Reza Aslan, Islam, and the Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching about Religion

(What this title lacks in pith it makes up for in accuracy.)

Reza Aslan is a historian of religions who happens also to be a Muslim. While these two identities can lead to confusion in certain members of the media (see this interview here), those matters are not the primary focus of this post. Instead, I want to use a recent interview Aslan did with CNN to illustrate the ways in which he utilizes a cultural studies approach to Religious Studies. Continue reading

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Whose voices are present? Whose voices are absent?

Some reflections on what I teach — and what I don’t.

nuns AFB

Contemporary Buddhist nuns.

Looking Back

Last year was my first time back in a Religious Studies classroom after two years away. As I returned to the classroom, I began to think more about the range of voices in a religious tradition, and the ways in which some of them (especially the voices of women) were not featured as prominently as they could have been in my courses.

One reason for this, I now realize, dealt with definition. How do I, as the teacher – and thus, the learning-materials-selector – define the discipline? Take the example of one course I have taught, Asian Religions. What does Asian Religions mean? The way that I define and understand this term will have significant implications for the texts/art/films/etc. that I choose – and by extension, the texts that I leave out. Continue reading

What is the Study of Religion?

Or: the difference between Sunday School and Monday-Friday School

One of the biggest challenges religious studies teachers can face is misunderstanding. This misunderstanding has two distinct, but related, forms: the first is a general misunderstanding about religion in general. The second is misunderstanding about the study of religion/religious studies as an academic discipline. This post will be an effort to clarify the latter. Ideally, this entire blog is part of a larger effort to clarify the former! Continue reading