History of Religions: Topic Courses

2023-2024 Fall/Winter

RLG370H5F - Topics in Buddhism: Subversive Buddhism in South Asia (Instructor: C. Emmrich)

What if Buddhists were not out to calm our minds but, instead, to change the world? What if Buddhism’s goal were not to fight our inner demons but rather those people who use religion to exploit the poor and oppress the powerless? What if Buddhism were not about meditation but about revolution? Meet Buddhists like Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Iyothee Thass, and Swami Acchutanand for whom Gandhi and his brand of Hinduism were just not subversive and anti-colonial enough. Engage with the writings, thoughts, and actions of pioneering Indians for whom Buddhism was about fighting racism, casteism, and social inequality by radically reinventing religion, by redefining the meaning of nirvana, and by toppling the system, the South Asian way.

RLG388H5F - Special Topics: Making Magic with Music: Connections Between Music and Extraordinary Experience (Instructor: M. Kaler)

This course will focus on the relationship between religion and music in the modern North American context, specifically how music can help create experiences where people feel in touch with something awe-inspiringly big or overwhelmingly real. The course will involve learning about theories and research on links between music and extraordinary experience and applying those theories to case studies of musical performances or genres.

RLG388H5S - Special Topics: Religion and the Colonial Encounter (Instructor: K. Ali)

This course introduces undergraduates to topics related to European colonial expansion from the 15th to 20th centuries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and asks the question: How have various colonized communities navigated the conditions of life under colonial rule? This course will study religion within a postcolonial and decolonial framework, looking at how imperial encounters have shaped the development of religious traditions in colonial spaces in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The course specifically asks critical questions about the ways in which various communities practice, think about, and debate religion and tradition in the colonial period, and how colonial legacies have shaped and limited the ways in which peoples have organized their lives and reinterpreted their traditions.

RLG401H5S - Advanced Topics in Religion and the Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts: Gold, Stone, Crystal, Clay: The Stuff of Religion in Asia (Instructor: S. Richardson)


RLG470H5F - Advanced Topics in Buddhism: The Life Stories of Realized Buddhist Masters (Instructor: B. Hazelton)

This course focuses on the study of the biographies and autobiographies of realized Buddhist Masters of various time periods in the three major traditions of Buddhism in English translation.  The study of Buddhism as a lived tradition through popular genre of Buddhist life writing of journeys to enlightenment aims to bridge the gap between Buddhist philosophy and Buddhism as a lived tradition as found in these extraordinary and fascinating lives of the wandering ascetics, monks, yogis and courageous women. We will study the various narrative expressions in prose, poetry and songs of enlightenment.  In particular we will look at the structure, themes and distinctive features of the biographies through an interdisciplinary approach examining both literary and visual representations illustrating these life stories.