Religion and Civic Life in America from the Puritans to the Present
|ASSIGNMENT #1: RELIGIOUS FAMILY GENEALOGY|
|A religious family genealogy is much like a family tree. It
is a way of diagramming your family's religious heritage so you can get a
picture of where they fit into the American religious historical story.
1. Go back at least as far as your grandparents (further if you can) on both sides of your family (if you can) to gather information. Include as many aunts, uncles and cousins as you can.
2. Make a diagram of a family tree, on which you will record as much of the following information as you can to uncover a religious mini-biography of each person:
Write a 3-4 page essay that is your family's religious (and migration) narrative. What is the story of your family in terms of religion? How does your particular story fit into the larger history told by Albanese (and other course readings? Be sure to read around in Albanese and place your family in the context of the American religious history Albanese describes. What is the story of your family as the family tells it? What is the role of religion (if any) in the story. Were there conflicts based on religion (ex: religious inter-marriage, conversions, decision to enter or leave a religious order, child-rearing conflicts)? In mixed religion marriages, what religious/ethnic identity dropped out (if any)? Why? Might your family have been working out themes; meta-messages in the story about America and/or about religion (moving from insecurity to security, moving from impurity to purity, moving from paradise to hell, moving from persecution to God's New Israel, or vice versa, etc)? Are there mythologies within these stories, that is, assumed dimensions of the story that in fact might be said to be ideological, or particularly "socially/family constructed?" (They might be pro-religion, anti-religion, pro-American, anti-American, they might be pro-science, anti-superstitious, or raced or classed). Weak papers will be rambling genealogies with no reference to Albanese; strong papers will be essays that tell your family's story with lots of references to Albanese.
This diagram will be difficult to send electronically, so you may send it
to me at:
As with the other assignments, do bring this to class and we will share with one another.
|ASSIGNMENT #2: FIELD VISIT TO AN AMERICAN RELIGIOUS SITE|
|This paper will involve your own original field research,
followed by a written 5-page ethnographic report. You will go to a site of
American religion at a time when there is ritual activity there. (A church,
temple, mosque or synagogue service, for example. If you want to work on a
ritual of public Protestantism; civil religion, see me first). Please
exclude services held by your own religious group. You may want to call
ahead and ask for an invitation to the service if that will make you feel
more comfortable. Or, you might go to a service at the site of a friend or
colleague, along with that person. Attend the service. Take field notes if
appropriate. Take church bulletins or newsletters, pamphlets or programs,
and attach to assignment. Return home and reflect on the service, and write
If American religion can be understood as a marketplace, what are the members "buying" or "getting" in this organization and at this service?
Your paper should be about half ethnographic description and half analysis. The analysis section should cite two to three works you have read for the course so far.
|ASSIGNMENT #3: CRITICAL BOOK REVIEW|
|Choose one of the full-length texts listed below and write
a critical review of the book as it relates to the themes of the course.
Topics you may discuss are: Americanism (choseness), American Civil
Religion, Religious marketing and spectacle, Evangelicalism and
Fundamentalism, Feminism, etc. How is the book positioned within the greater
conversation on American Religion? How does the religious group fit into the
theme of God's New Israel? How does the group work in the "religious
marketplace?" Pay attention to the methodology of the scholar and to their
goals in writing the book. You will construct your own argument about the
text you choose and elaborate themes of your choosing.
Please write 3-5 pages double spaced, in 14 point font.
Do bring your book review to class during our week of meetings, as you will each share your reviews and present the book to the class.