Photo Credit: Julia Nusbaum
HIstorically, the Divinity School offers one or more courses that include study abroad. The purpose 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.
Past 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.
- The temptation to proselytize, either in terms of religion, politics or economics.
- 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 enounters. 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? 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. 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.
Paul Lim—DIV6798. Religion and Sports in Historical Perspectives. The relationship between religions and sports has been complicated. Judging from the overtly religious elements in the ancient Greek Olympic games, one may conclude that religion and sports enjoyed a life-giving mutuality; however, judging from the languages of prohibition among the descendants of Calvinistic and Anabaptist Protestants, one may conclude that religion and sports were adversarial to each other’s flourishing. This course will survey the various ways world religions, particularly ancient Greek religions, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity have sought to articulate their perspective on sports. Attention will be given to such factors as race, gender, adolescence, and politics as well as to the phenomenon of Sports as Religion.
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.
Laurel Schneider—DIV6854. Native American Philosophies and Theologies. An in-depth study of key concepts and shared principles in philosophical, theological, and anthropological texts by selected Native American writers (Cordova, Waters, Bruchac, Grande, Norton-Smith); social, historical, and political contexts, and the challenges and contributions they offer to contemporary philosophical, ethical, and religious questions.
Fernando Segovia—DIV 6646. Postcolonial Biblical 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 contexts 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—Religion in Global Context. This course explores the evolving relationships of religious traditions in the context of globalization. Religion, both theoretically and in practice, is a "global" phenomenon, and the world's religions are now recognized as major players in an increasingly interconnected world. This course, thus takes globalization as its orienting theory or description of social reality, and examines the role and place of religion in that context. What is globalization, and what is religion's relationship to it? How have religious traditions furthered globalization? How have they resisted it? What has globalization meant for religious identity and practice? What does it mean to be religious in the context of globalization? Over the course of the semester, we will: 1) study the key aspects of globalization as a social process; 2) examine the global religious landscape, and 3) identify and research key trends of religion in this context. 4) Finally, we will consider issues of global concern for religions: global health, poverty, and issues of gender and sexuality.