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RLCL/AFST/WGS 2204: Race and Gender in Religion and Culture

This course offers interdisciplinary overview of the relationships among the categories of race, gender, religion, and culture, and highlights the changing conceptions of all these categories by examining various historical and contemporary debates. Students will use humanistic and social scientific approaches to engage in depth with individual case studies, examining race and gender within past and present religious and cultural traditions in a way that focuses on the interaction and interrelation between the categories of race, gender, religion, and culture.

Why take it?

This course is appropriate for students of any major, especially those seeking to develop their skills in critical reading, thinking, and communicating.  Additionally, this course provides engagement with social categories of difference, leading to broader understandings. Students will develop more informed approaches to determining and communicating reasoned judgments regarding the large-scale problems facing individuals and communities, enabling them to contribute to the civic, personal, and social responsibility necessary to a globally engaged democracy.

This course fulfills an elective in the Housing and Society and Leadership and Social Change Pathways minors.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

This course fulfills Pathways requirements in Critical Thinking in the Humanities, Critical Analysis of Identity and Equity in the United States, and Intercultural and Global Awareness.

“I taught RLCL2204: Race and Gender in Religion and Culture centered around the theme ‘Policing Dressed Bodies.’ Such a theme directly reflects both my own research interests, as well as a contemporary focus on ongoing political, social, and cultural issues around the world. I open with a broad set of readings and discussion on visuality, fashion, the body, surveillance, and policing, to introduce some of the central concepts essential to the course. I divide the course into three units, each focusing on one material object: first, we delve into examining the hijab as a form of Muslim head dress, heavily gendered as feminine, and central to a discussion of Islamophobia and gender politics all over the world; second, we study the turban as a form of Sikh head dress, predominantly gendered as masculine, and central to examining xenophobia and forms of tradition and modernity that resonate with our discussion of the hijab as well; and thirdly, we center the hoodie as an object that has been racialized as Black and gendered primarily as masculine, especially since the murder of Trayvon Martin, and study how forms of surveillance, policing, and violence must be understood through the prism of anti-Blackness. At the core of our class is the necessity of thinking about intersectionality, specifically at the axes of race, gender, sexuality, and religion. The readings range from critical scholarly essays and film, to poetry and visual art. We conclude the course with studying art projects that are informed by these contemporary politics and respond with work that both critically examines and resists such forms of pervasive violence around the world. We touch on everything from social movements like Black Lives Matter to the rhetoric that animates American imperial occupation through wars in West and Southwest Asia, like Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think students gain a lot from thinking about how, while these issues are contemporary, but are historically situated and determine the material conditions of the lives of Black and brown peoples globally.”
- Professor, Dr. Balbir Singh

"I taught RLCL 2204: Reproducing Race around the intersections of race, sexuality, and religion. In particular, we look at how managing reproduction is central to making the idea of race work. The course gives both historical and contemporary contexts for the religious, racial, and sexual conceptions of reproduction that continue to organize our society. In particular we examine the links between reproduction, religion and racial status, sexual norms and political norms, and what cultural artifacts reveal about the meaning and value attributed to race. The second half of the course also takes up questions of science and medicine and examine it as a cultural practice of meaning making that, rather than being at odds with religion, is deeply intertwined with it, specifically in the organization of race and sexuality. Overall, the class is focused on interrogating the common sense norms around race and sexuality that enable its unthinking reproduction."
- Professor, Dr. Amaryah Armstrong

“The course material was unlike anything I had studied and was very interesting.”

“I learned so much about other cultures, races, religions, and gender. I really appreciate this real-world knowledge.”

“One of the most interesting classes this semester for me! [The professor] was always present and ready to discuss different ideas and interpretations with the readings. I always looked forward to this class, and her structure of the course material was vigorous but open-minded and knowledgeable.”

"Excellent course, it focused so much on real world issues. The professor really cares about the students' well-being over everything and helps [you to] understand materials. The discussions in class are great and keep us all thinking after class ends."

"Professor Armstrong was good about answering questions and fostering an environment to ask questions. She also incorporated different ways to explain certain concepts (through video, song, articles, etc.), which I thought was pretty helpful."