EPIIC Archives

1996 Religion, Politics, and Society

This year's class will exlore the role of religion in today's world. Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, liberation theology in Chiapas, the involvement of the church in overthrowing Communism in Eastern Europe, China's challenge to the Dalai Lama's successor, the Waco siege, the suppression of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, the threats against author Salman Rushdie -- all dramatically challenge prior assumptions about the diminishing influence of religion. What is the relationship between civil society and religion? Is modernization -- defined in terms of secularism and scientism -- incompatible with either tradition or religion?

As a class we will examinine the resurgent status of religion on global and domestic politics.

We will consider the geopolitics and the geoculture of the alleged "clash of civilizations" and explore the role of religion in conflict and peacemaking from Ireland to Guatemala, from Bosnia to South Africa. Studying the encounters between religious nationalisms and secular states, we will look at the destruction and plans for reconstruction of multiethnic, multireligious societies; at the religious roots of violence and pacifism; and at the selective interpretation of tradition and memory in confrontations from India's Ayodhya mosque to Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Additionally, we will examine the debates surrounding the contentious terms of "fundamentalism" and "syncretism"; the role of religion and ritual as cultural resistance; comparative religious ethics and cross-cultural attitudes towards human rights and human values; women and religion; science, faith and the search for order; and the role of religion in American politics.