Department of Religious Studies

R S 306C • Comparative Religious Ethics

43145 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM BUR 130
E (also listed as J S 311E)
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The aim of this course is to examine and contemplate ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, excellent and corrupt as they are expressed in different religious traditions and across cultures. We will examine three different approaches to ethics and religion in a globalized world of competing stances: a foundational set of methods in religious ethics, a more specific approach to comparative religious ethics centered on stories, and an account of justice for international and cross-cultural contexts addressing disparities in wealth and power.  Students will learn to adjudicate and assess religions claims regarding what is good and right, differences across religious traditions, foundational narratives of religions, and the grounds for justice.  Topics include war and peace, inequalities in wealth and income, leadership, and more.



Three short papers, 2 pages each; each 15% of the course grade (45% total)

Midterm exam, take-home (20%)

Final Exam, take-home, (20%)

Class Participation (15%)


Required Books (available at the University Co-Op Bookstore and in digital format whenever possible; other readings will be distributed through Canvas):

1) Fasching and DeChant, Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics (2nd edition)

2) Markham, Do Morals Matter? A Guide to Contemporary Religious Ethics (2nd edition)

3) Sen, The Idea of Justice

R S 307 • Intro To Interreligs Dynamics

43150 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.306
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This course teaches students to analyze situations of interreligious encounter. There is a broad spectrum of such encounters, from interreligious dialogue, at one end, to religious persecution, at the other. The course will introduce students to relevant scholarly approaches in religious studies and provide them with a general theoretical framework for analyzing interreligious dynamics. We will take a close look at selected cases of religious encounters – in the U.S. and in Asia, past and present – and discuss the observed dynamics with the help of theoretical categories. In team fieldwork projects, students will then apply those interpretative tools to cases of interreligious dynamics in local organizations.

This is a required course in the new minor degree program “Global Interreligious Dynamics,” which is designed to help students develop a competency that they may be able to utilize in their future professional careers. For more on this minor, see the flyer here:

R S 310 • Intro To Study Of Religion-Wb

43155 • Landau, Brent
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Please check back for updates.

R S 310R • Intro To Middle East Religions

43160 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WEL 1.308 • Hybrid/Blended
(also listed as ISL 310R, J S 310R, MES 310R)
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Course Description

It is impossible to understand the Middle East, either historically or today, without understanding its religious landscape.  At the same time, it is impossible to understand the three major Abrahamic religions without understanding the Middle Eastern context in which they arose.  This lecture-based foundational course for the Middle Eastern Studies (MES) major introduces students to the religious terrain of the Middle East, including the various expressions of Eastern Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as Zoroastrianism. Time permitting, instructors may also examine a selection of other Middle Eastern religions, usch as the Baha’i, Druze, or Yazidi religions.  This course will focus on situating each religion’s beliefs, ritual practices, sacred history, religious texts, and moral principles within the historical and geographical context of the region. This course will also familiarize students with themes and concepts in the comparative and historical study of religions, more broadly.



Course Requirements (tentative)


Attendance & Participation                                              = 20%

Geography/History Quiz                                                    = 10%

Five Unit Tests                                                                          = 35% (7% each)

Midterm Exam or Project                                                  = 20%

Final Exam or Project                                                           = 25%


Textbooks (tentative)

  • For Zoroastrianism: Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge, 2001. ISBN# 0415239036.
  • For Islam: Carole Hillenbrand, Introduction to Islam: Beliefs and Practices in Historical Perspective (Illustrated Edition, 2015).
  • For Middle Eastern Christianity: Selections from Ken Parry, ed.,The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity (Wiley, 2007).
  • For Middle Eastern Judaism: Selections from Kenneth Seeskin and Judith R. Baskin, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Jewish, History, and Culture (Cambridge, 2010).


R S 311 • Ethics/Relig/Space Explortn-Wb

43165 • Traphagan, John
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM • Internet
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This course focuses on cultural and ethical questions related to the exploration of space and the emerging field of astrobiology.  We will cover topics such as whether humans have an obligation to colonize planets such as Mars or whether we should abstain from colonization, ethical questions related of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, cultural influences on attitudes about space exploration, and cultural implications of finding life on other worlds.  The goal of the course is to develop a deep understanding of how cultural ideas, moral concepts, and scientific inquire intersect in the context of space exploration. 


Possible Texts:

Lisa Messeri, 2016. Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.

Steven J. Dick.  2008.  Remembering the Space Age.  NASA History Division. 

Paul Davies.  2010.  The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence.  Houghton Mifflin.

Robert Zurbin.  2010.  The Case for Mars.

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament-Wb

43195 • Smith, Daniel
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM • Internet
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This course focuses on some of the most influential religious texts in human history the 27 texts that were included in the New Testament. In addition, we will also read several other ancient texts that did not make it into the Christian Bible. During the semester we will explore the content of these texts, theories about how they were produced, methods used by scholars to interpret them, and conclusions that specialists reach about their significance. In the process, students will also have a chance to reflect on the general nature of human religiosity.

R S 316C • Hist Of Religion In The US-Wb

43200 • Graber, Jennifer
HI (also listed as AMS 315, HIS 317L)
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This class explores how religious people and communities in the United States affirm their faith, understand the ethical life, engage in ritual acts, and organize their communal relations. Through a historically organized survey of religious groups, we will focus particularly on the themes of colonization and immigration, two phenomena that have impacted the American religious landscape.

We begin with the continent’s original diversity in its hundreds of Native American traditions. Moving to the colonial era and continuing through the contemporary moment, we will explore colonizing and migratory movements that have brought European Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, along with practitioners of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism from Asia and Africa to North America. We will also investigate communities birthed in the United States, including Mormonism, Pentecostalism, and the Nation of Islam. Through this survey, we will consider a variety of religious traditions, the changing state of the population’s religious composition, as well as how Americans have navigated those shifts using concepts such as disestablishment, diversity, and pluralism.

This course fulfills the core curriculum requirement for U.S. history. It also carries the flag for Cultural Diversity in the United States. Cultural Diversity courses are designed to increase your familiarity with the variety and richness of the American cultural experience. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from assignments covering the practices, beliefs, and histories of at least one U.S. cultural group that has experienced persistent marginalization.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity-Wb

43205 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM • Internet
(also listed as C C 318, J S 306E)
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This course examines two main lines of history in the Rise of Christianity: first
that of Jesus and the early Christian movement itself, and second, that of the “book” (meaning the New
Testament) that tells the story of the earliest Christians. How did it happen? Where did they come
from? When did they begin to call themselves “Christians,” and why did they do so? How do the New
Testament writings fit into this picture? Where did they come from? What do they mean? And finally,
what changed along the way? All of these are part of the story, and it is, without doubt, a story that has
had a major impact on all later western history.

The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying
the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in the New Testament period. It will
survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first
century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of
factors: the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar
social and theological shape. In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New
Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to
reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement. In the light of
this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the
historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups;
gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the
evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.

R S 344 • The Age Of Reformation-Wb

43220 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM • Internet
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The advent of Protestantism at the beginning of the sixteenth century is popularly associated with the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of “Modernity.” Martin Luther’s publication of his 95 Theses in 1517 began a series of ideas and events that changed religion, politics, and daily life as they spread. Yet the rise of the merchant class, the advent of the printing press, and the discovery of the New World, as well as a number of the theological ideas now associated with Luther all belong to the achievements of the so-called “Dark Ages.” What, then, do we make of Luther’s reputation as “the last medieval man and the first modern one?” What of his contemporary, the Swiss reformer John Calvin (as anti-Luther as he was anti-Catholic), whose theology undergirds so much American Evangelicalism? This upper-division, undergraduate course examines major and lesser-known works by these and other Reformation theologians in order to answer the question: What did the Reformation change and how did it change it?

R S 346R • Religion/Social Justice US-Wb

43225 • Seales, Chad
E (also listed as AMS 327I)
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This course examines the material relationships between religion and social justice in the United States.  It compares the ways modern religion carries within itself the material possibility of liberated consciousness, radical democracy, and social equality, even as it often postpones these promises to the next life, or the next millennium, and ultimately reinforces the status quo. This course then will take as its topic the grand questions of religious practice and social change: Why is the world the way it is?  And how has religion helped make it so?  How can we change the world for the better?  And does religion help us, or hinder us, in that pursuit?  To answer those questions we will pay particular attention to disruptive religious practices.  That is, religions as practiced by those often deemed on the edge of society, outside the mainstream, or in the minority.  These will include religious practices constitutive of social movements addressing Human and Civil Rights, including those historically related to the Abolition of Slavery, Anti-Lynching Campaigns, Prisoner Rights, Immigrant Rights, Gay Rights, Sustainable Food Systems, and Racial and Economic Justice.

R S 361 • Afr Religion In New World-Wb

43280 • Coleman Taylor, Ashley
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM • Internet
(also listed as AFR 370, LAS 322)
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Often interpreted as witchcraft, superstition, or paganism, Africana religions remain some of the most misunderstood traditions in the Americas. In this course, we will explore the contributions of scholars and artists who engage African diaspora religions in their work through multiple conceptual approaches. The course focus includes topics such as ritual and material culture, corporeality and aesthetics, cosmology and philosophy, and decolonization and sovereignty within the traditions. Students can expect to gain an understanding of Kongo, Vodun, and Yoruba-based traditions across the Americas and the Caribbean as well as U.S. conjure culture.

R S 361 • Race, Gender, Sex, Religion-Wb

43290 • Coleman Taylor, Ashley
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM • Internet
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How did religion form and inform our contemporary ideas of race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, and sex? For centuries, religion has been one of the primary tools of ideological oppression in the development of the American project. This course uses an intersectional feminist framework to examine the construction and maintenance of normative categories of race, gender, sex, and sexuality within U.S. religious discourse. We will explore 19th and 20th century understandings of “proper” social order, scientific racism, and the invention of the “homosexual" through the lens of "religion." The readings will wrestle with the roles of both of the practice and the study of religion in the creation of the contemporary social hierarchy rooted in the control and subjugation of women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, and disabled people. 

R S 361 • The Five Books Of Moses

43295 • Yoo, Philip
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM ETC 2.136
GC (also listed as CTI 375, J S 364, MES 342)
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The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—contain well known stories such as the creation of the world, the flood, promises made to Israel’s ancestors, and the revelation of divine law through Moses. Collectively known as the ‘Torah’ in Jewish tradition and the ‘Pentateuch’ in Christian tradition, these five books remain influential in debates about the purpose and nature of the deity (God), the cosmos, law, ritual, ethics, history, family, and nationhood. In this class, we will read the entirety of these five books in translation, investigate the socio-historical circumstances that give shape to these books, and consider how these five books achieve the status of sacred literature. Attention will also be given to the transmission of these five books and its continued significance for its many past and present readers. (With permission of the instructor, students may complete a portion of the course requirements by reading selections from the Hebrew text with the instructor.)

R S 368D • Church/State In Lat Amer-Wb

43305 • Butler, Matthew
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM • Internet
GC (also listed as HIS 346W, LAS 366)
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This course traces the history of the politics of religion, and of the religion of politics, in modern Latin America, with special emphasis placed on the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the region. Chronologically, the course covers begins with a brief survey of the colonial period and then gives special attention to the national period running from independence (circa 1820) up to the Cuban Revolution (circa 1960), after which Church and state entered significantly new and distinctive phases (e.g. Liberation Theology). Thematically, we will examine the various causes of Church-state tension in the aftermath of Latin American independence, and the Church’s multifaceted response sto the gradual rise of political liberalism, nationalism, and secularism. In the second half of the course, we will emphasize significant national cases (e.g. Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala), allowing the course to branch out in a more comparative sense as we proceed. As the focus on questions of devotion as well as power implies, we will not just be looking at the way in which the Church responded to changing political circumstances after the demise of the colonial regime, but at changes in religious practice and meaning, and how these were experienced by ordinary people.

John Schwaller, The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America: from Conquest to Revolution and Beyond
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
Austin Ivereigh (ed.) The Politics of Religion in an Age of Revival
Edward Wright Rios, Revolutions in Mexican Catholicism: Reform and Revelation in Oaxaca, 1887-1934
Shorter readings (supplied)

Reading responses, 60%
Final essay, 40%

R S 375S • Rlg/Suprnatural/Parnormal-Wb

43315 • Landau, Brent
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM • Internet
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Please visit the Religious Studies advisor's office for more information.

R S 383T • Ritual In Theory & Practice-Wb

43330 • Traphagan, John
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM • Internet
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This course explores the manner in which humans translate symbols and meanings into action through ritual performance.  We will consider intersections between ritual, magic, and curing, ritual and mythology, ritual and the body, and consider ritual as a form of enacting beliefs and narratives.  The course will focus on the analysis of symbolic and ritual forms and will consider theorists and schools of thought that have been important in the study of ritual. 

This seminar that depends upon our collective discussion and deliberations of the texts.  Although I will voice my opinions, I prefer that the seminar minimizes any lecturing on my part and maximizes discussion.   For the seminar to succeed, you must be committed to reading the materials and participating in an intellectual conversation.   I will expect that everyone in the seminar gives a significant effort to contribute.  

Possible Reading include the following.  Some readings will be decided as a class.  


























R S 383T • Sexuality, Body, Religion-Wb

43335 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM • Internet
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The last few decades have brought a turn to study the body and sexuality as starting points for inquiry into political and social relations—throughout the Liberal Arts, and especially in the study of religion.  For some approaches, the body is a baseline material or experiential starting point that is tangible, bounded, and immediate: in important ways, the body is primary.  For other approaches, even the body is malleable symbolically and even physically, and consideration of the body highlights the great extent that social conflict and contestation can impact persons: in important ways, the body is foundationally shaped by social forces and conditioning. Sexuality may be a key component of embodiment for considering these issues, whether the sexuality of those who write and produce cultural forms, or the sexuality prescribed by religious and secular standards.  This graduate seminar examines research in the body and sexuality with examples that include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and modern secular societies. 


Required Books (listed alphabetically by author; many of these books are available electronically through the UT library catalogue)

Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam

Wallace Best, Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem

Daniel Boyarin, Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture

Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity

Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex

Robert Desjarlais, Body and Emotion: The Aesthetics of Illness and Healing in the Nepal Himalayas

Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction

Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject

Martha Nussbaum, Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law

Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

R S 386C • Revelation/Apocalyptic Lit-Wb

43340 • Friesen, Steven
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM • Internet
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Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 390T • Islamic Feminism-Wb

43345 • Azam, Hina
Meets T 3:00PM-6:00PM • Internet
(also listed as AMS 390, MES 386, WGS 393)
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Islam and feminism are often considered to be contradictory in their essences and objectives. Nevertheless, we now find more than a century of writing by Muslim women (and men) who draw their inspiration from their religion, and who seek to reconcile Islam’s scriptures and traditions with principles of gender equality and justice.  This course explores the idea of Islamic feminism, and surveys its history and key writings.  Students will be introduced to some of the practices, doctrines, and texts of Islam that have been considered most problematic from a women/gender perspective, and will read and discuss the ideas of several critical figures from the 20th and 21st centuries. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to reflect on the idea of, and varying definitions of, “Islamic feminism,” as well as to develop their own definitions of the term. All required readings will be in English. 

In addition to carrying the expected MES, RS and WGS crosslistings, this course also carries an American Studies (AMS) crosslisting, for two reasons: First, much critical work in Islamic feminism is being carried out by U.S.-based scholars, writers,  and activists, and study of that work receives significant attention in this course.  Second, this course seeks to interrogate the dichotomy not only between “Islam” and “feminism,” but also between “Islam” and “the West.” Studying the discourses of Muslim American feminists leads us to imagine different ways of being Muslim, feminist, and American.


Course Requirements/Grading

Attendance                                                    20%

Class Participation                                      20%

5 Reading Responses – 8% each               40%

Term Paper in 4 parts                                  35%

-- Part A) Proposal                                 5%

-- Part B) Annotated Bibliography         10%

-- Part C) Outline wIntro & Thesis         5%

-- Part D) Paper                                  15%


Course Readings:

Textbooks (tentative list):

  • Margot Badran. Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. 2009.
  • Barbara Stowasser. Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation. 1994.
  • Lamia Shehadeh, The Idea of Women Under Fundamentalist Islam. 2007.
  • Qasim Amin. The Liberation of Woman, and The New Woman. 1900.
  • Fatima Mernissi. The Veil and the Male Elite (Le harem politique – Le Prophète et les femmes). Tr. Mary Jo Lakeland.1987.
  • Amina Wadud. Qur’an and Woman. 1992.
  • Gisela Webb, ed. Windows of Faith. 2000.
  • Aysha Hidayatullah. Feminist Edges of the Qur’an. 2014.
  • Kecia Ali. Sexual Ethics and Islam. 2006.
  • Zaynab Ghazali, Days from my life (Ayyām min ḥayātī). Tr. A. R. Kidwai. 1978.
  • Bint al-Shāṭi’ (‘A’isha bt. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān), Wives of the Prophet (Nisā’ al-Nabī). Tr. Matti Moosa. 1973.

Additional readings (articles, essays, and book chapters) will be available in PDF format on Canvas. 

Arabic primary text reading supplementation: If enough students are interested, an optional session to read primary texts in Arabic can be arranged.


R S 390T • The Arabic Humanities-Wb

43349 • Noy, Avigail
Meets TH 3:00PM-6:00PM • Internet
(also listed as ANS 390, MES 386)
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In this graduate seminar we dive into the rich world of pre-modern Islamic humanities, exploring the traditions that formed the culture of an educated Muslim (almost-always) man. Students will familiarize themselves with Arabic writings ranging from linguistics and logic to literature, history, poetic criticism and adab – a category that defies modern classification but includes discussions of poetry, language and theology. Texts include Sibawayh, Jahiz, Tawhidi, Ibn Rashiq, Farabi, Avicenna, Jurjani, Ibn Khaldun, and more. Prerequisite: three years of Arabic at the university level (two years with instructor’s permission).

Evaluation: Attendance and participation: 30%, Presentations: 20%, Final paper: 50%

R S 394T • Landscape And Buddhist Art-Wb

43350 • Leoshko, Janice
Meets W 12:00PM-3:00PM • Internet
(also listed as ANS 390)
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Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 394T • Relig Ident In Premod S Asia

43355 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets W 4:00PM-7:00PM PAR 304
(also listed as ANS 384)
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This graduate seminar examines the construction of religious identity in premodern South Asia. We will discuss how individuals and communities defined their identities as ‘Buddhists’, ‘Brahmins’, ‘Jains’, ‘Muslims’, etc. (or particular variants of such traditions) in certain moments in history. Key questions are: How do the actors handle the existence of truth-claims and religious practices that they perceive as different from their own? How do they draw boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’? What rhetorical methods do they employ in defining insider-outsider relations (rational arguments, polemics, negotiations, etc.)? Are categories such as ‘missionary activity’, ‘religious market’ or ‘conversion’ useful for the analysis of South Asian religions? Which types of motivation (religious, economic, political, etc.) for drawing religious boundaries exist in particular historical situations? How does a person’s (or group’s) religious identity relate to their other identities (class, gender, ethnic, linguistic, etc.)?