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Upcoming Department Events

stormThe Department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University cordially invites you to the final event of our fiftieth anniversary lecture series:

“Religious Studies as a Vocation” to be delivered by Jason Josephson Storm Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 4 – 5 p.m.

Description: What does it mean to be a scholar of religion in the contemporary academy? What is the value of the study of religion? And what place should values and value-neutrality have in Religious Studies? The German sociologist of religion—Max Weber—revolutionized the field of sociology at the dawn of the twentieth century in part by turning the techniques of sociology inward to examine itself. By examining how academic vocations served as the preconditions for the production of their forms of knowledge, Weber was able to show how academic professionalization produced perverse incentives and alienating forms of hyper-specialization. Although he put it differently, Weber effectively suggested the importance of producing a sociology of sociologists. This talk will begin to extend this insight to Religious Studies by reckoning with ways in which the unspoken norms and systems of power behind the academic study of religion – in a range of disciplinary formations – have produced various disciplinary blind-spots and dead-ends. We will look at the discipline’s messy, magical, post-colonialist, transnational history, see how the discipline’s main players have long been engaged with various forms of occultism, theosophy, and spiritualism, and we will think about the contemporary relationship between objectivity and value-laden research, taking inspiration from Weber’s famous lecture, “Science as a Vocation.”

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. We are excited to host Professor Josephson Storm. We hope that you will join us for an engaging talk and conversation.

Overview of Programs

Religious Studies. The academic study of religion on the campus of Vanderbilt University starts with the Department of Religious Studies. Our first and primary mission is to educate undergraduates in the nature, history, and function of different religious traditions, individually and comparatively. Care is taken to situate these religions in their cultural and social contexts, while examining the critical roles they play in shaping individual and group perspectives on the conduct of human affairs. The department offers a major in Religious Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and an Honors track. At present, areas of concentration include (alphabetically) African-American Religious Traditions, Buddhism and Asian Religious Traditions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Wherever possible, the appropriate languages are strongly encouraged, complicating the student’s understanding in ways impossible by any other method. The general approach to the study is initially descriptive, but multidisciplinary, while providing the student with a variety of analytical tools, theoretical perspectives, and practical methods for interpretation. The comparative component ensures that students recognize the commonalities of various religious traditions, thereby developing a sense of the abstract idea of generic ‘religion’ while maintaining a strong sense of the historical differences among traditions. Successful students should expect to emerge from the program with a set of analytical skills and disciplined perspectives on this all-important feature of human experience that will prepare them to thrive in an increasingly pluralistic, global community.

Islamic Studies and Arabic . The Department of Religious Studies works closely with the interdisciplinary faculty and curriculum constituting the minors in Islamic Studies and Arabic. Core courses for Islamic Studies are provided through Religious Studies, and all Arabic language and literature offerings originate in the Department of Religious Studies.

Jewish Studies. The department contributes both faculty and courses to the university’s widely recognized Jewish Studies program.

Asian Studies. With the development of Asian Studies as a separate program on the Vanderbilt campus, shared faculty are formally sanctioned to participate in the programming of Asian Studies with an increasing number of courses cross-listed.

Graduate Department of Religion. Religious Studies provides faculty and course support to the Graduate Department of Religion, primarily in the two area groups of ‘Historical Studies’ and ‘Critical Studies in Asian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions.’ The expertise in history, theories, and methods provided by Religious Studies faculty ensure the integrity of the PhD program in the Graduate Department of Religion.

For more information on these various courses of study, please follow the links in the menu.