This course explores the interrelationships between religion and violence. Religions can be understood as marking off the human from the `sacred,' which is all that is not-human. Similarly, violence is understood to engage in the non-human: when we speak of acts of violent depravity, we describe them as `inhuman.' What is the relationship between religion and violence? Do religions originate in myths of violence, and then re-enact them, as in the Eucharist? How do sacred texts enshrine and commemorate violence? How do religions motivate, justify or reinforce violence? What role does ritual play in re-enacting violence? What roles do eschatological expectations play in violence? How has the postcolonial world grappled with the questions of religious violence? This class explores historical case studies in the relationship between religion and violence, such as the Christian doctrine of just war and the Crusades, the history and practice of Islamic ideas of jihad, or Hindu nationalistic violence. We also consider the question of self-inflicted violence and suffering, as performed in religious rituals. Students read theoretical works and examine case studies; students are encouraged to elaborate their own understanding of the nature of religion and violence.
Prerequisites: Two courses in Religion or permission of the instructor.