Dr. Nyangweso's Courses


RELI 2000: Introduction to Religious Studies

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a critical understanding of various expressions of human religiosity, raising questions about how humans have created meaning for themselves through religion. Students will explore the nature of religion by studying common themes that emerge in different religious expressions as well as various methodologies employed in the study of religion. It will be argued that different methods will yield contrasting understandings of the nature of religion, depending on which aspects of a religious system one examines and what assumptions one makes. We will examine theoretical approaches to religion as discussed by different scholars such as Mircea Eliade, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud highlighting strengths and weaknesses of each method. The objective will be to emphasize the universality of religious experience in multicultural environments. Topics to be discussed include; the ultimate reality, the concept of the sacred, religious symbols, ritual, scripture, religion and social institutions, the problem of evil, moral action, salvation and liberation, and religion in modern society.

PHIL 1690: World Religions

Religion has not only existed and influenced human behavior since ancient times, but it has also expressed itself in diverse ways. This is an introductory study of major religions with particular attention to origins, historical developments, ideas and contemporary status. In the course we will explore the differing ways in which religions interpret life and reality. Religions to be examined include Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism and Confucianism, Taoism and indigenous religions. We will particularly explore the lives, practices and teachings of great religious leaders and mystics to highlight their interpretation of life and reality. The course can be used as a Foundations Curriculum (FC) humanities elective and also to help satisfy requirements for a Religious Studies major.

PHIL 3690: Women and Religion

Women and Religion is a course in which we review theories relating to women and specifically to women in religion. These theories are placed in conversation with ethnographies of women from diverse religious contexts alongside religious texts that inform these women's experience. Drawing from historical and contemporary case studies, we will examine the implications of religion on the spiritual, personal, social, political and economic aspects of their existence. Topics to be examined include: feminist theories of religion, origins and effects of patriarchy on women's bodies, sexuality and reproductive rights, women's roles in leadership, status of women in diverse religious experiences such as women in indigenous religions, women in western religions (Judaism Christianity, and Islam), Women in Asian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism), and the rise of goddess centered movements.

PHIL 2691: Classical Islam

This is a survey course on Islam, with particular attention to the life story of the Prophet Muhammad, the early history of the tradition, the basic beliefs as reflected in the Qur'an and the prophetic traditions, Islamic philosophy and theology and the Muslim personal and social life as envisioned by the religion. We will discuss the differences between the Sunni, Shi'i and Sufi branches of Islam as well as the role of women in Islam. The course can be used as a Foundations Curriculum (FC) humanities elective and also to help satisfy requirements for a Religious Studies major.

RELI 3694: Religions of Africa

In this course, we will explore the indigenous religions of African people including their myths, symbols and rituals, as a way of highlighting how Africans conceptualize their distinctive worldviews. We will examine various critical perspectives on African religions-, and examine the encounter of African people with religions such as Christianity and Islam. We will highlight the impact these religions have had on African beliefs. We will then explore the influence of African religions in the diaspora- such as Santeria, Voodoo and Black Churches. Since it is impossible in one course to examine hundreds of religions found in Africa, our discussion will be based on selected communities from across the continent. Other issues to be discussed in this course include the place of women in African religions, African religions and political resistance, African religions and ecological justice, and the place of African Religions in the contemporary world.

RELI 2694: Indigenous Religions

In this course we will examine central aspects of religious life in indigenous communities with a primary focus on Native Americans, Africans, and Australians. We will explore concepts of the sacred, creation stories, their experience and expression of the sacred, and the impact of foreign domination and religion on indigenous beliefs and lifestyles, the symbolism behind art in indigenous religion, and religious construction of gender. (This course can be taken as honor course with eligibility requirements). The semester will be divided into three parts, each of which will address indigenous religions specific to a region of the world. A team research project and presentation will enable students to explore a given topic in greater depth. An individual paper project will not be required at this level.

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