Office Hours: T-Th 2:45 – 3:30 pm (and by appointment)
Office: Hale 146 Class Dates: July 7 – August 7
Class Days: M-T-W-Th-Fr
Time: 12:45 – 2:20 pm
Location: Educ 134 In this course we will examine “religion” using conceptual tools from four-field anthropology (i.e., biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics) and sister disciplines of sociology, psychology, and history. The general framework within which we conduct this examination will be evolutionary. There are three reasons for framing our inquiry this way: (1) evolutionary studies of religion have, over the past two decades, exploded in size and scope, (2) anthropology, as a discipline, was founded on evolutionary studies of religion, and (3) an evolutionary framework enables us to impose temporal and explanatory order on a vast and often bewildering array of theories, methods, and data pertaining to “religion.”
This course will make extensive use of my blog, Genealogy of Religion. Some of our readings are original blog posts; however, most of the readings can be found under the header section of the blog under the link titled “Resources.” This tab contains the syllabus and other articles for the course. There are no books – all reading assignments are posted under the Resources tab of the blog. I strongly recommend that you download each of the assigned readings and organize them into a digital folder or physical course-pack. You should bring all assigned readings to class for purposes of group discussion.
July 7: Introductions, Expectations, and Course Summary
July 8 and 9: Religion, Magic, and Myth – Constructing Categories & Defining Terms
Sociological Definitions, Language Games, and the “Essence” of Religion by Andrew McKinnon (2002)
The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category by Talal Asad (1993)
Historical and Historiographical Issues in the Study of Pre-Modern Japanese Religions by Neil McMullin (1989)
Magic: A Problem in Semantics by Dorothy Hammond (1970)
July 10: Evolutionary Theory, Natural Selection, and Adaptation
Godless Savages and Superstitious Dogs: Charles Darwin, Imperial Ethnography, and the Problem of Human Uniqueness by Matthew Day (2008)
July 31: Religious Evolution and Cultural “Progress”
Religious Evolution by Robert Bellah (1964)
Classifying Cultures: Grade v. Clade Post at Genealogy of Religion
Non-Progressive Religions Post at Genealogy of Religion
August 3 and 4: Suffering, World Rejection, Transcendence, Morals and the Axial Age
What is Axial about the Axial Age? by Robert Bellah (2005)
Karen Armstrong’s Axial Age: Origins and Ethics by Alan Strathern (2009)
The Age of Transcendence by Benjamin Schwartz (1975)
Gods, Rituals, and the Moral Order by Rodney Stark (2001)
Increased Affluence Explains the Emergence of Ascetic Wisdoms and Moralizing Religions by Baumard et al. (2015)
August 5 and 6: Course Review
August 7: FINAL EXAM
Course Requirements and Evaluation
Course assessment will be based on a combination of class attendance and participation, reading quizzes, the course diary, and a final examination. These four components are equally weighted, so the total number of possible points is 100. There are, however, opportunities for extra credit so it is theoretically possible to attain more than 100 points for the course. Final grades will be calculated on a curve. Grades will be figured as follows:
Class Attendance and Participation (25 points) Because this is a condensed summer course, we will be moving quickly through large amounts of material. Each class builds on the previous one and it is easy to fall behind. Attendance is therefore critical. If you miss a class or lecture, be sure to get notes from someone who attended. Failure to attend class will adversely affect your grade. There are only 25 classes during this session. You are allowed one unexcused absence. If you have 2 unexcused absences, your grade will be lowered by half a point (e.g., from B to B-); with 3 unexcused absences, your final grade will be lowered by a full point (e.g., from B to C). If you have 4 or more unexcused absences, you will be given a failing grade (i.e., an F). In addition to attendance, I expect you to participate in class. During lectures, you should ask questions and offer answers to questions that I ask. During group discussions of readings, you are expected to participate in a manner which demonstrates you have done the readings and critically reflected on them.
Reading Quizzes (25 points) For each class, we will read journal articles, book chapters, or blog posts. I have kept these readings short with the expectation that you will do the reading before each class. This reading will constitute the basis for lectures and discussions. Once or twice per week, we will begin class with a short written assignment or “quiz” which will ask you to state the thesis of the article/chapter and the arguments/data used to support the thesis. The purpose of these unannounced quizzes is twofold. First, they encourage everyone to do the assigned readings and attend class. Second, I use the quizzes to evaluate reading comprehension and guide class discussions.
Class Diary (25 points) You will not be required to write a formal or research paper for this class. Instead, you will be keeping a class diary in which you critically and creatively reflect on the lectures, readings, discussions, and course in general. You should write in your journal each day, with two paragraphs minimum and no maximum. There is no standard format for diary entries. You should keep your journal in a single running document that clearly dates each separate entry. You should regularly back-up this document! It is important to make regular entries in your diary because once or twice per week, I will ask you to send me the diary electronically so that I can monitor your writing and progress.
The purpose of the diary is to force you to think about the class and articulate your thoughts. Although these thoughts may be of a personal nature, keep in mind that I will be reading your diary and the diary can be extremely useful when it comes to organizing lecture and reading notes, and studying for the final exam. If your diary consists mostly of personal reactions and thoughts, it will be less useful for these purposes. Ideally, your journal entries should show that you have understood the lectures and readings, and are synthesizing them to create a coherent timeline, theory, and story. Although this is a personal diary, I expect you to write in a professional manner, with good organization, proper grammar, and correct spellings.
Final Examination (25 points) The final exam will be comprehensive. It is designed to test your overall understanding of the course. There will be one large question requiring an essay response that will enable you to demonstrate your understanding and mastery of the materials and themes of this course. There will be 2-3 more narrow questions allowing you to give a shorter but in depth answer to a particular issue or subject.
Extra Credit (Up to 15 points) You may earn extra credit in this course, the maximum amount of which will be 15 points. Most extra credit opportunities will arise as a result of doing additional reading (which I will specify) and then providing formal written assessments which demonstrate your understanding of the reading(s) and relevance to themes of this course. I will announce these extra credit opportunities as they arise from time to time.
COURSE GUIDELINES & EXPECTATIONS
There will be elements of this course that are demanding. Academically, it will be rigorous because we will read across several disciplines, not just within anthropology. Personally, it may be challenging because we will be questioning cultural assumptions and examining religion from a naturalist perspective. Religion can be a sensitive subject and we will be respectful of this. Please keep the following in mind:
This course is not concerned with the truth or falsity of religious belief and we will neither consider nor discuss such issues.
This is not a theology course and we will consider specific beliefs or doctrines only to the extent they bear on the larger themes in the class.
There are no hidden or unspoken agendas in this course. My personal thoughts on these subjects, whatever those may be, are not relevant to the materials.
By the same token, personal religious beliefs will not be discussed in class. We will not tolerate polemical or personal attacks on particular religions or beliefs.
If you have questions about being able to meet these expectations on classroom behavior, please see me and/or seek more information on the university’s policies:
http://www.colorado.edu/policies/classbehavior.html and at
(email@example.com; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation
of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions
from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited
to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Additional information on
the Honor Code can be found at: http://www.colorado.edu/policies/honor.html
and at http://www.colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/
In coming to the University of Colorado, students and faculty have joined an intellectual community dedicated to learning together through the open exchange of ideas. For us to feel comfortable sharing our perspectives, we need to be confident that our ideas will be respected as our own. All of us share responsibility for creating an environment conducive to open exchange by holding to principles of trust, integrity, and honesty. This class adheres to a zero tolerance policy for academic dishonesty. Any work that, upon investigation, is found to violate the Honor Code will receive a grade of zero and a report will be submitted to the Honor Code Council.