Seminars

First-year students may choose to take one of three Learning and Living seminars offered this Fall semester and described below. More details about each seminar can be found on WesMaps, Wesleyan's on-line course catalog.

From Jerusalem to Ground Zero: Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sioux, and Hindu Notions of Sacredness
RELI291.01
Professor Peter Gottschalk

Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims view Jerusalem as a "sacred" place. But what does this mean? How does a place -or an object or person- become sacred, holy, revered? Is Ground Zero sacred? If so, how do we compare the destruction of an office building that makes part of Manhattan sacred and Native American efforts to protect venerated sites from "development" that they describe as "desecration"? When does a stone sculpture become an embodiment of a Hindu deity?

Using examples such as Jewish, Christian, and Muslim views of Jerusalem, Lakota Sioux recognition of revered places and wicasa wakan (medicine men), and Hindu engagements with divine images, this seminar will explore these questions through readings and site visits to a temple, mosque, and church.

This course is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this seminar do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Religion and the Social Construction of Race
RELI391.01
Professor Elizabeth McAlister

In this course we examine aspects of the intersections between race and religion in a number of historical and social contexts. We place at the center of our discussions the question of how race and religion are co-constructed categories that function as a prism through which people come to understand and experience their own identities and those of others. We will privilege interpretations that emphasize (a) the intersections of race and religion as a process in which power plays a pivotal role; and (b) means through which communities form collective identities.

We will read a range of historical analysis and primary source materials from the United States and the Caribbean. After a theory module, we will examine a colonial-era captivity narrative, antebellum pro-slavery document, missionary works, analyses of anti-Semitism, works on Father Divine, the Nation of Islam, Rastafari, Haitian Vodou, Jonestown, the Christian White Supremacy movement, as well as the contemporary United States relationship to the Middle East.

TechnoPrisons: Corrections, Technology, and Society
SISP125.01
Professor Anthony Hatch

The United States currently incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation, most of them are members of disadvantaged social groups. How does our government practically accomplish mass incarceration? This first year seminar examines prisons as technologies and the role that specific technologies play in the U.S. prison system. To say that prisons are technologies means that prisons operate as an architectural system that is designed to hold people captive within enclosed social spaces. At the same time, prisons are the location for multiple kinds of technological systems including surveillance systems, biomedical technologies, classification and administrative technologies, and military technologies. This seminar introduces basic concepts within science and technology studies (STS), criminology, and sociology to investigate how prison happens.

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