Spring 2022

DESR students are required to take three courses. Two of these comprise the core curriculum, and one is an elective selected from a list of courses offered by the DESR faculty.


STRELIG 200: Methods in the Study of Religion

Methods in the Study of Religion is an introduction to methodological best practices in the Study of Religion from the perspectives of different fields. It is made up of multiple modules that combine the study of primary sources with exemplary methodological approaches. These approaches include but are not limited to: anthropological theories of religion and society, historical genealogies of categories of religion and the secular, theology and Church history, sociological approaches to issues like religious organization and conflict, religion and science, religious literature and Biblical hermeneutics, as well as particular religious histories.

STRELIG 201: Histories of the Study of Religion

Histories of the Study of Religion is an introduction to the history and development of the field of “Religious Studies” as an intellectual space for the study of a sometimes historicized, sometimes naturalized phenomenon called “religion.” Since the narration of any history of the study of religion serves to circumscribe a particular set of phenomena as “religious,” this course does not isolate a canonical history of the field. Instead, it progresses in a roughly diachronic manner, through a number of thematic threads representing the development of different domains of the study of religion.


Additionally, students must complete one elective course from a list of pre-approved graduate courses on religion. In some instances, students may petition for other, relevant courses to be counted towards their elective requirement. If a course is offered for variable units, students must enroll at the maximum possible unit value. Potential elective courses will vary depending on faculty teaching plans in a given semester.


Core Courses

Methods in the Study of Religion (STRELIG 200)
Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States
Carolyn Chen
Thursdays, 1 pm–4 pm, Social Sciences Building 587
Class #: 26801

What does religion have to do with race and ethnicity? This graduate seminar offers a social scientific examination of the relationship between religion, race, and ethnicity in the United States. Despite classical social theory’s predictions of their decline in modernity, religion and ethnicity continue to thrive and undergird some of the most significant racial, social, and political movements in contemporary society, movements as varied as white Christian nationalism, the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the United Farm Workers Movement. In this course, we will look at the role of religion in the formation of racial and ethnic identities, communities and politics. We will interrogate how religion informs racial regimes and categories. And compare how different racial and ethnic experiences have created distinct religious traditions among racial and ethnic minorities. Finally, we will explore how the intersection of religion, race, and ethnicity shape national belonging and citizenship in the United States.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy the DESR elective requirement:

Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts
Jacob Dalton
Tuesdays, 2–5 pm, Dwinelle 288
Course #: 28994 (BUDDSTD); 27211 (SASIAN); 29588 (TIBETAN);

This seminar provides an introduction to a broad range of Tibetan Buddhist texts, including chronicles and histories, biographical literature, doctrinal treatises, canonical texts, ritual manuals, pilgrimage guides, and liturgical texts. It is intended for graduate students interested in premodern Tibet from any perspective. Students are required to do all of the readings in the original classical Tibetan. It will also serve as a tools and methods for the study of Tibetan Buddhist literature, including standard lexical and bibliographic references, digital resources, and secondary literature in modern languages. The content of the course will vary from semester to semester to account for the needs and interests of particular students.

Idols and Ideology
Victoria Kahn
Tuesdays, 2–5 pm, Dwinelle 4125A
Class #: 27876

The history of Western literary theory is often told in terms of the concept of mimesis. But there is another, equally powerful, anti-mimetic strand to this history, and that is the critique of mimesis as a form of idolatry. In this course, we will explore this critique from the prohibition against images in the Hebrew bible up through modern attacks on mimesis and aesthetics as inherently ideological. One premise of this course, then, is that iconoclasm is part of the pre-history of the critique of ideology.

Our main literary texts in the first half of the semester will be taken from Reformation England, when there was a fierce debate about the harmful power of images and the necessity of iconoclasm. We will focus on works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Milton. In the second half of the semester, we will discuss the afterlife of iconoclasm in Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Adorno, Terry Eagleton, Isobel Armstrong, and Bruno Latour. Students whose interests lie primarily in national literatures other than English are welcome, and may write their final papers on primary texts and literatures not discussed in class, though they must engage the theoretical texts assigned for the seminar.

Sensations: Cultural Histories of the Senses in the Ancient Mediterranean World
Diliana Angelova, Benjamin Porter
Thursdays, 9 am–12 pm, Doe Library 425
Class #: 19462 (HISTART 290); 32493 (HISTORY 280U); 32371 (MELC 223)

This graduate seminar draws on the recent analytical turn toward the senses to investigate the different ways in which Ancient Mediterranean societies experienced their material worlds. It examines senses-centered scholarship that engages visual, textual, and archaeological records, ranging from the first millennium BCE to the middle ages, as well as theoretical works that articulate the cultural and historical discourses that shape perception. Sample topics include: the meaning of color in Ancient Mesopotamia, the sound of Hagia Sophia, fragrance in religious ritual, vision and visuality. Graduate students from all departments and programs are welcome.

Public Health and Spirituality
Douglas W Oman
Wednesdays, 12–2 pm, Berkeley Way West 1207
Class #: 23378

This course presents a brief introduction to the emerging field of spirituality and health. We examine scholarly and scientific views of links between spirituality, religion, and health. Topics include highlights and overviews of the rapidly emerging scientific evidence base, public health relevance, collaborations with faith-based organizations, and other practical applications.

Death and Dying
Eveline S Chang
Mondays, 10 am–12 pm, Haviland 4
Course #: 23625

This course explores death and dying from a variety of perspectives: psychological, philosophical, cultural, spiritual, and phenomenological. Emphasis is placed on understanding the experiences of dying persons and their loved ones, as well as the interplay between the process of dying and the process of living. Implications for social work interventions are discussed. This course is both academic and experiential, relying on a wide variety of materials: autobiography, fiction, scholarly and theoretical writings, case examples, films, poetry, and guest lectures.