Photo Credit: Julia Nusbaum
Each year, the Divinity School offers a course (sometimes more than one) that includes study abroad. The purposes of these courses is to provide opportunities for immersion educational experiences that ask our students and faculty to have their theological imaginations informed and sometimes transformed by the experiences of those in other places.
Travel seminars have included:
The Cross-Cultural Seminar, entitled “Traversing our National Wound: Immigration and the US/Mexico Border” which takes students to the border and across it to study issues of immigration and faith.
Worship in the Methodist Tradition: Theology and Practicuum in Worship. In this course, Professor Doug Meeks has taken students on an immersion trip to England to studiy Methodist history, worship and ministries to the poor.
“Faith, Politics and Globalization,” which studied issues of religion and collective violence and included travel and study in South Africa. This course was led by Professors Anderson and Reside.
Going forward, we expect to offer courses in Global Christianity and in other relevant topics addressing religion in the global context.
When we travel abroad with students, we strive to be thoughtful and critical learners. There are two temptations that we want to be especially mindful to avoid. On the one side, there is the temptation to proselytize, either in terms of religion, politics or economics. On the other side, we want to avoid engaging as cultural consumers – as tourists in search of exotic experiences or interesting lines for our resumes. Instead, we want to cultivate an attitude of curiosity, and relationships of mutual exchange and solidarity with our partners. However, while the impulses for our global travel seminars is to engage in meaningful and symmetrical relationships with people on the ground, we also recognize the positions of power and privilege that are often inherent in these encounters, and we want to be both mindful and critical of these dynamics, even as we embody them on occasion. Indeed, these dynamics often become part of the curriculum and inform our on-going theological and ethical reflection.
The Global Education Program attends to issues of globalization across the curriculum. In the Divinity School, we ask: how do the dynamics of globalization inform our theology, ethics, historical analyses or practices of pastoral care? A sampling of courses that investigate globalization include the following:
Victor Anderson—DIV 3958. Black Religion and Culture Studies. As an emergent field, Black Cultural Studies is interdisciplinary and has greatly developed since the late 1960s from a few black studies programs and departments at a few notable universities, Yale leading the way in the early 1970s. The conversation has grown with the increase in student enrollments in black philosophy, black queer studies, and women’s studies programs, on the one hand, and traditional theological studies, on the other. Black Religion and Culture Studies appears most appropriate as a rubric of study. It best captures the ambiguities of history, culture, and religion signified by the larger discourse on the Black Atlantic. The discourse includes not only the North American, but also Caribbean and Brazilian diaspora cultures and Black Britannia. Black Religion and Culture Studies displays a concerted methodological interest in bringing Black Culture Studies into conversation with the study of black religion as defined by Charles H. Long with a focus on the history of religions approach and phenomenological hermeneutics.
Juan Floyd-Thomas—DIV 2864. Religions of the African Diaspora. This course is a survey of the religious traditions of people of African descent by exploring the historic and phenomenological connections among diverse religious beliefs, values, rituals, institutions, and worldviews throughout the African diaspora. Using several methodological and theoretical approaches, the course will explore various forms of experiences and practices that provide a deep understanding and appreciation of the sacred meaning of human existence (myth, doc- trine, prayers, rituals, institutions, and symbols) drawn from African-derived faith communities dispersed across the Atlantic world such as indigenous African religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Vodoun, Santería, alternative religious movements, and humanism, among others.
Bruce Rogers-Vaughn—DIV 3098. Pastoral Care and Global Consumerism. This course delineates the salient features of late capitalism, often designated by the term “neoliberalism” and its profound effects upon global politics and economics, societies, communities, and institutions. It focuses particularly on how contemporary technologies and cultural assumptions extend the influence of “free markets” into interpersonal relationships and individual selves, as well as into religious congregations, theological reflection, and the practices of pastoral care and counseling. In each instance it asserts that the effects include distorted notions of freedom, identity and tolerance, as well as affective alterations, all of which erode or even corrupt these areas of life and thus contribute to widespread human suffering. Finally, it explores possible practices for congregations and pastoral caregivers that might oppose and alleviate these effects, as well as theories that might guide such practices.
Fernando Segovia—DIV 3840. Postcolonial Criticism. Analysis of the juncture between Early Christian Studies and Postcolonial Studies, with a focus on geopolitics and imperial-colonial formations and relations, in biblical texts and con- texts as well as in modern-postmodern interpretations and contexts.
Melissa Snarr—DIV 3411. Religion and War in an Age of Terror. Looking at both Christian and Islamic political thought, this course will wrestle with questions such as: When, if ever, is it appropriate to go to war? How has the emergence of “terrorism” as a form of war challenged traditional just war and pacifist theories? Are there ways in which religion and violence are inherently connected? How have religion and war been linked historically? In what ways do religious worldviews challenge or complement contemporary efforts at peacemaking?
Graham Reside -- Christianity in Global Perspective. This course is under development and expected to be offered within the next 18 months.
In addition to courses taught at the Divinity School, the Global Education Program has access to the rich resources of Vanderbilt’s Graduate Department of Religion, which investigates the broad range of religious traditions around the world.