The Religious Studies minor at Mills is an interdisciplinary program that explores religious traditions and their influences on the political, social, artistic, literary, and cultural developments of their respective communities. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of texts, images, beliefs, and performances of a variety of religions both local and global.
Mills is home to a rich and diverse community of scholars who address the phenomenon of religion from a broad range of methodological and theoretical perspectives, including anthropology, archaeology, art history, comparative literature and literary theory, history, philosophy, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. In keeping with Mills tradition, a number of religious studies course offerings also provide an emphasis on the experience of women and girls in religious systems, the role of religions in the cultural construction of gender and sexuality, and feminist critical perspectives in the academic study of religion. Students will investigate the ways in which religious identities intersect with race, class, gender, and ethnicity, among other categories of affiliation and identification.
In addition, students may choose, in consultation with their advisor, a select number of courses through cross-registration with the following institutions:
Graduate Theological Union, including:
- Center for Islamic Studies
- Center for Jewish Studies (GTU/UCB)
- Women’s Studies in Religion
- Center for Arts, Religion, and Education
- Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
- Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (GTU/UCB)
- Institute of Buddhist Studies
- Orthodox Institute (PAOI)
The religious studies minor complements a wide range of majors; and the minor's multidisciplinary nature affords students intellectual training for graduate work in a number of different disciplines. Understanding the ways in which belief systems and cultures interact supports students in preparing for careers in psychology, education, international relations, international business, journalism, government, medical and health services, social services, and law.
Religious identities—personal, local, and global—have received escalating attention in both community and world affairs. Students who have the opportunity to critically explore the intersections of belief systems and cultures are better equipped to fulfill the Mills goal of excellence in local and global leadership.
- Understand the methods and forms of research and analysis in the discipline of religious studies.
- Recognize the influence religious and spiritual tradition have on human experiences, cultures, artistic expressions, institutions, texts and historical periods.
- Understand the complexity and diversity of global religious and spiritual traditions.
REL 040: Introduction to the Study of Religions (3-4 Credits)
This course introduces key concepts and theoretical questions in the academic study of religion drawing on methodology and the content of multiple disciplines. It explores the ways in which religious thought, texts, rituals, and phenomena function in different traditions and in different historical and geographical contexts within traditions. Students will examine the ways in which religious identity interacts with other aspects of identity such as gender, class, ability, race, sexuality, and national origin.
Meets the following Core requirements: Community Engagement, International Perspectives, Race, Gender & Power
Meets the following Gen Ed requirements: Human Institutions and Behavior, Multicultural Perspectives
Religious Studies Program Goals
- Understand the methods and forms of research and analysis in the discipline of religious studies. (Introduced)
- The students will identify basic concepts from the discipline of religious studies.
- Recognize the influence religious and spiritual traditions have on human experiences, cultures, artistic expressions, institutions, texts and historical periods. (Introduced)
- The student will produce writing that addresses the impact of religious and spiritual traditions on society.
- Understand the complexity and diversity of global religious and spiritual traditions. (Introduced)
- The student will identify how their own experiences of historical, social, cultural, and class location impact the way they read texts and articulate this identification in writing and class discussion.
- The student will understand the relationships between history, religion, and culture and the ways religious texts, beliefs, and institutions both reflect and affect these relationships.
General Education Goals:
Human Institutions & Behavior
- Have a command of the basic concepts from one of the disciplines (Introduced)
- The students will identify basic concepts from the academic study of religion.
- Apply basic findings from one of the disciplines (Introduced)
- The student will apply ideas and theories in the academic study of religion to empirical and ethnographic data from a variety of religious traditions.
- Recognize that human behavior is affected by factors ranging from the psychological to the global (Introduced)
- The student will discuss the relation between personal, interpersonal, and institutional processes of religious traditions.
- Demonstrate understanding of culture and cultural identities as dynamic rather than fixed categories, and describe the diverse ways in which they are produced, transformed, and maintained (Introduced)
- The student will identify examples in course texts which demonstrate cultures and cultural identities as dynamic rather than fixed categories, and describe the diverse ways in which they are produced, transformed, and maintained
- Demonstrate knowledge of the history of racial and ethnic formation and stratification in national and transnational contexts, considering the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality (Introduced)
- The student will identify and explain examples drawn from course texts which illustrate the role of religion in racial and ethnic formation considering the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality
- Demonstrate an understanding of processes of group formation and describe how marginalized groups have used diverse strategies to challenge racism and discrimination (Introduced)
- The student will identify and explain examples drawn from course texts which illustrate the use of religion as a tool to support group formation and cohesion in diaspora and to resist racism and discrimination.
- Deploy the necessary critical tools to reflect on the artistic, literary, and intellectual traditions of marginalized groups-both nationally and internationally-and to appreciate the diversity of human thought and experience (Introduced)
- The student will consider how literary and artistic texts are both grounded in and disruptive of religious, ethnic, and geographic boundaries.
REL 180: Special Topics (3-4 Credits)
REL 180C: Historic Interactions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (3-4 Credits)
This course surveys the rise and development of the three major world religions grounded in the Abrahamic narrative: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We begin by investigating the founding narratives common to all three traditions and the intertwined nature of their origins. We then move to examine how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam interacted with and influenced each other during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. We conclude with how the three traditions engage common facets of modernity—the rise of fundamentalisms, liberation theologies, involvement in global civil rights movements.
Meets the following Core requirements: Community Engagement, International Perspectives, Race, Gender & Power
Meets the following Gen Ed requirements: Historical Perspectives
- Students will apply concepts and skills explored in their Mills education (or specific service learning class if relevant) in a practical community based context. (Introduced)
- Students will apply concepts and skills explored in their Mils education to research, choose, and engage in practical service as directed within a Bay area social justice organization which is informed by one or more spiritual/religious traditions.
- Students will demonstrate the ability to engage with community organizations on projects that are meaningful to both the organizations and students. (Introduced)
- Through active service on a weekly basis, students will engage in experiential learning within a Bay Area community on projects that are agreed upon as meaningful to both the organization and the student.
- Students will develop the ability to engage in thoughtful, self-reflective and ethical collaboration in a community setting. (Introduced)
- Through the process of researching, choosing, and negotiating their responsibilities as volunteers within a social justice centered organization students will engage in thoughtful, self-reflexive and ethical collaboration in a community setting. This process will be assisted by regular reflection papers in which the students process and concretize their experiences in terms of their own development as innovators and change agents.
- Students will reflect on their value systems and way of understanding the world and understand that these are not universal. (Introduced)
- Student will demonstrate an understanding of their own positionality with regard to the course topic and will reflect on the nature of the public and academic pedagogical platforms that influenced their understandings. Students will encounter the three religious traditions from a variety of insider and outsider perspectives ,. Students will demonstrate an ability to contrast their own understanding with perspectives from one or more of different cultures covered in the course.
- Students will analyze the history, arts, politics, language, economy of a non-Western national context using scholarly or creative perspectives from the culture being studied and demonstrate the ability to contrast these with dominant US perspectives. (Introduced)
- Students will demonstrate an ability to analyze cross-cultural theories of gender, sexuality, and religion through cultural production, scholarly work, literature, and art from non-Western national contexts and be able to identify how these perspectives differ from dominant perspectives in the U.S.
- Students will demonstrate knowledge of at least one ethnic or national group and its experiences outside of the United States. (Introduced)
- The student will apply the ideas and theories of scholarly work on religion to empirical and ethnographic data from a variety of ethnic or national groups outside the United States in both the foundational and diasporic periods of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- Students will demonstrate knowledge of intellectual and/or creative contributions from at least one culture, country, or region outside of the United States. (Introduced)
- Students will demonstrate knowledge of intellectual and/or creative contributions from cultures outside the United States in both the foundational and later diasporic periods of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Race, Gender & Power
- Students will demonstrate the ability to analyze race and gender as socially constructed, dynamic identity categories related to systems of power and privilege. (Introduced)
- The student will identify examples in course texts which demonstrate race and gender identities as dynamic rather than fixed categories, and describe the diverse ways in which they are produced, transformed, and maintained by systems of power and privilege
- Students will analyze the ways in which race and gender intersect with other identity categories including sexuality, class, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, citizenship and nationality. (Introduced)
- Students will define the theory of intersectionality and apply it to the construction and performance of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and religion in class texts.
- Students will demonstrate familiarity with the ways that marginalized communities have resisted structures of power through social movements, civic engagement, artistic expression, and scholarship. (Introduced)
- The student will identify and explain examples drawn from course texts which illustrate the use of religion as a tool to support group formation and cohesion in diaspora and to resist racism, sexism, and discrimination.
- Students will be able to engage with the intellectual and theoretical contributions of marginalized communities, and contrast them with dominant perspectives. (Introduced)
- Student will grapple with, discuss, and analyze a variety of key historical and contemporary texts produced by marginalized groups and compare them with dominant perspectives.
- Students will communicate effectively across differences with an understanding of their own social location. (Introduced)
- Students will engage in constructive discussion around issues of marginalization both in the local and global context and will examine how their own social location shapes their perspectives on the religious and gender identities of others.
General Education Goals:
- Evaluate past events and trends from political, economic, artistic, cultural, philosophical, and social perspectives (Introduced)
- Students will evaluate the intertwined beginnings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from political, literary and cultural perspectives. Interactions between the three religious traditions in medieval Europe will be evaluated using artistic and philosophical perspectives while the final unit focuses on the the political, economic, and social interactions of the modern period.
- Use critical tools to assess historical source materials (Introduced)
- Students will apply hermeneutical theory to the analysis of historical, social, economic, political and artistic aspects of historic source materials.