Spring 2024

Religion, Empires, and Secular States

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-320  |  History, as HIST-319  |  Religion, as RELI-322


Trent E. Maxey (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 319 [AS/TC/TE/C] ASLC 320 and RELI 322.) Conceptions of the religious and the secular assumed global significance over the course of the nineteenth century. Legal and scholarly means to identify, compare, and regulate religion took shape as colonial empires and nascent nation-states sought to govern and integrate heterogeneous populations. Drawing on inter-disciplinary conversations, this course historicizes the categories of religion and secularity in order to consider their political and intellectual functions as they developed in the nineteenth century. The 1893 World Parliament of Religions will set the stage for a historiographic and theoretical engagement with topics such as the academic creation of “World Religions,” reappraisals of the secularization thesis, and the invocation of “religion” as an explanatory force in international relations and colonial encounters. Specific case studies will include Meiji Japan, as well as contemporary debates of secularism in France and India. Requirements include short writing assignments, web posts, a modest research paper, and a class presentation. Two meetings weekly.

Spring semester. Professor Maxey.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2019, Spring 2024