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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
Reason and Religion (PHIL 0040)
On Being Human: Religious and Philosophical Conceptions of Self
Religion and Torture
Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists in Contemporary Fiction (JUDS 0050A)
Blues People:Topics in African American Religion and Culture
From Amsterdam to Istanbul: Christians, Moslems, and Jews (JUDS 0050E)
Dead and Loving It: The Cult of the Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean (CLAS 0210P)
Foreigners, Refugees, and the Ethics of Minority (JUDS 0061)
Religion, Politics, and Culture in America (HIST 0253)
Religion in America
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Death in the Greek and Biblical Traditions
Faith and Violence
Friendship in the Ancient World
Radical Romantics: Politics, Ecology, and Religion
Death and Afterlife in the Biblical Tradition
Christmas in America
Islam Unveiled
Christianity and Economic Inequality
Ethics After Auschwitz? (JUDS 0080A)
Judaism and Christianity in Conflict
Bodily Practice and Religion
The Ten Commandments (JUDS 0686)
Religion Gone Wild: Spirituality and the Environment
Islamic Sexualities
Israelite Religion
The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and Its World (JUDS 0630)
Great Jewish Books
How the Bible Became Holy
Jewish and Christian Biblical Interpretation to the Eighteenth Century
The Bible as Literature (JUDS 0830)
God and Poetry (JUDS 0820)
Christianity in Late Antiquity
Sacred Bodies
Sacred Stories
The World of Byzantium (CLAS 0660)
Islam Today: Religion and Culture in the Modern Middle East and Beyond
Islam in America
Radical Islam (?)
Dying To Be With God: Jihad, Past and Present
Introduction to Islamic Archaeology (ARCH 0600)
Conservatives vs. Liberals: Religion and Identity in America
African American Religious Strategies: Martin and Malcolm
Foundational Texts in African American Theology
Religion, Reason, and Ethics from Kant to Nietzsche
Religion and Politics
A Game of Thrones: Religion and Nationalism, 1789-1933 (JUDS 0700)
Religious Freedom in America
Liberation Theology in the Americas
Difficult Relations? Judaism and Christianity from the Middle Ages until the Present (JUDS 0050M)
Jews and Money (JUDS 0683)
Race, Religion, and the Secular (JUDS 0603)
War and Peace in the Hebrew Bible and its Environment (JUDS 0670)
Sex and Gender in Ancient Israel (JUDS 0671)
Problems in Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism (JUDS 1625)
Judaism: History and Religion (JUDS 1640)
Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism (HMAN 1971U)
Mishnah and Tosefta (JUDS 1602)
Adam and Eve in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation
Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Talmudic Historiography
The Talmud (JUDS 1630)
Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic (EGYT 1420)
Byzantine Archaeology and Art: Material Stories of a Christian Empire (ARCH 1220)
Gods and Myths in Mesopotamia (ASYR 1100)
The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (JUDS 1680)
The Archaeology of Jerusalem: From the Origins to the Ottomans (JUDS 1610)
Jerusalem Since 1850: Religion, Politics, Cultural Heritage (JUDS 1620)
The Archaeology of Palestine (JUDS 1615)
Ancient Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques in Palestine (JUDS 1670)
Rhetors and Philosophers: Intellectual Thought and Sophistic Style in the Ancient World (GREK 1110T)
Desire and the Sacred
Ancient Christianity and the Sensing Body
Educating Bodies in Ancient Christianity
Early Christian Asceticism: Rhetorics of Practice
The Virgin Mary in Christian Tradition
Sacred Readings: The Bible, Biblical Interpretation, and Victorian Literature (ENGL 1561F)
Roman Religion (CLAS 1410)
Writing Lives in Late Antiquity: Jerome and Augustine (LATN 1120E)
Jewish and Christian Identity in the Ancient Period (JUDS 1601)
Imposing Orthodoxy: "Jews," "Pagans" and "Heretics" when Constantinian Christianity Won (HMAN 1970I)
Augustine and Hegel
Philosophy of Mysticism
David Hume and Religion
Process Theology
Heidegger, the Jews, and the Crisis of Liberalism (JUDS 1614)
Money, Media, and Religion
Religion and Postmodernism
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
Religion and Sexuality (JUDS 1650)
Prophets and Priests in Exile: Biblical Literature of the 6th Century BCE (JUDS 1690)
Disability in Antiquity
Religion, Post-Colonialism, and the Jews (JUDS 1613)
Conflicts, Diasporas and Diversities: Religion in the Early Portuguese Empire (POBS 1600J)
Law and Religion (HMAN 1970K)
Reason Within the Bounds of Religion
Religion and Suspicion
Pragmatism, Religion, and Politics
Sinners, Saints, and Heretics: Religion in Early America (HIST 1511)
The Gift in Antiquity
Politics and Authority in Islamic Law and Society (HMAN 1970Y)
Individual Study Project
B. Traditions that emerge from South and East Asia (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism)
Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia
Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia
Buddhism and Death
Japan: Nature, Ritual and the Arts
Pilgrimage and Quest
Buddhist Thought, Practice, and Society
Religions of Classical India
Hindu Stories: Traditions of Narrative and Performance
Karma, Rebirth and Liberation: Life and Death in South Asian Religions
Karma, Rebirth and Liberation: Life and Death in South Asian Religions
Varieties of Religious Experience in China
Engaged Buddhism
The Theory and Practice of Buddhist Meditation
Confucian Ethics
The History and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond
The History and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond
Laozi and the Daodejing
Buddhist Psychology
Science, Religion, and the Search for Happiness in Traditional Asian Thought
Science, Religion, and the Search for Happiness in Traditional Asian Thought
Experiencing the Sacred: Embodiment and Aesthetics in South Asian Religions
Sin and Salvation in Japanese Literature
Religious Japan
Classical Philosophy of India (CLAS 1140)
The Huai-Nan Tzu
Directed Readings in Chinese Religious Thought: Zhuangzi
Classical Daoist Thought
Earliest Taoist Syncretism
Buddhist Poetry
Buddhist Classics
Buddhism in Motion
Themes in Japanese Buddhism
Zen Meditation in China, Korea, and Japan
The History, Philosophy, and Practice of Rinzai Zen Buddhism

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