Author: Gordon Thomasson
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 1995 09:45:33 -0500
RE: Religion in an interdisciplinary curriculum.
With the Supreme Court's encouragement, in the almost never-read "school prayer" decision back in the 60s, there was specific/explicit encouragement for the study of religion and its role in history. Not accidentally, first Iowa, then UC Santa Barbara, then an avalanche of state universities and colleges developed programs in Religious Studies. The methodology of Religious Studies is eminently suited to the interdisciplinary study of world history, since it is NOT about proving the truth or falsity of one religion over another, but rather seeks, more or less phenomenologically, to examine the beliefs, texts, major figures and history of religions, thus complementing the study of the role of religion in history (as the court urged). RS is not "neutral" or "objective" but neither is it historicist or reductionist, let alone denominationally partisan. Don't ignore those resources if they are available.
Gordon C. Thomasson
World History Faculty
Author: David Carpenter
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 1995 09:43:33 -0500
St. Joseph's University
As an historian of religions I find the thread started by Chris Garton-Zavesky of interest. And while I find the caveats listed by Timothy Burke understandable on one level, I'm not sure how his proposed solution would function as a kind of world history. Are not typologies, or some kind of large, "longue duree" structures, essential for dealing with "world" history at all? I suspect that this is why many historians reject the very notion of a world history. How would the highly concrete, contextualized studies that Burke recommends pass as exercizes in world history? Is there perhaps an affinity between the problems involved in identifying patterns in world history as, precisely, world historical in import, and the problems in identifying religious types, patterns, structures, etc. precisely qua "religious"? Historians of religions are sometimes accused of "fetishizing" religion (sometimes with real justification) and I would agree that there is a real danger here. But are not world historians similarly accused of creating cross-cultural categories that cannot be directly translated into any local language? In both cases some attempt at generalization and abstraction seems necessary. In other words, it seems that world historians have a keen interest in developing "global abstractions" and that "religion" might be just such a useful abstraction. Of course, reifying such abstractions is another matter, but as heuristic devices can we get along without them? Would we want to?
Assoc. Prof. of the History of Religions St. Joseph's University
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Author: JoAnne Black
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 17:50:41 -0500
Santa Rosa Junior College
On Mon, 30 Jan 1995, H-WORLD wrote:
> From: Chris Garton-Zavesky
> North Carolina State University >
> Interdisciplinary teaching of history? >
> How would an interdisciplinary course touch on the role of religion? > Would it be treated as a cultural phenomenon under cultural > anthropology, or perhaps as an intellectual movement under > intellectual history? Maybe it would be treated as a political > development under the heading political sociology? To leave it out > would be to do an injustice to all of the world's cultures, but how > to include it without crossing the church/state boundaries set up by > the ACLU(less) is another question. I would welcome comments. >
Chris Garton-Zavesky's implication that humanities and/or religious studies departments need to be part of transdisciplinary teaching of history is an important one.
The following dissertation submitted to the Pacific School of Religion, (Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley) describes the research and experience of a colleague here: Sanford Lowe, "Critical Pedagogy and Religous Studies in Public Education." 1984
Santa Rosa Junior College
Author: Chris Garton-Zavesky
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 17:47:02 -0500
North Carolina State University
Timothy Burke has quite missed the point of my question.
The Cardinal errors he highlights might, if I understand him correctly, be sumarized thus:
Don't let religion be more than a backdrop Don't focus on religion - let it "enter into the course"
What I'm suggesting is this: I can not conceive of good history (especially social/cultural history) without addressing the issues which contemporaries faced. Religion is not merely a backdrop, but a motivator for individuals. Religion is not merely a nice set of abstractions for theologians and other irrelevant people to discuss over a bagel at Brueggers! To suggest that it is exactly that is to insist that two thousand years of history happened in a test tube.
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