Religious Studies at Macalester College, USA


Religious Studies at Macalester College, USA

Macalester was founded in 1874 on a firm belief in the transformational power of the liberal arts education. Since then, our students and alumni have demonstrated that power as a force for positive change, in turn attracting a growing community of learners from around the world.

The courses of the department of religious studies focus on the study of Christianity and Judaism in both their historical and contemporary expressions, and on the major non-Western religious traditions

Religious Studies is a broadly interdisciplinary investigation that takes its place among the humanities and social sciences. Majors in Religious Studies enter a wide range of vocations, from the pursuit of graduate work in the study of religion or professional life in the parish ministry/rabbinate, to entering fields as diverse as journalism, law, medicine, and community activism. The department works with students who want to focus on the academic study of religion, and with students who seek courses in religion to help them frame and interrogate issues provoked in other academic areas. Students who double major in religion or choose religion as a minor area of study also benefit from the diversity of Religious Studies course offerings and its faculty.

Course offerings span across American religions in the U.S., including Judaism and Asian-American religion, Buddhism in India, China, and Japan; Christianity from its beginnings through modern Europe and the contemporary period; religions of South and Southeast Asia, feminist and gender studies, critical studies, and textual interpretation.

Course description

• Introduction to Islam: Formation and Expansion

This course charts the formation of Islam and the expansion of Muslim peoples, from the life of the Prophet Muhammad to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad. It will examine Muslim institutions, beliefs, and ritual practices in their historical contexts. In addition to the basics of Muslim practice and belief, the class will introduce students to mystic traditions (Sufism), Islamicate statecraft, and intellectual/legal traditions as well as cultural trends including art, architecture, and literature.

• Islam in America

8 million Muslims in America make up only 3% of the population but represent worlds of culture reflecting the diversity of Muslim societies worldwide. The story of Muslims in America distinguishes, for historical and religious reasons, three groups: Blackamericans (42% of American Muslims), Indo-Pakistanis (29%), Arab/Middle Easterners (12%) from the rest of the American Muslim population.

• Modern Islam

Muslim-majority societies faced daunting social, political, and intellectual challenges after Europe-s military and economic expansion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The course will survey the early-modern Muslim empires (Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal), the encounter of Muslim peoples with colonialism, and the major religious and social developments from the eighteenth century to the present.

• Sufism: The Islamic Quest for Intimacy with the Beloved

With attention to both classical texts and contemporary contexts, this course examines the formative development of Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, and its rich legacy of embodied piety and mystical intimacy. Drawing on the teachings of key Muslim mystics, we will explore the sacred sources, unitive doctrines, and metaphysical cosmology of Sufism, as well as its devotional practices, celebrated poetry, and contested ecstatic discourse.


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