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Semester 1

Jews and Muslims: Religions, Cultures, Histories (DIVI08022)







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Course Summary

This course introduces students to two traditions which originated in the same geographical area and which share a range of concepts, but whose historical trajectories differ significantly. Students will engage with contemporary issues important to both Jews and Muslims through the study of Jewish and Islamic history, religion and cultures in various location across the globe. Various methods of study are introduced alongside in-depth engagement with key religious concepts and historical events.

Course Description

Academic Description: The course provides an introduction to the study of Jews and Muslims from the beginning of the formation of what we today call Judaism and Islam, outlining historical developments and paying attention to contemporary diversity. The weeks exploring Judaism address varieties of Jewish lived realities across the globe at different times. Here, the study of religion is introduced through a focus on case studies of Jewish culture and religion in specific contexts, paired with reflection on how to study these. Each case study gives rise to the consideration of methodological questions. Religious studies approaches will be presented alongside anthropological, historical, cultural and textual ways of interpreting the evidence gathered from the case studies. These section on Islam provide an introduction to the religion of Islam from the moment of its inception through its evolution into the modern period. Through the study of the artefacts of Islamic civilization (including its scriptures, literature, art and philosophy) the course will expose students to the diversity of Islam across various historical and spatial contexts and the variety of ways in which individuals and societies expressed their understandings of Islam and their relationship to it. Syllabus/Outline Content: The lectures are organised into three sections, one on Jews and Judaism, one on Islam and Muslims, and finally, one on inter-religious encounters. Proceeding from an engagement with early Jewish history and the formation of key texts, the course turns to a consideration of Jewish history. Via an engagement with developments of Jewish culture through case studies across the past two millennia, the focus of the lectures are Jewish experiences of and within modernity, the development of religious divisions, changing relationships of Jews to non-Jewish society and the place of Jews in society, and antisemitism. We conclude with major developments of the twentieth century, such as mass migration, genocide, and national self-determination in the State of Israel alongside life in diaspora. The aim of the section on Islam will be to allow students to evaluate and assess the validity of claims (by Muslims and non-Muslims, experts and non-experts), about what 'Islam' has to say about politics, violence, human rights, freedom of expression, the rights of minorities, etc. by taking into account the normativity and diversity of Islam and by pointing to individuals, movements and intellectual currents within the Islamic tradition as exemplars of the same. Finally, by locating the study of Islam within the overall study of world history and the study of religion, students will be able to articulate the ways in which the study of Islam shapes their understanding of 'religion' and its relationship to other spheres of human activity. The course concludes with a section on encounters of Jews and Muslims with Christianity and with each other, historically and today, in the region of origin of both religious traditions, and in different places across the globe. Student Learning Experience Information: The course consists of a weekly suite of lectures and a tutorial. The three weekly lectures give students the opportunity to gain an initial overview of a wealth of material. Lectures will provide subject specific knowledge about the religious traditions and introduce students to the methods for studying Jewish, and Muslim religious lives and cultures. Participation in the weekly tutorial hour gives students the opportunity to debate the issues raised in lectures and apply relevant methods to carefully selected source texts and case studies. Students are expected to read specific texts for the tutorials and evidence their understanding in the tutorial assessments. In order to successfully complete the course, students are expected to engage with the materials presented in lectures by following up questions arising through the use of reference works and further reading as indicated on the course syllabus and beyond in the library. Learning outcomes are tested in researching and writing a course essay for which guidance will be given, and in a final exam.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 50%, Coursework 50%, Practical Exam 0%

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