Below is a list of teaching resources designed to assist professors in incorporating learning about the many dimensions of religious diversity into their courses.
While working at the University of Leeds, Religion and Diversity Project team member Kim Knott developed a religious mapping project as a way of teaching undergraduate students about religious diversity as it relates to their local context. Kim has incorporated some of the results of religious mapping into her publications and public presentations and has created websites featuring the results of her other research projects on religious diversity in the UK. These resources can help in the adaptation of the religious mapping project for students in other local contexts.
Religious Mapping as Student Research
Over 20 years ago, Kim Knott began a religious mapping project as part of undergraduate teaching about religion when she was working at the University of Leeds. The “Community Religion Project” at Leeds is now under the direction of Melanie Prideaux. As part of their study of religion, students are invited to undertake field research in a particular area of the city in order to answer the question: “Where is religion happening in this neighbourhood?” For more information on this project, please click on the link.
Melanie Prideaux is interested in partnering with other universities in order to assist professors in undertaking this kind of research with their own students in their particular local context. If you are interested in learning more about how this might happen, you may contact her by email.
Kim Knott has written several articles that refer to the religious mapping module. Please select the icons to obtain more information on these publications.
- Knott, Kim. 2010. “Geography, Space and the Sacred.” In Routledge Companion to the Study of Religions, 2 edition, edited by John R. Hinnells. London and New York: Routeledge.
- Knott, Kim. 2009. “From locality to location and back again: A spatial journey in the study of religion.” Religion 39: 154-160.
- Knott, Kim. 2014. “Spatial methods.” In The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Stausberg, and Stephen Engler. London: Routeledge.
Kim Knott speaks about the results of this research in a video from the Religion and Diversity Project Critical Thinkers in Religion, Law and Social Theory lecture series.
- Starting at 8:40, she describes the changing face of Chapeltown Road in Leeds.
- Diasporas, Migrations and Identities
- Moving People, Changing Places
Living with Religious Diversity
In 2013, scholars from Religious Studies, Sociology, Political Science, History and Philosophy, and speakers from Canada, India, the US and the UK came together in New Dehli, India for a conference called “Living with Religious Diversity”. Funding for the workshop was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the University of Ottawa, and the India International Centre (IIC) in Delhi. Leo Van Arragon, a former graduate student and student team member of the Religion and Diversity Project from the University of Ottawa, participated in the workshop and interviewed several scholars about different aspects of their research on religious diversity. Video clips of these interviews along with discussion guides can be used in teaching about religious diversity, especially in relation to subjects such as the religions of India, secularism, human rights, power and gender.
To access the “Living with Religious Diversity” website to view all the videos, please click here.
Topic # 1: Liberal secularism and the basis for human rights and democracy
Assumption to be interrogated: That human rights and democratic principles are often thought to be secular or non-religious liberal principles in the Western sense of the term.
Question: Are there conceptual bases for human rights in non-Western traditions?
- Bhakti: In Hinduism and Buddhism, “Bhakti” (also spelled Bhakthi; Tamil:பக்தி Sanskrit: भक्ति) is a technical term meaning “portion, share”, from the root bhaj- “to partake in, to receive one’s share”. It refers to religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine. Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Iṣṭa-devatā (also as Svayam Bhagavan in Gaudiya Vaishnavism). (Wikipedia)
- What principles does Rinku Lamba enumerate?
- In what ways does Bhakti provide a religious language represent a place of resistance to power?
Rinku Lamba’s Publications
For further information on Rinku Lamba’s ideas about the role of the state in creating a just society, Bhakti as a theme in Hinduism and as a basis for civic and personal values, please consult her publications listed below.
- Lamba, Rinku. 2011. “Political Institutions for Remedying Caste and Sex-based Hierarchies: a View from Colonial India.” In Accommodating Diversity: Ideas and Institutional Practices, edited by Gurpreet Mahajan. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
- Lamba, Rinku. 2009. “Bringing the State Back In, Yet Again: The Debate on Socio-religious Reform in late Nineteenth-Century India.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29(2): 186-200.
- Lamba, Rinku. 2008. “Non-Domination and the State: a Response to the Subaltern Critique.” Published in the Max Weber Working Paper Series at the European University Institute.
- Summarize his argument.
- What is your reaction to his arguing in favour of multiple interpretive foundations for human rights?
- What is your experience with interpretive frameworks other than liberal secularism? An “interpretative framework” is a way of seeing the world, often assumed without being examined. Other terms referring to the same thing are “paradigm” (see Thomas Kuhn, 1969), conceptual framework or “aesthetic”. A thought experiment to identify your own interpretative framework is to think about your reactions to public discussions around, for example, broader topics like religion, choice and freedom or more specific topics like abortion, gun control or “two tier health care”. Irritation is a good way to identify the contours of your own interpretative framework.
Ashwani Peetush’s Publications
Ashwani Peetush refers to John Rawls. For a summary of Rawls’ commitment to liberal secularism as the basis for overlapping consensus please see the publications below.
Topic # 2: Religion as a basis for both hegemonic power and for language of resistance
Assumption to be interrogated: That religion is inherently the basis for hegemonic power.
Question: Is religion always the basis for hegemonic power or can it also provide a language and framework for resistance and emancipation?
- Hegemony (UK/hɨˈɡɛməni/, US/ˈhɛɡɨmoʊni/, US/hɨˈɡɛməni/; Greek: ἡγεμονία hēgemonía, leadership and rule) is an indirect form of government, and of imperialdominance in which the hegemon(leader state) rules geopolitically subordinate states by the implied means of power, the threat of force, rather than by direct military force. In Ancient Greece (8th century BCE – 6th centuryCE), hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states. (Wikipedia)
- Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a lifestyle which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution. Its paradigmatic ethnographic example is the division of Indian society into rigid social groups, with roots in India’s ancient history and persisting until today. (Wikipedia)
- How does religion provide both the language of emancipation and a context for hegemonic power in relationship to caste and casteism? What evidence for both does Sebastian Velassery identify?
Sebastian Velassery’s Publications
- Velassery, Sebastian. In press. Globalization and Cultural Identities: Philosophical Challenges and Opportunities. New Delhi & New Jersey: Overseas Press.
- Velassery, Sebastian, ed. In press. Cultural Creativity and Contemporary Changes: The Indian Mind. Washington: The Catholic University of America.
- Velassery, Sebastian, ed. 2008. Foundations of Indian Social Life: Cultural, Religious and Aesthetic. North Carolina: Book Surge Publishers.
- Velassery, Sebastian. 2005. Casteism and Human Rights: Toward An Ontology of the Social Order. Times Academic Publishing Group.
Watch the videos
Charu Gupta (University of Delhi) examines the phenomena of desire and conversion in the context of Dalit women. Her work focuses on the intersection between gender, caste and religion.
- Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchable. Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous social groups from all over India; they speak a variety of languages and practice a multitude of religions. There are many different names proposed for defining this group of people, including Panchamas (“fifth varna“), and Asprushya (“untouchables”).
- What does Gupta mean by “desire” in the context of Dalit women? How does clothing become a site of desire, social control and emancipation?
- How is religious conversion an avenue for social emancipation? What are some other factors, other than religion, which shape the phenomenon of conversion?
Topic # 3: Plurality and pluralism
Assumption to be interrogated: Religion is hostile to religious diversity
Question: How can religion provide language for both resistance to and space for social and religious pluralism?
- What question does Alam ask about Indian Islam? How does he reach into Islamic tradition as a basis to conceptualize pluralism? What is the difference between plurality and pluralism?
- How does the concept of “tolerance” apply to the distinction between plurality and pluralism?
- How does he illustrate his question from his field work? What was the effect of “reformism” in this context for the distinction between plurality and pluralism?
Sebastian Velassery uses the concept of “convergence” to capture the way religions can live together without giving up their uniqueness.
- What does he mean?
- How does he illustrate the concept?
Following the events of 9/11 in the United States, the subject of Islam and the rights of Muslim citizens have become a regular part of popular discourse (a database of media articles related to Muslim women can be accessed here). To facilitate learning situations that break down stereotypes and increase understanding of the complexity religious minority rights in the West, Giomny H. Ruiz, a graduate student at the Université de Montréal and a student team member of the Religion and Diversity Project, has developed teaching resources that incorporate visual methods.
DATASHEET – Example 1
Student Level: College, Undergraduate
Disciplines: Sociology, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Media Studies, Political Science.
Proposed Activities: Oral Debate, Exam
In a very particular political context in Switzerland in 2009, some traditional parties have managed to launch a referendum on banning the construction of minarets. More than a half of Swiss citizens voted YES. This is one of advertising images displayed in this public debate. Using two examples, explain why we can consider this picture as Islamophobic.
DATASHEET – Example 2
Student Level: College, Undergraduate, Graduate
Disciplines: Sociology, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Media Studies, Political Science
Proposed Activities: Oral Debate, Exam
Watch this 6-minute short film: Quais de Seine, from the experimental film Paris, I Love You. Mention three prejudices/preconceptions that are denied by this film. Explain your answer briefly.
RLG213H Video Project
The goal of this group project is to give the students an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the course material and subject matter in a novel way. Together with a partner, they can create a ten-minute video of an interview with one scholar of religion regarding one of the written texts (e.g., a published article). The video should provide an introduction to the scholar in general, as well as a critical discussion of the sample of his or her work they have been given. Imagine that the video will appear on a departmental website used to give outsiders a sense of who this scholar is, what kind of work s/he does, how and why s/he does it the way s/he does, and why this work matters. For the detailed instructions, please click here. For the course syllabus, please click here.