Courses

The Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame provides a supportive and challenging environment for sociological research, undergraduate studies, and graduate training -- and offers a number of courses for undergraduates and graduate students with an emphasis in the study of religion.

Graduate Seminars on Religion by Center Affiliates

Spring 2017

Soc 63900: "Critical Realism and Sociology"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: This advanced theory seminar will explore the philosophy of social science known as critical realism and consider how it might influence sociological research and scholarship. The first part of the course will read and discuss key works in critical realism as an alternative approach to both positivist empiricism and hermeneutical interpretivism. The second part of the course will then consider the implications of a critical realist sociology for conceiving and designing research projects, conducting data analysis, and writing publications. Along the way we will engage a variety of sociological theories and basic theoretical issues from a critical realist perspective.


Fall 2016

Soc 73652: "Sociology of Religion"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: The purpose of this course is to provide graduate students in sociology with an opportunity to examine some of the most prominent topics that currently concern sociologists of religion. The exact content of the course may vary from semester to semester, but previous iterations have included discussions of the role of historical analysis in the study of religion, the function of religion in social and cultural change, the conditions that spawn new religious movements, rational-choice approaches to religious practices and institutions, and the debate over the process of secularization. The class meets for intensive discussion of assigned readings and to hear student-initiated presentations. A research paper is expected of each student as a final requirement. This course does not necessarily assume that students have taken the first graduate-level course in the sociology of religion.


Spring 2016

Soc 63691: "Research and Analysis in Sociology of Religion" 
Professor: Mary Ellen Konieczny

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with key pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each other’s scholarly papers in sociology of religion. Workshop readings are drawn from the reading list for the ND doctoral exam in sociology of religion, to also help facilitate preparation for that exam.


Fall 2015

Soc 63651: "Sociology of Religion"
Professor: Mary Ellen Konieczny

Description: This seminar considers classical and some contemporary approaches to the sociological study of religion through a study of theoretical and empirical works on religion. Topics include: classical approaches (Marx, Durkheim, and Weber) and their contemporary iterations and uses; the construction of religion as a category; religion and identities (e.g., race, class, gender, sexualities); religion in secular settings; the relation of religion to secularity, secularism, and atheism; and religion and globalization. Case studies will be drawn from international contexts as well as from the American religious landscape.


Soc 63691: Research and Analysis in Sociology of Religion (RASR)
Professor: Mary Ellen Konieczny

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with key pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each other’s scholarly papers in sociology of religion. Workshop readings are drawn from the reading list for the ND doctoral exam in sociology of religion, to also help facilitate preparation for that exam. 


Spring 2015

Soc 63569: "Religion and Social Movements" 
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This course focuses on the major topics, theories, and debates in the literature on religion and social movements. In the first part of the course, students will learn about the role of religion in promoting or hindering collective action for such theoretically important cases as the struggle for racial justice in the American South in the 1960s, the U.S. Central America peace movement, the East German Revolution, and anti-abortion activism. Although most of the material in this section addresses the effect of religion on social activism, we will also discuss work that reverses the causal arrow and considers how social movement participation influences religion. Attention then shifts to social movements within religious organizations. Here we engage studies on the success or failure of organizing efforts for secularization, women’s ordination, gay and lesbian rights, and doctrinal change during the Second Vatican Council. From the Unification Church to American evangelicalism, the final part of the course tackles religious movements and what drives their growth and decline. In studying these different dimensions of religion and social movements, particular emphasis will be given to explicating the processes involved in mobilization.


Soc 63691: "Research and Analysis in Sociology of Religion" (RASR)
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with key pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each other’s scholarly papers in sociology of religion. Workshop readings are drawn from the reading list for the ND doctoral exam in sociology of religion, to also help facilitate preparation for that exam. 


Fall 2014

Soc 63630: "Religion, Gender and Family"
Professor: Mary Ellen Konieczny

Description: This course examines classical and current sociological theory and empirical research concerning the relation of religion to issues of gender and family. Themes to be examined include: religious participation and the construction of gendered identities; modern women’s adherence to conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups articulating patriarchal gender ideologies; religion, family organization, and parenting; religion and the control/expression of sexuality; and the contribution (and limits) of feminist theory to understanding the relation of religion, gender, and family in contemporary societies. Empirical research studied in this course draws extensively from Western contexts, but also substantially includes cases from societies across the globe. 


Soc 63691: "Research & Analysis in Sociology of Religion" (RASR)
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: This one‐credit workshop will engage students with key pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar‐based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each other’s scholarly papers in sociology of religion. Workshop readings are drawn from the reading list for the ND doctoral exam in sociology of religion, to also help facilitate preparation for that exam. 

Grad students in class 2


Spring 2013

Soc 63691: "Research & Analysis in Sociology of Religion" (RASR)
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each others’ scholarly papers in sociology of religion.


Fall 2012

Soc 63691: "Research & Analysis in Sociology of Religion" (RASR)
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each others’ scholarly papers in sociology of religion.


Spring 2012

Soc 63652: "Religion, Politics, Economics, and Social Change"
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: How does religion interact with political, economic, and other social spheres of human social life? How is religion related to exercises of power, the production and distribution of material goods, the structuring of human life in seemingly non-sacred social institutions? When, how, and why does religion serve as a force of social reproduction, maintaining existing social practices and structures? When, how, and why does religion cause or influence social transformation, through cultural, political, and economic change? This seminar examines key exemplars of literature in this area as a means to master sociological approaches to religion as it interacts with other aspects of social life. Readings will help students prepare for the doctoral exam in sociology of religion.


Soc 63691: "Research & Analysis in Sociology of Religion" (RASR)
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This one-credit workshop will engage students with pieces of literature related to empirical research, measurement, and data analysis in the sociology of religion; teach some alternative approaches to basic data analysis strategies in the sociology of religion; and provide an informal seminar-based context for the collective reading, discussing, and critiquing of each others’ scholarly papers in sociology of religion.


Undergraduate Courses on Religion by Center Affiliates

Spring 2017

Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: What explains why people act as they do and how their lives turn out? Scholars have long debated these questions. Moreover, from casual conversations to accounts described in the news, the public constantly weighs in on them. In this course, students will learn how sociologists approach and answer these questions. Central to the sociological theories that we will investigate to understand human behaviors and outcomes is a focus on the social context (e.g., friendship networks, neighborhoods, and organizations) in which individuals are embedded. We will explore diverse topics of the human experience, including happiness, love, death, disease, sacrifice, activism, and religion, in our effort to make sense of it sociologically. Students will also become familiar with the distinct methodologies and tools that sociologists use in their research. (First Year Studies Only)


Soc 20002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: What does it mean that humans are social creatures and how does participation in social life shape people's personallife experiences and outcomes? How and why do people together create and sustain cultures, groups, institutions, and organizations? And how do these form people's relationships, actions, and experiences? This course introduces students to the discipline of sociology as a way to better understand how personal behaviors and life outcomes are profoundly influenced by a variety of social structures, and how their actions in turn maintain and can transform those social structures. Course readings and discussions will focus on the experience of community in modern society, young adult culture, marriage and family, inequality and poverty, civil rights, and disruptive social movements fighting for social structural change - particularly in the United States. Along the way we will learn a bit about social research methods and philosophy of social science, both of which will help students be smarter thinkers and consumers of social science research findings. Students will, as a result of taking this course, better understand both the society and world in which they live and the character and outcomes of their own personal lives. You cannot take both this course if you have already taken SOC 10002 because the courses are equivalent. (-02: Sophomores Only; -03: Junior Sociology Majors only)


Soc 30900: "Foundations in Sociological Theory"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: The course explores the content and the method of great written works by Sociology’s founding theorists. Theorists to be discussed include Durkheim, Weber, and Marx. An examination of their writings serves as an introduction to the intellectual concerns and the new insights, the theoretical ambitions and the controversies that provided the foundation for the development of Sociology. Through a focus on classic texts the course will address two main themes: the methodological arguments concerning the appropriate intellectual strategy for fulfilling Sociology’s scientific ambitions and the substantive debates over the nature and dynamics of a changing society. Some attention will be directed to the implications of classical sociological theory for contemporary controversies and research. (Sociology Majors/Minors Only; -01: Sophomores, Juniors & Seniors Only; -02 Freshman Only, Department Approval Required)


Soc 33458: "Mexico-U.S. Border Immersion Seminar"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein 

Description: This seminar and experiential-learning course is broken into two parts. In the fall (for two credits), students will participate in a seminar that will expose them to various perspectives about immigration issues, especially those related to the México-U.S. border. During our in-class meetings in the fall, (approximately 1 hr. & 40 min. per week), we will discuss scholarly and journalistic accounts of why migrants leave their home countries, the struggles they face during the journey, how U.S. citizens are responding, and possible policy solutions. In the spring (for one credit), students will participate in an immersion trip to the Southern Arizona borderlands during the first week of January and in follow-up classroom meetings (approximately 50 min. per week) during the spring semester to process the immersion experience. During the immersion trip, we will observe Operation Streamline legal proceedings, be trained for and participate in humanitarian efforts, tour a Border Patrol and detention facility, visit the border wall and learn about its environmental impact, hear from faith leaders about their current and past border activism, and visit Nogales to experience everyday life in a border community. Throughout the course, particular focus will be given to the intersection of religion—especially Catholic Social Teachings—and border and immigration issues.
To be eligible, students must complete an application, posted here: http://socialconcerns.nd.edu/academic/winter/BorderIssuesSeminar.shtml. Enrollment is competitive.
The 15 available spots will be chosen based on the application responses, with preference given to those submitting earliest. Students will be notified about their status within a week of submitting the application. There are fees associated with this seminar (see CSC website for information). (Department Approval Required)


Soc 43600: "Society and Spirit"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description:  The purpose of this course is, in the setting of a small seminar, to engage students in close reading and broad discussion of sociological writings about religion by classical theorists of the discipline. Works that may be nominated for treatment include such mainstays as The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and other studies of religion by Emile Durkheim; The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and The Sociology of Religion by Max Weber; portions of The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as excerpts from Marx's Capital; The Future of an Illusion and Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud; and various essays on religion by Georg Simmel. The course also will cover more recent works, both in the sociology of religion and in related fields, incorporating assumptions about and approaches to religion that can be traced to these pioneering authors. (Juniors & Seniors Only)


Fall 2016

Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: What explains why people act as they do and how their lives turn out? Scholars have long debated these questions. Moreover, from casual conversations to accounts described in the news, the public constantly weighs in on them. In this course, students will learn how sociologists approach and answer these questions. Central to the sociological theories that we will investigate to understand human behaviors and outcomes is a focus on the social context (e.g., friendship networks, neighborhoods, and organizations) in which individuals are embedded. We will explore diverse topics of the human experience, including happiness, love, death, disease, sacrifice, activism, and religion, in our effort to make sense of it sociologically. Students will also become familiar with the distinct methodologies and tools that sociologists use in their research. (First Year Studies Only; Cannot have taken SOC 20002)


Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: What does it mean that humans are social creatures and how does participation in social life shape people’s personal life experiences and outcomes? How and why do people together create and sustain cultures, groups, institutions, and organizations? And how do these form people’s relationships, actions, and experiences? This course introduces students to the discipline of sociology as a way to better understand how personal behaviors and life outcomes are profoundly influenced by a variety of social structures, and how their actions in turn maintain and can transform these social structures. Course readings and discussions will focus on the experience of socialization and social norms, the important categories of race, gender, class, and culture, and the persistence of social inequality– particularly in the United States. Along the way we will learn a bit about social research methods and the ‘sociological imagination’, both of which will help students be smarter thinkers and consumers of social science research findings. Students will, as a result of taking this course, better understand both the society and world in which they live and the character and outcomes of their own personal lives. (First Year Studies Only; Cannot have taken SOC 20002)


Soc 30408: "Religion in International and Global Relations"
Professor: Atalia Omer

Description: The so-called resurgence of religion to global politics, conventionally dating back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, challenged the secularist myopia that informed policy makers and theorists of international relations. But it took the events of September 11th, 2001 to fully catalyze a process of rethinking the role of religion, on both the levels of theory and practice within the contexts of international relations. Both theorists and practitioners in the arenas of international relations are trying to decipher how to theorize religion into the existing paradigms of realism, liberalism, and constructivism. The course will examine these conversations, dating back to Westphalia of 1648 and the historical role of religion in the construction of the international system of nation-states. The course will also study the establishment of the Office of International Religious Freedom under the auspices of the US Department of State and the strategic incorporation of the “promotion of religious freedoms” globally as a key geopolitical agenda of the US as well as the related establishment of an office of “religious engagement” also under the auspices of the State Department. We will examine the arguments of supporters of these developments as well as the arguments of critics. Beyond a focus on how religion is theorized into conventional paradigms informing thinking about and the practice of international relations, the course will also explore the role of global religious networks in transforming the discourse about religion and politics. (Sociology Majors Only; Sophomores, Juniors, & Seniors Only)


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion’s social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion’s significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States. (Sophomores, Juniors & Seniors Only)


Soc 33458: "Mexico-U.S. Border Immersion"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This experiential-learning course exposes students to various perspectives about immigration issues, especially those related to the México-U.S. border. During our in-class meetings (about an hour per week), we will discuss scholarly and journalistic accounts of why migrants leave their home countries, the struggles they face during the journey, how U.S. citizens are responding, and possible policy solutions. For the immersion part of the course, we will travel to the Southern Arizona borderlands during the first week of January. Among other activities, we will observe Operation Streamline legal proceedings, be trained for and participate in humanitarian efforts, tour a Border Patrol and detention facility, visit the border wall and learn about its environmental impact, hear from faith leaders about their current and past border activism, and visit Nogales to experience everyday life in a border community. Throughout the course, particular focus will be given to the intersection of religion—especially Catholic Social Teachings—and border and immigration issues. To be eligible, students must complete an application, posted here: https://www3.nd.edu/~csc/application/sem_application.php?s=Fall&y=2016. Enrollment is competitive. The 15 available spots will be chosen based the application responses, with preference given to those submitting earliest. Students will be notified about their status within a week of submitting the application. There are fees associated with this seminar (see CSC website for information). Note: Due to the overlap in content, students who have completed the one-credit version (CSC 33966/SOC 33066) cannot take this course. (Sociology Majors Only; Department Approval Required)


Soc 40068: "Religion, Gender, and Development"
Professor: Atalia Omer

Description: Is religion an obstacle or opportunity for women’s empowerment? Religion is often seen as institutionalizing and perpetuating patriarchy and thus operating in contradiction to women’s agency, rights, and equality. This course will grapple with the tensions and contradictions between the imperative of gender justice foregrounded in the Sustainable Development Goals and religions’ competing conceptions of women’s roles. The course will overcome some of this dichotomizing of secular and religious paradigms of development by looking at the theoretical and practical work of religious feminists. In responding to the question “is religion an obstacle or opportunity for women’s empowerment?” we will debate why feminists and religious actors are hesitant to collaborate on development agenda and what does this indicate about the potential relations between development and religious reform. (Sociology Majors Only)


Spring 2016

Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: What explains why people act as they do and how their lives turn out? Scholars have long debated these questions. Moreover, from casual conversations to accounts described in the news, the public constantly weighs in on them. In this course, students will learn how sociologists approach and answer these questions. Central to the sociological theories that we will investigate to understand human behaviors and outcomes is a focus on the social context (e.g., friendship networks, neighborhoods, and organizations) in which individuals are embedded. We will explore diverse topics of the human experience, including happiness, love, death, disease, sacrifice, activism, and religion, in our effort to make sense of it sociologically. Students will also become familiar with the distinct methodologies and tools that sociologists use in their research. 


Soc 23901: "Power and Identities"
Professor: Mary Ellen Konieczny

Description: How are authority, power, and culture related? How is power related to identities and to the self? This seminar explores various ways of thinking about the distribution and exercise of power in modern societies. The first part of the course considers theories and case studies that examine authority relations, including those between parents and children, supervisors and workers, and governments and their communities. In later portions of the course, we examine the interplay of power with economics, politics, gender, religion, and culture. In these sections of the course, we read case studies from the US, Africa, and Latin America. The main goal of this course is to teach students how to ask and answer their own questions about the exercise of power in modern societies and its effects upon individuals -- which we do through reading, discussion, and exploration of students’ own case studies. Because of its themes and interdisciplinary approach, this course will be of interest not only to sociology majors, but also to majors in political science, gender studies, anthropology, and history. 


Soc 30651: "God, Country, and Community: Religion and Public Life in America"
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: This course investigates how religion influences what Americans think about politics and how they are involved in public life, including political participation and volunteering and community service. We will examine, for example, how and why religion influences opinions on controversial social and political issues, such as abortion, expanding the welfare state, and school choice policy. At the organizational level, the course seeks to understand what religious congregations and schools are doing for their communities and how they are active in political life, such as mobilizing protest, inviting political speakers, talking about politics, or organizing voter registration drives. The analysis will pay close attention to religious tradition differences, including investigating whether and why conservative Protestants are more or less likely to give and volunteer in their communities than Catholics, mainline Protestants, or the nonreligious. By investigating what about religion leads to good works and active citizens, the course will shed light on the complex and changing relationship between religion and public life in the United States. 


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion’s social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion’s significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States. 


Soc 33458: "México-U.S. Border Immersion Seminar"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This seminar and experiential-learning course is broken into two parts. In the fall (for two credits), students will participate in a seminar that will expose them to various perspectives about immigration issues, especially those related to the México-U.S. border. During our in-class meetings in the fall, (approximately 1 hr. & 40 min. per week), we will discuss scholarly and journalistic accounts of why migrants leave their home countries, the struggles they face during the journey, how U.S. citizens are responding, and possible policy solutions. In the spring (for one credit), students will participate in an immersion trip to the Southern Arizona borderlands during the first week of January and in follow-up classroom meetings (approximately 50 min. per week) during the spring semester to process the immersion experience. During the immersion trip, we will observe Operation Streamline legal proceedings, be trained for and participate in humanitarian efforts, tour a Border Patrol and detention facility, visit 18 the border wall and learn about its environmental impact, hear from faith leaders about their current and past border activism, and visit Nogales to experience everyday life in a border community. Throughout the course, particular focus will be given to the intersection of religion—especially Catholic Social Teachings—and border and immigration issues. To be eligible, students must complete an application, posted here: http://socialconcerns.nd.edu/academic/winter/BorderIssuesSeminar.shtml. Enrollment is competitive. The 15 available spots will be chosen based on the application responses, with preference given to those submitting earliest. Students will be notified about their status within a week of submitting the application. There are fees associated with this seminar (see CSC website for information).


Fall 2015

Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: The goal of this course is to introduce you to the discipline of sociology and the major questions that guide sociological research and study. We will examine how (often invisible or taken-for-granted) social forces of our everyday worlds influence our individual lives and life outcomes, yet, at the same time, how we as individuals help to create, maintain and transform the social world. We will focus on various types of social differences, race/ethnic, class, gender, etc., as well as how these have developed and the impact they have on people in society. This course will introduce you to the sociological perspective or "imagination" in examining social problems and issues, making the familiar unfamiliar and helping you critically examine what you experience in your day-to-day life. 


Soc 20610: "Sociology of Religion"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: This course provides an introduction to the sociology of religion, an important field in the discipline of sociology. Religion is one of the most powerful forces of social cohesion, order, meaning, disruption, and change in human societies, both historically and today in the modern world. Sociology provides a particular disciplinary perspective and analytical tools and theories for describing, understanding, and explaining the nature and influence of religion in the world. Studying religion sociologically is also a great way to learn about the perspective, methods, theories, and interests of this social science discipline.

The course will engage the following kinds of questions. What is religion? Why is religion so primordial and prevalent in human societies? What do different religions teach? Why are people religious or not religious? What causal role does religion play in human personal and social life? How does the sociological study of religion differ from a theological or psychological study of religion? Why and how do religious organizations grow and decline? How, for example, did an obscure, early Jesus Movement manage to become the largest religion in the world? How and why do people convert to a different religious faith or lose their faith entirely? Is modernity secularizing? What are the religious and spiritual lives of 18-23 year-old Americans today like? Why has the Islamist movement become so powerful in recent decades? What is happening today at the global level when it comes to religious movements and their social, cultural, political, and economic impacts? 


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion's social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion's significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States. 


Spring 2015

Soc 30602: "Jerusalem: Peace or Apocalypse"
Professor: Atalia Omer

Description: Jerusalem is a holy city for many religions. It is believed to represent heavenly eternal peace but is also the source of earthly and historical violence. What are the sources of this contested legacy? What are the prospects of building peace with justice in such a volatile context? We will relate our understanding of the complexities of Jerusalem to the analysis of other conflicts involving sacred spaces and narratives. This interdisciplinary course will explore the histories, theologies, politics, and social realities of the city of Jerusalem. We will explore the interface between religion and politics by asking how Jerusalem fits into secular and religious Jewish Zionist ideologies as well as how Christian Zionists’ conceptions of the end-time informs a commitment to maintaining Jewish political hegemony over the city . We will discuss the question of sacred spaces and how they relate to the cycles and transformation of violent conflicts: Are sacred spaces negotiable? Nonnegotiable? Do they have fixed or rather elastic boundaries? How do sacred religious spaces figure into secular national ideologies? What might be the role of trans- or supranational religious networks in informing decisions concerning the divisibility or indivisibility of sacred spaces.


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion’s social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion’s significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States. 


Soc 33611: "Global Religion"
Professor: Nicolette Manglos-Weber

Description: This course examines religion from an international perspective in all of its diversity, complexity, problems, and potential. We will focus on how religion shapes and is shaped by transnational movement and the mixing of diverse social groups; and examine religion’s relationship to the challenges of post-colonialism, racism, poverty, and conflict. In order to situate these abstract processes, we will focus on particular people (the personal narratives of five religious men and women); in particular places (the four continents surrounding the Atlantic: Europe, North America, South America, and Africa); and during a particular time (the last 600 years). The course will also serve as a basic introduction to three major religious traditions: Christianity, Islam, and African traditional religion.


Soc 48601: "Social and Religious Research"
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: This course is especially designed for the Undergraduate Research Fellows at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society (CSRS). The primary goal of this course is to provide the Fellows with a scheduled time to meet regularly to learn, and to work through research questions and concerns, with a faculty member. These regular meetings will also provide time for the Fellows to develop as a cohort. The class meetings will focus on developing, conducting, writing, and presenting the research projects of the Fellows. Finally, the course will provide an orientation to, and basic professionalization in, the academic study of religion; debrief the Fellows on their experience in CSRS events; and work to obtain possibly needed additional research funding to conduct their own projects. 


Fall 2014

Soc 10002: "Understanding Societies"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: What does it mean that humans are social creatures and how does participation in social life shape people’s personal life experiences and outcomes? How and why do people together create and sustain cultures, groups, institutions, and organizations? And how do these form people’s relationships, actions, and experiences? This course introduces students to the discipline of sociology as a way to better understand how personal behaviors and life outcomes are profoundly influenced by a variety of social structures, and how their actions in turn maintain and can transform these social structures. Course readings and discussions will focus on the experience of community in modern society, young adult culture, marriage and family, inequality and poverty, civil rights, and disruptive social movements fighting for social structure change – particularly in the United States. Along the way we will learn a bit about social research methods and philosophy of social science, both of which will help students be smarter thinkers and consumers of social science research findings. Students will, as a result of taking this course, better understand both the society and world in which they live and the character and outcomes of their own personal lives.


Soc 30408: "Religion in International and Global Relations"
Professor: Atalia Omer

Description: The so-called resurgence of religion to global politics, conventionally dating back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, challenged the secularist myopia that informed policy makers and theorists of international relations. But it took the events of September 11th, 2001 to fully catalyze a process of rethinking the role of religion, on both the levels of theory and practice within the contexts of international relations. Both theorists and practitioners in the arenas of international relations are trying to decipher how to theorize religion into the existing paradigms of realism, liberalism, and constructivism. The course will examine these conversations, dating back to Westphalia of 1648 and the historical role of religion in the construction of the international system of nation-states. The course will also study the establishment of the Office of International Religious Freedom under the auspices of the US Department of State and the strategic incorporation of the “promotion of religious freedoms” globally as a key geopolitical agenda of the US as well as the related establishment of an office of “religious engagement” also under the auspices of the State Department. We will examine the arguments of supporters of these developments as well as the arguments of critics. Beyond a focus on how religion is theorized into conventional paradigms informing thinking about and the practice of international relations, the course will also explore the role of global religious networks in transforming the discourse about religion and politics.


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano 

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion’s social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion’s significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States.


Soc 40604: "When Tolerance is Not Enough"
Professor: Jason Springs

Description: Toleration of religious differences is heralded today as a primary accomplishment of the modern liberal-democratic societies, and perhaps the best hope for transforming conflict and building peace in conflict zones across the globe. Where did this value come from and how did it evolve? How has it come to orient modern, liberal society, and mark the difference between liberal and illiberal societies? Is religious toleration an absolute good? What are its limits? In what ways might it assist or impede the pursuit of transitional and restorative justice, and peacebuilding? Is the basis of religious toleration the secularization of public life and politics? This class examines the concept of toleration, attending specifically to its application to current debates about the relation of religious belief and practice to politics and social movements in contemporary European and North American contexts. We will examine the difference between free speech and hate speech, the controversies pertaining to religious freedom in contemporary France, Holland and Britain, as well as apparent stand-off between multiculturalism, secularization, human rights and group rights. 


Soc 43691: "Religion and Social Activism"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: This course mainly focuses on how religion acts as a double-edged sword for social change, promoting both radicalization and quiescence. Students will be exposed to the major topics, theories, and debates in the scholarly work on religion and social change as well as important empirical cases of collective action in which religion has been a force, such as the U.S. civil rights movement, U.S. Central peace movement, East German Revolution, and anti-abortion activism. In studying religion’s impact on social change, we will pay particular attention to how different dimensions of religion shape social activism, the mechanisms through which religion mobilizes or demobilizes social activism, and whether—and if so, how—religious-based activism is distinct from its secular counterpart. Though most of the course examines the effect of religion on social activism, we will also reverse the causal arrow and consider how social activism affects religion and the processes involved in this influence. (Please note: During the semester, students will have the opportunity to engage in service-related projects, both locally and at least one non-local location, though doing so is not required.) These are the primary goals of the course. There are two secondary goals. The first is for students to become (more) efficient readers, mastering the ability to digest, summarize, and critically reflect on a good amount of reading in a relatively short period of time. The other secondary goal is for students to become (more) confident and dynamic speakers. Both of these skills are invaluable within and outside the academy, and I have structured the course to cultivate them. For each set of readings, students will write a summary and a critical assessment, which discusses the flaws/merits of the readings. Each should be one single-spaced page in length. Students will bring their summaries/critical evaluations to each class to use during class discussion. Before each class, I will post a set of questions about the readings. These questions will serve as the basis for the class discussion about the readings. There will be a mid-term and a final examination and students will write a final course paper (about 20 double-spaced pages) as well. 


Soc 48601: Social and Religious Research 
Professor: David Sikkink 

Description: This course is especially designed for the Undergraduate Research Fellows at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society (CSRS). The primary goal of this course is to provide the Fellows with a scheduled time to meet regularly to learn, and to work through research questions and concerns, with a faculty member. These regular meetings will also provide time for the Fellows to develop as a cohort. The class meetings will focus on developing, conducting, writing, and presenting the research projects of the Fellows. Finally, the course will provide an orientation to, and basic professionalization in, the academic study of religion; debrief the Fellows on their experience in CSRS events; and work to obtain possibly needed additional research funding to conduct their own projects.


Fall 2012

Soc 20610: "Sociology of Religion"
Professor: Christian Smith

Description: This course provides an introduction to the sociology of religion, an important field in the discipline of sociology. Religion is one of the most powerful forces of social cohesion, order, meaning, disruption, and change in human societies, both historically and today in the modern world. Sociology provides a particular disciplinary perspective and analytical tools and theories for describing, understanding, and explaining the nature and influence of religion in the world. Studying religion sociologically is also a great way to learn about the perspective, methods, theories, and interests of this social science discipline.

The course will engage the following kinds of questions. What is religion? Why is religion so primordial and prevalent in human societies? What do different religions teach? Why are people religious or not religious? What causal role does religion play in human personal and social life? How does the sociological study of religion differ from a theological or psychological study of religion? Why and how do religious organizations grow and decline? How, for example, did an obscure, early Jesus Movement manage to become the largest religion in the world? How and why do people convert to a different religious faith or lose their faith entirely? Is modernity secularizing? What are the religious and spiritual lives of 18-23 year-old Americans today like? Why has the Islamist movement become so powerful in recent decades? What is happening today at the global level when it comes to religious movements and their social, cultural, political, and economic impacts?


Soc 30602: "Jerusalem: Peace or Apocalypse?"
Professor: Atalia Omer

Description: Jerusalem is a holy city for many religions. It is believed to represent heavenly eternal peace but is also the source of earthly and historical violence. What are the sources of this contested legacy? What are the prospects of building peace with justice in such a volatile context? We will relate our understanding of the complexities of Jerusalem to the analysis of other conflicts involving sacred spaces and narratives. This interdisciplinary course will explore the histories, theologies, politics, and social realities of the city of Jerusalem. We will explore the interface between religion and politics by asking how Jerusalem fits into secular and religious Jewish Zionist ideologies as well as how Christian Zionists’ conceptions of the end-time informs a commitment to maintaining Jewish political hegemony over the city . We will discuss the question of sacred spaces and how they relate to the cycles and transformation of violent conflicts: Are sacred spaces negotiable? Nonnegotiable? Do they have fixed or rather elastic boundaries? How do sacred religious spaces figure into secular national ideologies? What might be the role of trans- or supra-national religious networks in informing decisions concerning the divisibility or indivisibility of sacred spaces?


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion's social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion's significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States.


Soc 48601: "Social and Religious Research"
Professor: David Sikkink

Description: This course is especially designed for the Undergraduate Research Fellows at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society (CSRS). The primary goal of this course is to provide the Fellows with a scheduled time to meet regularly to learn, and to work through research questions and concerns, with a faculty member. These regular meetings will also provide time for the Fellows to develop as a cohort. The class meetings will focus on developing, conducting, writing, and presenting the research projects of the Fellows. Finally, the course will provide an orientation to, and basic professionalization in, the academic study of religion; debrief the Fellows on their experience in CSRS events; and work to obtain possibly needed additional research funding to conduct their own projects.


Spring 2012

Soc 23011: "Selflessness and Selfishness"
Professor: Kraig Beyerlein

Description: Why do some people but not others sacrifice their money, time, and well-being to help others and what are the consequences of sacrificing? These are not only classic and still core questions in the social sciences, but there continues to be much popular debate about them. In this course, students will learn how sociologists have approached and answered these important questions. We will focus on understanding different sociological theories about what motivates or constrains sacrificing for others and the consequences of sacrificing for helpers. Particular attention will be paid to how these theories compare with those in other social science disciplines. Additionally, this course will draw on empirical cases of sacrifice, such as blood donation, rescue efforts, and political activism, and expose students to a range of data and variety of methodologies that sociologists have employed to study sacrifice.


Soc 30672: "Religion and Social Life"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion's social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion's significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety in social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States.


Soc 43600: "Society and Spirit: Religion in Classical Social Thought"
Professor: Kevin Christiano

Description: The purpose of this course is, in the setting of a small seminar, to engage students in close reading and broad discussion of sociological writings about religion by classical theorists of the discipline.  Works that may be nominated for treatment include such mainstays as The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and other studies of religion by Emile Durkheim; The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and The Sociology of Religion by Max Weber; portions of The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as excerpts from Marx’s Capital; The Future of an Illusion and Civilization and Its Discounts by Sigmund Freud; and various essays on religion by Georg Simmel.  The course also will cover more recent works, both in the sociology of religion and in related fields,incorporating assumptions about and approaches to religion that can be traced to these pioneering authors..

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