Almighty God(s): Religion and Power in the Near and Middle East
How has religion shaped, influenced, and/or changed political systems? And how have political systems or actors used religion to their own advantage? Using examples from the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, as well as contemporary Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, this program investigates the complex dynamics of power that shape relations between belief systems and societal structures.
Students will read selections from foundational mythological, historical, and religious texts, such as Gilgamesh , Hesiod’s Theogony , the Old and New Testament, and The Egyptian Book of the Dead . Class material will include both polytheistic and monotheistic histories and societies, such as the ancient Near East and Egypt, and ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, and will use these histories to ask questions of politics and religion in the contemporary period, specifically in Egypt. Readings on contemporary Egypt will include Inside the Brotherhood , Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring and several articles on political Islam and other forms of Islam in Egypt.
Work in the fall quarter will give students historical background on how power is exerted through religion in these contexts. Students will read, write seminar papers, and participate in source analysis workshops. Building on these foundations, students will be asked to develop an independent research project, which investigates a student-generated topic related to class themes. In winter, students will realize this project through a series of consecutive writing assignments that build upon each other , while still completing common readings and seminar reflections.
Students will produce a significant piece of academic writing in history, the humanities, religious studies, philosophy and/or political science.
Course Reference Numbers
Students must contact faculty, over email, by the end of week 8 of the fall quarter to inquire about joining the program in the winter. They are expected to possess foundational knowledge of the history and politics of the Near and Middle East, as gained through college-level coursework. They should also submit a complete research and writing project proposal, as well as a bibliography, on a topic relevant to the program. This proposal should be submitted after consultation with the faculty in week 8.
Subject to faculty approval