Jessica A. Johnson
The role of religion in shaping personal and communal identity in a pluralistic society. Themes include current dimensions of American pluralism, effects of ethnicity, immigration, and electronic communication o building religious communities, and issues of conflict, violence, and reconciliation. Offered: jointly with ANTH 330.
This course explores how religion shapes and intersects with various processes of identity formation, including ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and national belonging. We will begin with theoretical readings to introduce key concepts for investigating how religious beliefs are organized as cultural systems in dynamic relation with political economy. Through close readings of theoretical, visual, and ethnographic texts, we will critically consider how transnational evangelical movements affect and construct hegemonic understandings of masculinity, femininity, and citizenship that reinforce and trouble nationalist projects. In particular, we will examine academic studies, media accounts, and documentary films about U.S. evangelicals at the front lines of ‘culture war’ issues such as gay marriage to ask what these representations say about faith-based activism and the role Christian belief currently plays in the public sphere. The questions driving our inquiry include: How are religious practices and political mobilization portrayed as overlapping, blurred, and incongruous? How do evangelicals narrate their religious identity in relation to church, family, sexuality, and cultural reformation? In addition, we will ask how digital technology and social networks are transforming conversion methods, formations of community, and worship practices.
Student learning goals
During this investigation students will: 1) gain an understanding of how ethnography is used as a tool for narrating the formation of religious identities; 2) learn how to read ethnographic accounts and apply fieldwork methods with a critical lens attentive to representational politics and ethical considerations; 3) cultivate dialogue about the diversity of experiences in local communities.
General method of instruction
This class is a reading intensive seminar. Thoughtful contributions to discussion are vital to understanding the material and will greatly enhance everyone's learning experience.
Class assignments and grading
Students will write four response papers of 2-3 pages in length and conduct a mini-ethnographic project that will culminate in a final research paper of 8-10 pages.
Class Participation: 20% Response Papers: 40% Final Paper: 40%