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“Beyond the Veil”: Approaches to the Study of Black Religion in the United States
T 1:30pm - 3:20pm
This course will explore how scholars have developed and pursued the modern study of black religion in the United States from its inception in the early decades of the twentieth century, through its institutionalization in the academy after the civil rights movement, and its continued evolution in contemporary times. The course will focus especially on pioneers in the field (e.g., W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Carter Woodson) and consider the rise of competing methodologies for the study of black religious cultures, ranging from the historical to the sociological while including at various moments, the theological, anthropological and literary. Special attention will be given to the ways in which racial and religious identities have shaped and confounded scholarly efforts to interpret black religious subjects even as these various identities have also provided a platform for interrogating the meaning of race, nation, and the nature of political commitment in America.
(1) Active participation and attendance in seminar discussion is assumed and expected. It will make up a half of the total overall participation grade.
(2) Beginning with the second week, students will write a short response essay (150 words) on the assigned reading, to be posted online in classes *v2 at least twelve hours before class time. Every participant must respond to at least two other comments online. Students will not have to participate in the online discussion when they have seminar leadership responsibilities. Students can choose any other additional week when they will not participate in the online discussion. Classroom participation is always expected regardless of one’s participation online.
(3) Students will sign up to lead or co-lead the seminar discussion one day during the semester. (I will lead the seminar on week 2 and students will lead on the weeks that follow.) Seminar leaders will need to read all of the material listed for that week and prepare a brief handout for the class that summarizes the major argument(s) and significance of the principal text(s). This handout will form the basis of a ten to fifteen minute oral presentation that will start the seminar session. In addition, seminar leaders will each write a five-page paper that touches on what is theoretically and methodologically valuable and/or limited about the principal text assigned. Student should also address the ways in which the principal author’s approaches, methods, and perspective shapes the material s/he interprets. The five page paper will be submitted to classes *v2 an hour before class time.
(4) Doctoral students will write a research paper or literature review (18-20 pages) of their choice and of nearpublishable quality on a topic relevant to the course. YDS (and advanced undergraduate) students can choose to write a final research paper (14-16 pages) or a review essay on 2 to 3 books not assigned for the course (14 pages) where they examine methodological issues and their overall significance given the general state of black religious studies. Topics and books must be approved along with a paper proposal (one to two pages) by the midterm break. The proposal should include an initial bibliography.
Grades will be earned for performance in three areas: Participation in classroom and online discussions: (25%) Seminar leadership with five page interpretative essay (25%) Final paper (50%)