2020-2021 History of Religions: Topic Courses

RLG340H5S: Topics in Christianity: Christianity in Contemporary North America (K. Byron)

What is America? And is it Christian? Using these deceptively simple questions as a point of departure, this interdisciplinary course introduces students to the study of Christianity in contemporary North America. More specifically, this course examines the relationships among Christianity and a wide variety of other categories of social and cultural analysis, including the nation, race, gender, language, the law and borders/borderlands. Along the way, students will develop the skills necessary to carefully read and critically evaluate scholarly writing in the humanities and social sciences. Students will also develop the skills necessary to actively apply concepts from the humanities and social sciences to their own examples of Christian culture drawn from the world around them. This is an online course with synchronous and asynchronous elements.


RLG360H5S: Topics in South Asian Religions: Oral Histories of South Asian Peel (L. Obrock)

While South Asian Canadians are an essential part of the rich diversity of Missisauga, Brampton and surrounding areas, the stories of this community are rarely told or collected in a systematic way. This course will focus on uncovering, analyzing and presenting the stories of the South Asian community in the Peel region. Students will learn the methods of oral history as well as the technological side of preparing a digital humanities project. These students will design, undertake, produce and archive the interviews. The final project will involve a digital exhibition of their findings.


RLG370H5S: Topics in Buddhism: Meditation and Mindfulness: from Buddhist traditions to the Global present (S. Richardson)

In this course we will learn about the history and development of meditation techniques within Buddhist traditions, and expand the lens to think about the role and representation of Buddhist derived practices in our present modern, so-called 'secular,' society. Students will be encouraged to hone their critical academic reading and writing skills and will produce podcasts to share their learning. We will read Buddhist sutras, historical texts, and look at artistic representations connected to meditative practices. Students will also be invited to cultivate their own healthy practices by sampling various experiential contemplative practices and producing reflective journals with creative responses throughout the term.


RLG388H5S: Special Topics: Skeptics, Atheists, and the Non-Religious in Western Culture (A. Lehto)

While questioning, opposition, or indifference toward religion may appear in any cultural context, this course looks at the special case of Western Europe and North America, where such attitudes have taken root and spread more widely than anywhere else. We will consider what it means for an individual to opt out of a dominant religious worldview, or out of any and all religious worldviews. We will also think about the underlying changes in Western, Christian society that led to the expansion of secular assumptions, reflected in both institutional structures and personal choices.


RLG401H5F: Advanced Topics in Religions and the Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts: Religion and Stories (K. Derry)

In this course we will examine multiple ways in which it is possible to think about connections between religion and stories. The form and content of these stories can vary widely. They can be about almost anything, and be in any kind of media — books, films, video games, graphic novels, podcasts, etc. Students will choose which stories they want to look at and how they want to look at them.


RLG440H5F: Advanced Topics in Christianity: Christian Voyages: Global Journeys of Late-Antique and Early-Medieval Christians (J. Shire)

By 700 CE, Christianity was a global phenomenon. Communities could be found from the Western Mediterranean to the coasts of China, and everywhere in between. Christianity came to these locations through ancient and medieval trade and travel networks that connected cities and communities across the world. This Christianity, however, was not a monolithic movement: it was fractious and contentious. As Christianity spread, it became more diverse as it engaged with new contexts and cultures. In our own time, local, national and international travel have ground to a halt due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us spend all of our time at home, and we cannot meet together in person. This course, however, will give us an opportunity to take a global journey from the comfort of our homes. We will go from the isolated islands off the coast of Ireland to the gates of the ancient Chinese city of Chang’an, following in the footsteps of Christian merchants and missionaries as they travel the Silk Road throughout Asia, sail down the Red Sea to the horn of Africa, and journey over the ocean to the coast of India. As we journey, we will explore the rock-cut churches in Ethiopia, the Syriac stele in China, mountain-top pilgrimage sites in Iran and Sri Lanka. We will hear the stories of how Christians interacted with Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Muslim communities, and how Christians used the cultures around them to create their own sense of identity in a given place. We will study how Christians traveled from place to place using travel itineraries, journey diaries and pilgrimage accounts. In doing so, we will strive to understand how the concept of the journey became central to Christian missionary activities. In our journey, we will learn how late-antique and early-medieval Christianity became many different kinds of 'Christianities.'


RLG450H5S: Advanced Topics in Islam: Approaches to the Academic Study of Islam (K. Ruffle)

This seminar introduces students to several important dimensions of the academic study of Islam and Muslims: genealogy, theory and method, and a thematic map of central topics of inquiry. Students learn where the field has been, where it is going, and the major debates, theories and approaches that shape how we study what is "Islamic" about Islamic studies.


RLG470H5S: Advanced Topics in Buddhism: How to Make a God (C. Emmrich)

All the buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities that are worshipped every day first need to be made. To do that one needs all kinds of materials and remarkable artisanal skills. But because these beings are meant to interact with their devotees, making a beautiful object is only half the job.  So how do you make them come alive? In this course we will explore how that is done.