May 24, 2022  
Catalogue 2021-2022 
Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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RELI 185 - Religion and Sports

Semester Offered: Spring
1 unit(s)
Religion is not just a set of ideas about the world, but a way of embodying values and living out sacred narratives through what Ignatius Loyola named “spiritual exercises.” The overlap between self-training and embodied performance leads to a ready comparison between religious and athletic subjectivities. This extends not only to active performance but also to the culture of spectatorship that grows up around sports and religion. A game or match between two heated rival teams (think Yankees vs. Red Sox) is often said to provoke passion among “the Yankee faithful” or “Red Sox Nation,” names for fan collectives. The word “fan” itself is an abbreviated form of “fanatic,” a term for zealous devotees dedicated to a particular temple [Latin: fanum.] In this course we begin to examine this overlap between sports and religion by examining its deep histories, starting with the ancient Olympic games in Greece, the role of competitive sports in Aztec religious culture, and the spiritual resonances of martial arts training in pre-modern Japan, among others. We then shift to the present and explore a sequence of themes located in contemporary athletic culture, such as the intersections between race, ethnicity, sports, and faith; athletic contests as sites of religiously-infused socio-political critique with regard to gender roles and racial injustice; and finally, a consideration of sports-media consumption (fandom) as an instance of civil religion in “a secular age.” Learning through these different lenses, students come away with deepened historical insight into the shared genealogies of athletic and religious cultures along with a broader knowledge of the myriad ways sports and spirituality inform each other in the present. Klaus Yoder.

Two 75-minute periods.

Course Format: CLS

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