As world religions move through time and across geography and culture, they are met and transformed by the local, or folk, sensibilities of the communities with which they come in contact. Indeed, it is that very fluidity, that ability to absorb and contain diversity that arguably gives the world religions their strength, durability, and influence on a large scale. It is in their many folk particularities that these religions come to life in distinct, rich, sometimes surprising and contradictory ways—ways that reveal cultural essentials, shape lives, engage both intimate and institutional power relations, and re-imagine the broader traditions in which they participate. This course will explore folk religious belief and practice across the world, focusing on ethnic communities, women, immigrants, and other non-elites. Case studies include material from China, South and Southeast Asia, Mexico, Israel, southern Europe, West Africa, and the United States. As folk religion is not always visible or available to outsiders, our entry point will be ethnographic material, and the course will include grounding in ethical and methodological questions concerning field work in religious contexts.
Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Shapiro.
2020-21: Not offered Other years: Offered in Fall 2011