RELI 250 - Across Religious Boundaries: Understanding Differences
Semester Offered: Spring
The study of a selected topic or theme in religious studies that cuts across the boundaries of particular religions, allowing opportunities for comparison as well as contrast of religious traditions, beliefs, values and practices.
Topic for 2021/22b: Contested Genders and Anxious Sexualities: Post-Colonial Imaginaries of Religion in India. The course introduces the students to religions in post-colonial India through their co-constituent entanglement with gender and sexuality. We examine how gender-based controversies and anxieties around sexual transgression play a key role in articulating religious identities and communal tensions not only between communities (Hindus and Muslims) but also within communities (caste practices) in post-colonial India. We begin by exploring colonial narratives of India, which served to justify the colonial rule through critique of local practices such as sati (the ritual self-immolation by Hindu widows) and Indian masculinities. We then consider how this colonial legacy has shaped post-colonial debates and controversies, from the sexual violence that accompanied the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan to ongoing nationalist assertions of Hindu India as the motherland to be protected from violation by Muslims—manifest today in Islamophobic assertions that Muslims are stealing Hindu women through “love-Jihad.” We consider gender practices that shape the status of women, including Hindu goddess worship and practices surrounding purity and menstruation, and divergent marriage rules that shape the boundaries of religious communities, including intracommunity marriage among Parsis, inter-caste marriage prohibitions among Hindus, and the Muslim practice of triple talaq (divorce). We also examine ways in which questions of ‘queerness’ meander across anxieties of idealized masculinity and femininity by exploring how religious communities organize themselves in opposition to ‘the other’ through debates about racial purity and proclamations of communal superiority, defining this ‘self-other’ relationship through gendered positions.
The course material draws upon the works of B.R. Ambedkar, Dibyesh Anand, Urvashi Bhutalia, Veena Das, Charu Gupta, Scott Kugle, Tanika Sarkar, Mrinalini Sinha, Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, and Ruth Vanita building on classroom discussions on relevant movies, popular advertisements, political slogans, and speeches.
Two 75-minute periods.
Course Format: CLS
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