While the field of religious studies frequently focuses on belief and the intellectual development of religious traditions, this course shifts its focus to the body and its importance for the study of religion. The class examines the role of the body as a vehicle through which individuals experience "the sacred," and as a site upon which communities inscribe, assert, and contest religious values. Taking a comparative approach toward cases drawn from Buddhism, Christianity, and indigenous traditions, the class explores such themes as the perfectible body, the body in pain, bodily relics, the body in ritual, and transcending the body altogether. Finally, by drawing on classical and contemporary theorists, students work to develop their own frameworks through which to understand and interpret the crucial role of the body in the history of religions.
Prerequisites: Two courses in Religion and permission of the instructor.