CoursesHistories of Religion and Violence
HIST 1635-301

Histories of Religion and Violence

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30 pm-4:59 pm

Is there any historical basis for thinking that religion and good citizenship can coincide? The American political project was designed, according to many of its original activists as well as contemporary theorists across the political spectrum, both to establish a safe haven for free religious practice *and* to protect the public from religious violence. That second concern may have been waning as the 21st century ushered in what was famously described as “A Secular Age”, but in the following decade some sociologists observed a new surge in Global Religion.

With religion hardly on the brink of extinction, it is worthwhile for modern citizens to re-examine the diverse narratives about religion and violence that have structured modern politics. While this class will prioritize the exploration of accounts of medieval and early modern religious violence that were pivotal to highly influential theories of American democratic government, it will also consider both more ancient and more contemporary histories, such as religious origin stories, 19th century histories of “the warfare between religion and science”, and 20th century accounts of totalitarian violence against religious communities, among other narratives.

It will also lead students to reflect both critically and constructively about fundamental theories of religion and violence as they engage in an interdisciplinary and collaborative investigation of primary sources, sacred texts, local sites of contestation, and contemporary controversies.

In the process, students will develop vital capacities for civic engagement within our religiously (and non-religiously) pluralistic polity, especially as religious and political identity become increasingly intertwined and follow alarming trends of polarization.

Instructor: Dan Cheely

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