Religion: Re-envisioning identity, borders, and belonging

Drs.  Girim Jung and Ted Vial,

Office Hours by Appointment. Please contact us by email to schedule.

Intro to the course:

Mechanics of the Course:

Course Description:

The contemporary world offers different deployments of the politics of inclusion/exclusion. What roles do religion and theology play in shaping the identities and actions of Black Lives Matter, Burmese Buddhists, and alt-right white nationalist movements in the U.S.? Through reading classic and contemporary works on religion and identity, students will gain sophisticated theoretical frameworks to help analyze phenomena that increasingly seem to shape events.

The following books are for purchase:

Hucks, Tracey E. Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism (University of New Mexico Press, 2012) (available as an ebook through Taylor library).

Finley, Gray, and Martin eds. The Religion of White Rage: Religious Fervor, White Workers and the Myth of Black Racial Progress (Edinburgh UP, 2020). (Available for $4.99 as a pdf from Edinburgh Press)

Beliso-De Jesus. Electric Santeria: Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion (Columbia). (Our amazing librarians have now been able to provide access to this book as an ebook!)

Further readings will be provided via Canvas

Degree Learning Goals:

First Year Interdisciplinary Course (4 credits): This course is team-taught and will introduce students to terminology, reading of primary texts and how to write academic papers as well as expose them to the complexity and significance of theological reflection. The course must be taken within the student's first 40 credit hours.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this class students will:

1. be able to articulate some of the ways religion, race, and nationalism function in the modern world;

2. be able to articulate some of the ways religious nationalism has shaped the identities of groups and individuals in different parts of the world and different times;

3. increase their facility with analyzing arguments; and

4. be able to write academic papers that make and support real arguments.

Course Requirements:

  1. The first week and final week of class we will do a group annotation project.
  2. Intro video. Each student will post a brief (1-3 minute) video introducing themselves during the first week of class.
  3. 5 mandatory synchronous Zoom discussions during weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 from 9:00 am to 10:15 am MST (Denver time) Tuesday (Tuesday January 12 and 26, Tuesday February 9 and 23, Tuesday March 9).
  4. Preparation and attendance (asynchronously and synchronously). The first 4 Course Requirements are all part of your Participation grade, 15% of final grade.
  5. Each student will write 3 3-page papers analyzing one of the readings. You may not write on the same author more than once, and you may not write more than one paper for any given class. Class will begin with a student reading their paper as a way of kicking off our discussion of the reading. Please try not to sign up for papers in consecutive weeks, so that we can get you feedback on a paper before you write your next one. Each paper is 25% of final grade (75% total).
  6. Backgrounds. Each student will sign up to present one short introduction to one of our authors (may be in the form of a video). 5% of final grade.
  7. Artifacts. Students will sign up to upload an artifact 2 times during the quarter (picture, music or video clip, link to news article) that links one idea in the readings that week to our contemporary world. Students will post a brief (3 sentence max) explanation of the link that they see. 5% of final grade.

Statement of Inclusivity:

If you have a preferred pronoun that you would like for the class to address you by, please let us know so that we can honor that for you.

Important Guidelines you will want to read before writing a paper or making a post:

Throughout the quarter, we will have several discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

  1. Extend the conversation - creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If 1 or 2 other students have already responded directly to a point raised in a student paper, do not simply write another response to that point unless it adds something new to the conversation. You need to extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the course materials, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted. 
  2. Ask contextualized questions - situate your questions within the discussion by referencing the course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.
  3. Engage others in the course - thoughtful engagement with other students in the course and with the instructional team. 
  4. Engage the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures, student presentations, and any other materials related to the course. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged. 
  5. Participate Respectfully - discussions in this course are likely to raise sensitive topics. Please strive for respect in all your comments, and charity in reading the comments of others.

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts (minimum of 2 posts per discussion). Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

We are looking for posts that help us understand and analyze the text at hand. Application of our texts to new situations is of course the ultimate goal, but we can't do that responsibly without understanding what the author is doing first. And that can be hard!

If your first post (due Wednesday) focuses on one of the assigned papers/readings, please focus your second post (due Friday) on a discussion about another paper/reading.

Each student will prepare 3 papers of 3 double-spaced pages each. 

Post Papers

On a week you have signed up to write, you will submit your paper by Monday night on canvas.

Evaluating Papers 

Papers will be graded according to the following 4 criteria:

  1. A clearly stated claim;
  2. Textual evidence to support the claim;
  3. Quality of writing (organization, proper use of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, spelling, and all other mechanics);
  4. Depth and seriousness of analysis. 

In a short paper the claim typically appears as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph (if it is not there the writer needs clearly to mark where it is, since otherwise readers will assume that sentence is the claim).  A claim states the conclusion of the argument put forward in the paper.  You have a great deal of freedom here.  A claim might state what is the most important idea in the reading, or what the author must assume to make his or her argument, or what the logical extension of that argument might be, or how that argument relates to other readings on our syllabus, or what the author gets right or wrong, etc.   In a short paper you will likely not be able to summarize the all the points the author makes, nor should you try.  Part of your task of analysis is to prioritize what is most important to lift up for discussion for our class.  Your paper will likely not follow the same organization as the reading under analysis, since the logic of your argument will not be the same as the logic of the argument of the reading.  If your paragraphs tend to begin “And then . . .;  Next . . .” then it is probably time to go back and do at least one more draft and re-think what you are presenting and how.  Papers for this class are a little closer to the summary end of the spectrum than a term paper might be, since they are the basis for our discussion.  But they are still papers that make engage the text by making a point about the text.

The purpose of the papers is three-fold:

  1. the first is to encourage deep engagement with the texts;
  2. the second is to encourage a habit of discussion that is open, respectful, and rigorous.  This is best accomplished when the analytical essays take a charitable stance towards the readings.  Some of them will seem old-fashioned, and the writers may have different concerns than do we.  As in any good conversation, it is important first to try to see where the writer is coming from, rather than to be dismissive of his, her or their ideas.  There will be plenty of time later to decide what is useful to you and what is not.   We must begin with an accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the essay. 
  3. Third, these section papers will help develop your skills as readers and writers.  A great number of studies show that “peer-review” is a very effective way to teach writing.  The feedback you get on these papers during discussion will be quite valuable.

Papers will be graded on the following scale:

4 = A
3 = B
2 = C
1 = D
0 = F

Jan 06, 2021WedIntrosdue by 06:59AM
Jan 06, 2021WedSign up for artifactsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 06, 2021WedSign up for backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 06, 2021WedGroup Annotation: Syllabusdue by 06:59AM
Jan 07, 2021ThuWeek 1 Discussion: African Diasporic Religious Nationalismdue by 06:59AM
Jan 07, 2021ThuSign up for papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 09, 2021SatWeek 1 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 12, 2021TueWeek 2 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 13, 2021WedZoom Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2021ThuWeek 2 Discussion: African Diasporic Religious Nationalismdue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2021SatWeek 2 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 19, 2021TueWeek 3 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2021ThuWeek 3 Discussion: African Diasporic Religious Nationalism; Library Resourcesdue by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2021SatWeek 3 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 26, 2021TueWeek 4 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 27, 2021WedZoom Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 28, 2021ThuWeek 4 Discussion: Myanmar; Writing Resourcesdue by 06:59AM
Jan 30, 2021SatWeek 4 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 02, 2021TueWeek 5 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2021ThuWeek 5 Discussion: Myanmardue by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2021SatWeek 5 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 09, 2021TueWeek 6 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 10, 2021WedZoom Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 11, 2021ThuWeek 6 Discussion: Myanmardue by 06:59AM
Feb 13, 2021SatWeek 6 Discussion Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 16, 2021TueWeek 7 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 18, 2021ThuWeek 7 Discussion: White Nationalismdue by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2021SatWeek 7 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 23, 2021TueWeek 8 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 24, 2021WedZoom Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2021ThuWeek 8 Discussion: White Nationalismdue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2021SatWeek 8 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 02, 2021TueWeek 9 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 04, 2021ThuWeek 9 Discussion: White Nationalismdue by 06:59AM
Mar 06, 2021SatWeek 9 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 10, 2021WedZoom Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 11, 2021ThuGroup Annotation: Combahee River Collective Statementdue by 06:59AM
Mar 11, 2021ThuGroup Annotation: The BREATHE ACTdue by 06:59AM
Mar 11, 2021ThuGroup Annotation: Sunrise's Principlesdue by 06:59AM
Mar 13, 2021SatBackgrounddue by 06:59AM
Mar 13, 2021SatWeek 10 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2021SunArtifactsdue by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2021SunParticipationdue by 06:59AM
Apr 01, 2021ThuWeek 10 Discussion: Liberating Futuresdue by 05:59AM