Religious Studies Department


Colby’s Religious Studies Department trains students to critically analyze the ways in which individuals and communities conceptualize the transcendent, that which they regard as vitally significant. Its courses explore diverse religious traditions, regions, and time periods through three analytical frameworks:

  1. Identity: How ideas about the transcendent interact with societal norms regarding hierarchical conceptions of human difference, including those associated with gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class. 
  2. Interpretation: How individuals and communities express ideas about the transcendent in literary and artistic works, and how they engage ideas expressed within their religious traditions.
  3. Practice: How individuals and communities seek to actualize their ideas about the transcendent through rituals, material culture, and daily life.

Faculty

ChairProfessor Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh
Professors David Freidenreich and Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh; Assistant Professor Kerry Sonia (on NEH fellowship); Visiting Assistant Professors Ryan Harper and Erik Trinka


Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Religious Studies

A minimum of nine courses, to include the following:

  • RE core course: “Thinking about Religion Today” 
  • At least one 100-level course related to one or more Eastern religious traditions
  • At least one 100-level course related to one or more Western religious traditions
  • At least two 300-level courses taught by members of the Religious Studies Department; majors are strongly encouraged to take at least one seminar before their senior year
  • At least two designated courses in each of the analytical frameworks (Identity, Interpretation, Practice). A single course may count simultaneously toward the framework requirement and the survey or seminar requirement. 

Honors Program in Religious Studies

Students majoring in religious studies may apply during their junior year for admission to the honors program. Students are expected to submit their proposal to the department chair by Sept. 15. Admission is contingent on a GPA of 3.65 or higher in the major at the completion of the junior year. On successful completion of the work for the honors program, including a thesis, students will graduate from the College with “Honors in Religious Studies.”

Requirements for the Minor in Religious Studies

A minimum of six courses, to include the following:

  • RE core course: “Thinking about Religion Today” 
  • At least one 100-level course related to one or more Eastern religious traditions
  • At least one 100-level course related to one or more Western religious traditions
  • At least one 300-level course taught by a member of the Religious Studies Department; 
  • At least one designated course in each of the analytical frameworks (Identity, Interpretation, Practice). A single course may count simultaneously toward the framework requirement and the survey or seminar requirement.

Students may petition to count off-campus study courses toward fulfillment of an appropriate analytical framework requirement; courses taught at Colby may only count toward the single framework designated by the instructor.

Courses by Analytical Framework

Identity

  • RE 117: India and the Western Imagination 
  • RE 182: Jews, Judaism, and the Modern World
  • RE 218: Global South Asia 
  • RE 236: Modern Christianity
  • RE 256: The African-American Religious Experience
  • RE 297: Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible
  • RE 346: Jews of Germany, Past and Present
  • RE 387: Anti-Judaism and Islamophobia in Christian/Western Thought

Interpretation

  • RE 136: Introduction to Christianity
  • RE 143: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • RE 144: Introduction to the New Testament
  • RE 181: Conceptions of Jews and Judaism
  • RE 111: Religions of India
  • RE 211: Religions of China, Japan, and Tibet
  • RE 217: Religion in the Americas
  • RE 298: Religion, Technology, and the Human Self
  • RE 397: God and the American Essay
  • RE 398: War and the Bible

Practice

  • RE 232: American Spirituality and the Environment
  • RE 242: The Good Life
  • RE 285: Faith, Class, and Community
  • RE 297: Who Owns the Bible
  • RE 297: Religion and Politics in the United States
  • RE 319: Bollywood and Beyond
  • RE 322: Food and Religious Identity
  • RE397: Sacred Sounds: Music and American Spirituality

Other Applicable Courses +

Courses from Other Departments That Can Serve as Electives in the Religious Studies Major/Minor

(Students may petition the chair to consider other courses toward the major)

Art

  • 125 Art and Architecture of the Islamic World, 622-1250
  • 126 Art and Architecture of the Islamic World, 1258-1914
  • 127 History of Architecture: From Pyramids to Cathedrals
  • 213 Early Medieval Art
  • 323 Destroying Culture: Iconoclasm

Anthropology

  • 244 Anthropology of Religion
  • 246 Religion and Everyday Life in Muslim Societies
  • 316 Religion and Social Change in Contemporary Africa 

Biology

  • 147 Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga and Mindful Practice

Classics

  • 136 Myth and Magic

East Asian Studies

  • 273 Survey of East Asian Art

Government

  • 251 Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Accommodation
  • 252 Introduction to Politics of the Middle East

History

  • 285 Foundations of Islam
  • 317 Universities, Cathedrals, Courtly Love: 12th-Century Renaissance
  • 381 Women and Gender in Islam

Latin American Studies

  • 373 Religion and Unbelief in Latin American History

Music

  • 254 Music of Meditation

Philosophy

  • 114 Central Philosophical Issues: Nature and God
  • 266 Buddhist Philosophy
  • 274 Philosophy of Religion

Sociology

  • 236 American Religion and Society