course explores how 20th-century literature reflects a crisis of meaning in modern religious thought, on the one hand, and how it sustains the religious through attachment to form, to loss, and to belief without meaning, on the other. The course will examine the relationship between words and things, knowledge and power, truth and illusion, and consider the ways literary representation expresses, transposes, and otherwise complicates these terms. We will read writers with both direct and oblique relationships to religious discourses and institutions, writers who bring religious forms of thinking to crisis, who invert its logics, who explore its hauntings, its silences, its ambiguities, and its enduring capacity to make meaning. We will take up these conceptual questions in conversation with the historical (social, political) dynamics out of which they emerge and to which they are posed. Readings will be drawn from authors such as Kafka, Borges, Morrison, Djebar, Coetzee, Endo, O’Connor, and Ngugi wa’ Thiong’o.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 2 Max Credits 4

Intensive studies of particular authors, literatures, issues, or eras. The topics will vary year to year. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 1 Max Credits 4

An opportunity for advanced students to pursue a specific interest after consultation with the instructor.

Prerequisites

Consent of instructor.

Credits 4

A senior capstone experiences that prepares majors for senior thesis writing through an exploration of contemporary issues in the field. Required of, and open only to senior religion majors.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Credits 4

Research and writing of the senior thesis. Open only to and required of senior religion majors.

Prerequisite Courses
Credits 4

Research and writing of the senior honors thesis. Students register for Religion 490, not for Religion 498. The registration will be changed from Religion 490 to 498 for those students who attain honors in Religion. Open only to senior religion majors.