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Religious Studies Department at Vanderbilt

AAS 2021 Annual Conference
Thursday, March 25, 5:30pm-7:30pm ET
Race and Racisms in Asia/Asian Studies
Due to its imperialist origins, the field of Asian Studies both inherits and perpetuates racist hierarchies premised on white supremacy and Black abnegation. Scholars of Asia must therefore confront the uncomfortable fact that studying Asia is neither anti-racist nor apolitical. After all, “Asia” and “Asian” are not neutral categories. Historically and today, these terms have paired phenotype (“yellow” skin) with supposedly distinctive modes of governance (“Oriental despotism”) or ostensibly immutable ethical orientations (“Confucian values”). Anti-Black racism and ethnic, caste, and religious discrimination have also featured in Asian societies past and present, while essentialist notions of indigeneity and occupational purity have dictated who has a voice in both politics and academe. Although exclusionary thinking and hierarchies of difference are rife, a more inclusive and equitable Asian Studies is possible. This panel brings together scholars working on various regions and time periods to discuss how the straightforward profundity of saying that Black Lives Matter can fundamentally reorient Asian Studies teaching and research. Asian Studies may be intrinsically political, but our work can strive for justice rather than oppression.

New Course Offering!

RLST 4371: Through the Eyes of the Other - A History of Muslim-Christian Relations

Taught By: Richard McGregor & Paul Lim

Meeting Pattern: Tuesdays, 1:10 - 3:50 - Divinity School G-28

Encountering the religious, racial, cultural, or political Other has often lead to a process of self-discovery. However, there are strong impulses to resist such encounter, and instead to marginalize, and even demonize those in whom we recognize little more than basic humanity.

This is the first Vanderbilt course that looks at the complicated co-existence, acrimony, war-making, and peace-seeking between Christians and Muslims.

The course charts the relationship between Muslim and Christian communities since the inception of Islam, and offers a series of snapshots and narratives that are designed to help with a more contextualized understanding of the complex web of relationships between these two world religions and cultures. Throughout the course we will see how Muslims saw Christians, and how that vision - often distorted, sometimes correct - perpetuated certain views about Christianity in the Muslim world. The same was the case among Christians, who often willfully exaggerated the potential danger of Islam as a totalizing discourse and world dominating-system of politics.

Dr. Paul Lim (Divinity School) and Dr. Richard McGregor (A&S, Religious Studies) will bring their respective expertise and research excellence as historians of early modern Christianity and medieval Islam to bear in this Seminar. Lim and McGregor are hopeful that this course will encourage the students to look beyond the immediate horizons of their religiosity and cultural-political backgrounds to grow in appreciation of the two major religious traditions' efforts toward enhanced mutual understanding and even embrace.