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Religious Studies

Religious Studies explores religious thought and practice in various historical, political, cultural, and social contexts in order to understand and interpret societies and cultures throughout the world. It fosters scholarly skills such as close reading (of texts, images, artifacts, and other social data), excellence in writing and verbal expression, interpretation of the past and present from multiple forms of evidence, and assessment of contemporary social issues. By exploring the public and private concerns that the study of religion highlights -- for example, the creation of community, the nature of the individual, suffering and death, notions of good and evil -- students discover new ways of engaging the complex world in which they live. As students examine religious activity in the Americas, South and East Asia, the Middle East and West Asia, Africa, and Europe, they not only learn about the formation and transmission of beliefs, behaviors, values, rituals, and identities but also come to understand how diverse peoples have expressed religious understandings of themselves and others through politics, institutions, conflicts, and spaces commonly recognized as secular.

1. Basic Requirement

A concentration in Religious Studies includes a minimum of nine semester-long courses.  Those nine courses include RELS 1000 (a seminar in methods in the study of religion) and eight other courses, which must satisfy the concentration's distribution requirements.  Students who transfer to Brown or study abroad must complete at least five courses in Religious Studies at Brown. 

2. Distribution of Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced courses:

Among the eight concentration courses, no more than four courses (out of nine) can be at the introductory level (0001-0199). In addition to any introductory courses and RELS 1000, the plan of study must include at least two intermediate-level courses (0200-0999) and two advanced-level courses (above 1000).

3. Geographic and Methodological Distribution:

In order to ensure that students study a diversity of religious traditions and learn about multiple methods of study, the eight concentration courses (that is, the courses other than RELS 1000) must:  1) reflect more than one approach to the study of religion (e.g., philosophical, anthropological, historical); and 2) examine more than one religious tradition.  To ensure that students examine multiple traditions, the plan of study ordinarily should include two or more courses in each of these areas: A) Traditions that merge from the Mediterranean world and West Asia/Islamic World (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam); and B) Traditions that emerge from South and East Asia (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism). 

A. Traditions that emerge from the Mediterranean world and West Asia/Islamic World (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam)
Faith and Violence
Sacred Stories
Introduction to the New Testament
Wealth: Religious Approaches
Love: The Concept and Practice
Modern Problems of Belief
Spiritual But Not Religious: Making Spirituality in America
Christianity and Culture
Foreigners, Refugees, and the Ethics of Minority (JUDS 0061)
The Bible and Moral Debate (JUDS 0060)
Antisemitism: A History (JUDS 0063)
On Being Human: Religious and Philosophical Conceptions of Self
Religion and Torture
Exodus: Freedom in the Modern Black and Jewish Religious Imaginations
Blues People:Topics in African American Religion and Culture
Religion and Movement Politics
Religion in America
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Faith and Violence
Friendship in the Ancient World
Radical Romantics: Politics, Ecology, and Religion
Death and Afterlife in the Biblical Tradition
Christmas in America
Pilgrimage and Quest
Islam, Violence and Media
Islam from the Ground Up
The Imaginary Lives of Muslims
Islam Unveiled
Gender in Early Jewish and Christian Narratives
Christianity and Economic Inequality
Judaism and Christianity in Conflict
Religion Gone Wild: Spirituality and the Environment
Islamic Sexualities
Defense Against the Dark Arts in the Ancient World
Israelite Religion
Great Jewish Books
How the Bible Became Holy
Christianity in Late Antiquity
Ancient Christian Culture
Sacred Bodies
Sacred Stories
Islam Today: Religion and Culture in the Modern Middle East and Beyond
Islam in America
Radical Islam (?)
Black & Brown Islam in the US
Dying To Be With God: Jihad, Past and Present
The Bible as Literature (JUDS 0830)
Race, Religion, and the Secular (JUDS 0603)
How the Bible became Holy (JUDS 0682)
The Language of Religious Faith (JUDS 0820)
War and Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Its Environment (JUDS 0670)
Gender in Early Jewish and Christian Texts (JUDS 0606)
Conservatives vs. Liberals: Religion and Identity in America
African American Religious Strategies: Martin and Malcolm
Social Justice and the Musical Afrofuture
Foundational Texts in African American Theology
Religion, Reason, and Ethics from Kant to Nietzsche
Black and Brown Religion in America
Religion and Politics
Far-Right Religious Terrorism
Religious Freedom in America
Liberation Theology in the Americas
Fascism: 1933 - Present (UNIV 0701)
Problems in Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism (JUDS 1625)
Heidegger, the Jew and the Crisis of Liberalism (JUDS 1614)
Prophets and Priests in Exile: Biblical Literature of the 6th Century BCE (JUDS 1690)
Jewish Magic (JUDS 1801)
Jewish and Christian Identity in the Ancient Period (JUDS 1601)
Digging for the Bible: Science, Religion, and Politics (JUDS 1974)
On the Margins of the Bible: Jewish and Christian Non-Canonical Texts (JUDS 1603)
Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism
Adam and Eve in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation
Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Ancient Christianity and the Sensing Body
Religious Authority in an Age of Empire
Social World of the Early Christians
Educating Bodies in Ancient Christianity
Early Christian Asceticism: Rhetorics of Practice
The Virgin Mary in Christian Tradition
Desire and the Sacred
Roman Religion (CLAS 1410)
Augustine and Hegel
Philosophy of Mysticism
David Hume and Religion
Process Theology
Money, Media, and Religion
Law and Religion
Religion and Postmodernism
From Moses to Muhammad: Prophets of the Ancient World
Islam in South Asia
Pilgrimage and Sacred Travel in the Lands of Islam
Methods and Problems in Islamic Studies: Narratives
Heresy and Orthodoxy in Islamic Thought
Medieval Islamic Sectarianism
Monks, Mystics and Martyrs: Abrahamic Traditions Compared
Sacred Sites: Law, Politics, Religion
Disability in Antiquity
Gospel Music from the Church to the Streets
Religion and Suspicion
Pragmatism, Religion, and Politics
The Gift in Antiquity
Individual Study Project
B. Traditions that emerge from South and East Asia (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism)
Sound, Song and Salvation in South Asia
Music and Meditation
Dharma: A History of Classical Indian Civilization
Saints and Mystics of India
Love and War in India
Sensing the Sacred: Sensory Culture in South Asian Religions
Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia
Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia
Buddhism and Death
Asian Classics
Japan: Nature, Ritual and the Arts
Pilgrimage and Quest
Buddhist Thought, Practice, and Society
The Classical Chinese Philosophy of Life
Food, Religion and Politics in South Asia
Karma, Rebirth and Liberation: Life and Death in South Asian Religions
Karma, Rebirth and Liberation: Life and Death in South Asian Religions
Engaged Buddhism
The Theory and Practice of Buddhist Meditation
Big Screen Buddha
Confucian Ethics
Tai Chi, Qigong, and Traditions of Energy Cultivation in China
The History and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond
This Whole World is OM: Mantras in Indian Religions
Laozi and the Daodejing
Tibetan Buddhism and the West
Science, Religion, and the Search for Happiness in Traditional Asian Thought
Experiencing the Sacred: Embodiment and Aesthetics in South Asian Religions
The Bhagavad Gita (CLAS 0855)
Mythology of India (CLAS 0850)
Dreaming in the Ancient World (CLAS 0771)
Religious Japan
Directed Readings in Chinese Religious Thought: Zhuangzi
Classical Daoist Thought
The Contemplative Foundations of Classical Daoism
Buddhist Poetry
Buddhist Classics
Buddhism in Motion
Themes in Japanese Buddhism
The Archaeology of Japanese Buddhism
Zen Meditation in China, Korea, and Japan
The History, Philosophy, and Practice of Rinzai Zen Buddhism
The History, Philosophy, and Practice of Rinzai Zen: Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku
Principles and Practices of Contemplative Studies

4. Courses in Other Departments

Courses listed in other departments but taught by Religious Studies faculty count toward the program of study.  In addition to cross-listed courses taught by Religious Studies faculty, up to three courses taught by faculty in other departments can count toward the program (pending approval by the DUS).  Students who transfer to Brown, study abroad, or otherwise petition to include Brown courses not cross-listed with Religious Studies must complete at least five courses in Religious Studies at Brown.

5. Capstone Project

No later than the end of spring registration in the junior year, the concentrator will determine how they will complete a senior capstone project for this requirement - either by selecting a capstone course, or by undertaking an honors thesis.  A capstone course will be selected in consultation with the concentration advisor and other faculty as appropriate.  Within the frame of this capstone course and through work completed for the course, the concentrator will address the theoretical and interpretive issues of their particular focus in the Religious Studies concentration.

Honors Thesis (Optional)

A thesis is an opportunity for students to conduct extended independent research under the guidance of faculty.  If a student chooses to write an honors thesis, in addition to completing the typical eight concentration courses (in addition to RELS 1000) the student will enroll in RELS 1999 during both semesters of the senior year.  Whether or not a student receives honors, RELS 1999 will serve as the student's capstone course.  To be eligible to write a thesis, a student must have earned a grade point average of greater than 3.5 (A=4, B=3, C=2) on courses that count toward the concentration.  Additionally, to be eligible for honors, concentrators may take no more than two of the concentration courses with the "S/NC" option, after declaring a Religious Studies concentration.  (Note: if a student is philosophically committed to taking the majority of her or his courses at Brown as "S/NC," that student may petition the Department to waive this "S/NC" limit.)  Writing the thesis is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for receiving Honors.  In order to receive Honors, the student's thesis must earn an A from its two readers, and the student must have earned a grade point average of greater than 3.5 in the concentration and satisfied all other concentration requirements. 

Daniel Vaca, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Tina Creamer, Departmental Administrator