SOCS 612
Religions Resist Modernity

Peter Gottschalk

Our Overall Goal

To explore how various cultures have used religion in an attempt to resist the hegemony of Western modernity.

Course Schedule
June 25

Introduction.  Who is modern?  Who is not and why not?

• The Great Western Transmutation: Hodgson (in Reader)
• European hegemony: Hodgson (in Reader)

June 26

Ritual resistance among the Lakota Sioux

• Catherine Albanese, “The Oglala Sioux” (in Reader)
• John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, “The Offering of the Pipe” thru “At the Soldiers’ Town”; and “Wasichus in the Hills”; “Walking the Black Road” thru "Gandmother's Land"; and "Across the Big Water" thru “Author's Postscript.”
• James Mooney, “The Ceremony of the Ghost Dance”

June 27

• William Paden, “Ritual” (in Reader)
• Vine Deloria, Jr., “Introduction” (in Neihardt)
• Mary Crow Dog, from Lakota Woman (in Reader)
• John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, Appendix 2, “Comparison of the Transcript and Draft for the Origin of the Peace Pipe”
• William Powers, “When Black Elks Speaks, Everybody Listens” (handout)
• Dale Stover, “A Postcolonial Reading of Black Elk” (handout)
• Philip Arnold, “Black Elk and Book Culture” (handout)

June 28

Scientism, hegemony, & myth in America

• William Paden, “Myth” (in Reader)
• Bruce Lincoln, “The Politics of Myth” (in Reader)
• Edward Grant, “Science & Theology in Middle Ages” (in Reader)
• Martin J.S. Rudwick, “The Shape and Meaning of Earth History” (in Reader)
• Creation Museum:
• film: Evolution: What About Religion? (in class)

July 1

• Fundamentalism: Martin Marty, "A Season of Conflicts" (in Reader)
• Christopher Toumey, God’s Own Scientists, chs. 2-5  (in Reader)

            > First essay due

July 2

Nationalism, technicalism, & Hinduism in Gandhi’s life

• M.K. Gandhi, Intro, Part I thru Part II (NOT II: XIX, XXIII)

July 3

• M.K. Gandhi, Part III thru Gandhi, Part IV (except: IV: VI-VIII, XII, XV-XVIII, XX-XXII, XXXV-XXXVII, XL-XLVII)

July 4 No class: observe expressions of nationalism
July 5

• M.K. Gandhi, Part V (all) and Farewell  ® (except: XI, XIII, XVII, XIX-XX, XXXVII-XXXVIII)
• V.S. Naipaul, “The Colonial” (in Reader)

July 6

Individualism & “the woman question”

• Raymond Baker, “Egypt” (in Reader)
• Sherifa Zuhur, pp. 1-134
• film: “Living Islam: Paradise Lies at the Feet of the Mother” (in class)

July 9

Malcolm resists white, Christian hegemony

• Geneive Abdo, from Islam in America
• Malcolm X (chs. “Satan," "Saved," “Savior,” “Minister Malcolm X,” "Mecca," and “El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz”
• Recommended: Malcolm X, chs. “Nightmare” & “Mascot”

            > Second essay due

July 10

Modern Muslims, modern Americans, Muslim Americans

• Geneive Abdo, chs. TBA           
• Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America” (in Reader)
• Talal Asad, “Religion, Nation-State, Secularism” (in Reader)

July 11

The Taliban and al Qaeda

• Ahmed Rashid, Introduction, chs. pp. 1-2, 5-6, 8, 10, 13
• Peter Marsden, “The Taliban Creed” (in Reader)
• Bin Laden statements (in Reader)

July 12

Rationalism, cults, and the Branch Davidians

• in Stuart Wright, “Davidians and Branch Davidians,” pp. 20-42
• in Stuart Wright, "The Davidian Tradition" pp. 43-74
• in Stuart Wright, “Religious Discourse and Failed Negotiations” pp. 263-281
• in Stuart Wright, “Breaching the Walls of Separation,” pp. 299-322
• in Stuart Wright, “Public Narratives and the Apocalyptic Sect” pp. 205-235
• Recommendations of Experts for Improvements in Federal Law Enforcement After Waco  (in Reader)
• film, Rules of Engagement (in class)
• summary & review

July 23 > Third essay due
Required Texts

Geneive Abdo, Mecca and Main Street
Mohandas Gandhi, My Experiments with Truth
John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks
Ahmed Rashid, Taliban
Stuart Wright, ed. Armageddon in Waco
Malcolm X, Autobiography
Sherifa Zuhur, Revealing Reveiling

~~All of the texts above are also on Reserve in the library~~

Reader: The readers are now ready and can be purchased at the It's Only Natural store (not to be confused with the nearby restaurant by that name).  It is located at 386 Main Street (860 346-1786). I would recommend calling ahead to ensure they have a copy available. If they have run out they should be able to get another copy quickly upon request.
Course Objectives

This course attempts to provide the following for students:

(A) Familiarity with the dynamics of modernity and Western hegemony.
(B) Awareness of the role of religion in various cultures and a critical perspective toward mainstream American understandings.(C) Refinement of ability to critically engage and interpret texts and other cultural expressions.

Class Participation

This constitutes the most important part of the class because of the opportunity it affords you to discuss the issues that are of concern to you and hear those of others.  Class attendance is mandatory and students are expected to be punctual and participate in discussions.  The class presentation is included in class participation. 

The class presentation: Each student will be responsible for initiating discussion for one class.  S/he will accomplish this through a five-minute (ONLY!) presentation that analyzes any aspect of the day’s reading in the context of previous class readings, lectures, or conversations.  The student will conclude their presentation with a single, insightful question intended to prompt conversation.  No outside readings should be used.  This question must be emailed to the professor at least an hour before the beginning of class.


The three paper assignments allow students the opportunity to fuse their class study with analysis of world events and communities while refining the ability to write succinctly.  Answer the question with particular emphasis on analysis (not description) in a paper only four to five pages long.  No quotes are allowed.  Write your name only on the back of the last page and do not bother with a cover page.  No collaboration with any other student, please.

Basis of Grade

Of the 1000 points which compose a grade, participation constitutes 100 points and each query response 300 points. 


Wesleyan University will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Students should provide documentation and schedule an appointment with the Office of the Dean of the College at least two weeks before services are needed.  In each class where a student requests academic accommodations, the student must meet with the faculty member teaching the course at least one week prior to the requested accommodation. PLEASE! do not hesitate to discuss with me your needs for any accommodation.

Honor System

Students are expected to abide by the Honor System in regard to all work and participation in this class.  For details, see