Religion Religious Studies Colonialism Spring Dr Tim Murphy Office Manly by therza


                              Religion, Religious Studies, Colonialism
                                                      Spring 2009

Dr. Tim Murphy
Office: 209 Manly Hall
Office hours: most Thursdays 11-1pm
Phone/voicemail: 348-8513

Description: This course will survey the history of the study of religion in light of the historical relationship between
European colonizers and non-European colonies. We will look at the “power/knowledge” correlation established in
the discipline of Religious Studies as European scholars define, classify, interpret, and explain the phenomenon of
“religion,” often taking the “primitives” of their colonies as data for that activity. We will read some major texts in
the history of the study religion as well as major religious thinkers of the period. We will also look at contemporary
theorists such as Jacque Derrida and Edward Said who use analytical methods to critique the Eurocentric way in
which “knowledge” is constructed in the discursive structures of the human sciences.

Studying religion in the University: The study of religion in the university is conducted along the same lines and for
the same purposes as are all other forms of disciplined, methodical inquiry. The core premise of the academic study
of religion is that religion, whatever else it may be, is a human activity and is one element of the larger cultural
creations of human beings. Within the context of the university, scholars of religion hold themselves to the same
principles of reasoned argument from evidence as do all other scholars.

Required Texts and Materials: Race and Empire by Jane Samson, Postcolonial Theory by Leela Gandhi, The
Philosophy of History by G.W.F. Hegel, The Absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions by Ernst
Troeltsch, The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto. Some readings are also on the eLearning course page in the form of

Format: Lecture/discussion.

Course Objectives.
>Students will learn the basic history of Euro-American colonialism
>Students will learn to examine the representations of colonial discourses as representations
>Students will learn to use postcolonial discourse theory as a method for examining colonial representations
>Students will examine the role of Christian theology in constructing representations of colonized peoples and their
>Students will examine the role of Religious Studies in constructing representations of colonized peoples and their
>Students will be encouraged to examine critically the differences between the information and perspectives
presented in this course with those of mainstream American society and Officialdom

Description of Assignments:
          History exam: this will be a short answer exam over the history of colonialism.
          Theory paper: this will be a 5 page assignment over the basic ideas of postcolonial theory.
          Final paper: For each half of the course students will write a 20 page paper project around a theme of their
own design. See “Dr. Tim’s Guide to Expository Writing” PDF. More information in class.
          Presentation. In addition to the final paper, students will make a brief (10-15 minute) presentation on an
artifact of colonial representation they have found through their own research (which may be in some way related to
their final paper).
Assignments and Grading: The point values of the assignments are as follows:
History Exam                                       100 points
Theory paper                                       100 points
Final paper                                        200 points
Presentation                                       100 points
Total                                              500 points

Final grade: Your final grade will be based on a straight percentage of the point total. 90%+ = A; 80%+ = B; 70%+
= C; 60%+ = D; 59%- = F. I do use +/-‘s. For example, a cumulative score of 450 points = A-. Also, the instructor
reserves the right to use discretion, factoring in things such as attendance, class conduct, effort, participation in
discussion, etc., in calculating each student’s final grade.

Late papers: late take-home exams and essays will be penalized by one letter grade. The only exceptions are
documentable emergencies or illnesses.

Disabilities: Students with documented physical and/or learning disabilities should contact the professor as soon as
possible to provide copies of their documentation and to discuss the reasonable accommodations that can be made to
meet their needs. Contact Disability Services as soon as possible, located in Office of Disability Services, 133B
Martha Parham East, Box 870185, Phone: (205)348-4285, TTY: (205)348-3081, Fax: (205)348-0804.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and amounts to using the work of another without proper
acknowledgement. If a student is caught committing plagiarism, whether from the work of a classmate, published
author, or internet site, they will receive a grade of zero for that assignment and may be subject to punishment from
the Dean’s Office. Please ensure that you properly cite all quoted and paraphrased material.

Appealing Grades: In order to appeal a grade, you MUST do the following: submit to me a written statement, as
detailed as possible (within reason) of exactly what you think should be changed and why. I will review it, and, if
necessary, ask to meet with you. I will then return the assignment back to you, noting whatever change has or has
not been made. I reserve the right to review the exam as a whole, and I also reserve the right to change the grade
downward if I deem that necessary upon further review.

Attendance Policy: You are expected to attend class every week, to be here on time, to have done the reading, and
actively participate in class activities and discussions. Failure to do so will effect your grade. This is not a
correspondence course, so you cannot pass this course if you do not attend class. If you get sick or there is some
kind of emergency, notify the appropriate University office—this is your responsibility. This does NOT mean you
can never miss class, just that you MUST be here most of the time.

Norms of class conduct: It is important to maintain the integrity (not to be confused with stuffiness) of the learning
environment. In that spirit, and, as it is generally better to say something that does not need to be said than not to
say something that needs to be said:
          >Please do NOT talk during lecture!
          >Please try to be on time (I will if you will!).
          >If you need to read the newspaper or do your homework, do so elsewhere.
          >Eating in class can distract your fellow students. General advice: when in doubt, err on the side of
          >In discussions and comments, all students are welcomed to disagree but no students are ever allowed to
treat other students (or the teacher) in a disrespectful manner. Civility is a necessary corollary to both clear thinking
and free speech.
          >No “witnessing” in class, i.e., trying to persuade the class that your point of view of religion is the true or
best one, or trying to convert (not converse with) people. (You are free to do so elsewhere but not here.)
          >No chewing tobacco in class, please.
          >Please turn off all cell phones, pagers, and/or beepers.
Serious and/or continued infractions of these norms will affect one’s grade negatively and possibly result in
disciplinary actions.
                           Schedule of Lectures, Readings, and Assignments
Part I: Facts & Methods
1/12 Syllabus and overview. Geography, premises, background of the course. Read: Race and Empire,
Introduction and chapter 2. Recommended: Barry, “Theory Before Theory” PDF on eLearning course page.

1/26 The history and ideation of European Colonialism, part I. Read: Read: Race and Empire, chapters 2, 3 & 4
and Postcolonial Theory, Preface and chapter 1.

2/9 The history and ideation of European Colonialism, part II. Read: Race and Empire, chapters 5 & 6, skim
Documents and Glossary; Postcolonial Theory, chapter 2.

2/16 Postcolonial Theory Read: Postcolonial Theory, chapters 3 & 4, and “Deconstruction” pdf. Exam over
history of colonialism.

2/23 Postcolonial Reading as Method: Application ‘Exercise.’ Read: The Philosophy of History, Introduction.
Focus on pp.17-20; 91-99 & 105-110.
Part II: Readings
3/2 “The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West”: The Stages of Universal Spirit. Read: The Philosophy of
History, Part I—The Oriental World and 1st section of Part II. Focus on pp. Recommended: supplement from The
Philosophy of Religion (pdf), “Nature Religion.” Theory paper due.

3/9 The Philosophy of History Read: The Philosophy of History, Part I—The Oriental World and chapter II of Part
III on Christianity (focus on this section). Recommended: Tiele’s Outlines pages tba.

3/23 Spirit, nature, and religious experience: the idea of the holy Read: The Idea of the Holy, chapters I-VIII.
Recommended: Tiele’s Outlines pages tba.

3/30 The idea of the holy as criterion of religious stages. Read: The Idea of the Holy, chapters. IX-XVII.  

4/6 The modern concept of ‘history’ and the recasting of religion. Read: The Absoluteness of Christianity and the
History of Religions, chapters 1, 2 & 3.

4/13 The absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions (and/or the history of religions). Read: The
Absoluteness of Christianity, chapters 4, 5, & 6.

Part III: “Globalatinization”
4/20 “‘Religion’ in the singular?” Deconstructing the essentialism of ‘religion.’ Read: Derrida, “Faith &
Knowledge” essay (PDF). Recommended: Postcolonial Theory, chapters 6 & 7. Presentations in second half of
class period. Term papers due, but will be accepted as late as 4/27. After that, late papers will not be accepted
except in extreme situations.

4/27 “Globalatinization”: the world-wide politics of ‘religion.’ Read: Derrida, “Faith & Knowledge” essay.
Recommended: Postcolonial Theory, chapter 9. Presentations in second half of class period.

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