Graduate Theological Union
Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions
This Area embraces both cross-cultural and historical themes, building upon scholarly methodologies that advance critical understandings of interreligious, multicultural, and contextual religious experience. The three main tracks of the Area are Buddhist Studies, Islamic Studies, and East Asian Religions. Faculty in the Area also have interests in ethnic studies, anthropology of religion, ritual studies, gender theory, and postcolonial theory.
Most students in Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions are preparing for academic careers in research and teaching. A few graduates are preparing to participate in interreligious dialogue or education, or to work on interreligious issues in a church or other agency in a specific cultural context.
Core Doctoral Faculty
JUDITH A. BERLING • GTU (Chinese and comparative religions) • Interreligious learning; student centered pedagogy; interreligious education and theologial education; East Asian spiritualities.
IBRAHIM FARAJAJÉ • SKSM (Cultural Studies/Islamic Studies) • Study of Islam; history of Sufism; history of Islam; postcolonial theory; diaspora studies; HIV/AIDS; bodies, genders, and space in Islam; videotics.
MUNIR JIWA • GTU (Islamic Studies) • Islam and Muslims in the West; aesthetics, media, and cultural production; religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue.
SCOTT MITCHELL • IBS (Buddhist Studies) • Buddhism and the West; Buddhism and modernity; post-colonial studies of religion.
RICHARD PAYNE • IBS (Japanese Buddhism) • Esoteric Buddhist ritual; Indian Buddhist philosophy of mind; philosophy of language and epistomology; Buddhism and cognitive science.
NAOMI SEIDMAN • GTU (Jewish Culture) • Translation studies; modern Jewish thought and literature; queer and gender studies; literary theory.
SEIGEN YAMAOKA • IBS (Buddhist Studies) • Shin Buddhist Ministry; Shin Buddhist Religious Education; Pure Land Buddhism in Japan and the U.S.
MARIANNE FARINA, C.S.C. • DSPT (Philosophy and Theology) • Ethics; Islam; social justice; human rights; interreligious dialogue; human sexuality; philosophical ethics of East and West.
LISA GRUMBACH • IBS (Buddhist Studies) • History of Buddhism; Shinto and Japanese religions; religion and landscape.
DAIJAKU KINST • IBS (Buddhism and Pastoral Care) • Foundations & development of Buddhist pastoral care, chaplaincy, counseling in interfaith context; critical foundations for effective interfaith dialogue; interface of traditional Buddhist psychology and contemporary psychoanalytic perspectives; the teachings of Eihei Dogen: Buddha Nature, Time and Self; contemplative development and the experience of Trust.
JOHN HILARY MARTIN, O.P. • DSPT emeritus (History of Religions) • Myth and ritual; noetics of symbolism; interreligious dialogue.
DAVID MATSUMOTO • IBS (Buddhist Studies) • Jodo Shinshu history and thought.
Offered at ABSW, CDSP, DSPT, FST, JST, PSR, SFTS, SKSM
Students in this area incorporate cross cultural and historical themes, building upon scholarly methodologies which advance critical understandings of interreligious, multicultural and contextual religious experience. Traditions for study include Buddhism, Chinese/Japanese Religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
- Students will learn to recognize the contours of scholarship in the field of religious studies and find their own place within it.
- Students will demonstrate both a broad grounding and a developed specialization in a particular religious tradition or culture and its history.
- Students will learn to employ a religious studies methodology suited to their particular research specialization.
- Students will work through the issues of constructing a syllabus for an introductory course and will formulate a pedagogical philosophy and approach.
- Students will design and execute an original research project that makes a significant contribution to their field of specialization.
The Area requires a clear and focused statement of academic purpose, specifying a field for which the GTU has appropriate faculty resources and the student has appropriate academic background and basic language preparation.
At the outset of doctoral work, the student will submit a written Draft Academic Plan, which specifies prior background, career goals, and specific interests. This plan will be used as an advising tool, and will be critically analyzed and developed during the required Seminar on Interdisciplinarity (IDS 6000).
The Area requires two foreign languages, at least one a modern research language (e.g. French, German, Japanese). The second language might be a classical language, a field language, or a second research language. The languages are presented to the Area as a written language proposal, framed by student and advisor, and approved by the entire Area, and then certified following the GTU’s procedures. At least one modern foreign language must be certified before the student moves on to comprehensive exams; classical or field languages may be certified later, prior to proposing the dissertation, if the advisor agrees a specific language is not necessary for the comprehensives.
The Area requires that students take IDS 6000 (Seminar on Interdisciplinarity) in their first fall semester. They must also take HR 6006 (Issues in Contemporary Study of Religion), offered by the Area. Students are also expected to work with their advisors to identify and take courses that will prepare them for broad certification and comprehensives. Students doing the teaching preparation comprehensives (below) must take IDS 6016 (Seminar on Course Design and Syllabus Development).
In the course of their studies, students are expected to establish a broad grounding in their tradition or culture of specialization and in their chosen methodology. Students submit a statement of prior or current course work, reading, examinations, or writing that will serve as Certification of Broad Grounding.
Because the Certification of Broad Grounding addresses the breadth of the student's doctoral program, Comprehensive Examinations are somewhat more focused and lead to the dissertation and the specific teaching and writing goals of the student.
The Area requires four Comprehensive Examinations.
Religious tradition or culture of specialization
The student will have certified breadth in a particular tradition as part of Certifying Broad Grounding. The tradition may be a religious tradition (e.g., Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism) or a religious culture, such as that of China or Japan. The broad tradition or culture of specialization should be sufficiently broad to serve as a grounding for at least a decade of professional work.
Since the student has completed Certification of Broad Grounding in the tradition or culture, this Comprehensive Examination will focus on the student's significant specialization within the tradition (an historical period, a major theme—e.g. Chan or Zen Buddhism, Religious pluralism in contemporary Turkey).
Scholars in religious studies use a wide range of methodologies (historical, philological, interpretive, anthropological, feminist, critical, postcolonial, etc.) The two required courses (see above) introduce students to a range of literature in religious studies using various methodologies and approaches, and encourages students to consider these literatures in relation to their own scholarly approaches. This examination will require the student to explore in some depth critical issues in a methodology that s/he intends to uses in his/her research. The student will develop a select bibliography in consultation with the comprehensive committee, and write a bibliographic essay or a critical essay on methodological issues. A very preliminary draft of the bibliography will be developed in the Seminar on Interdisciplinarity, and the paper for Issues in Contemporary Studies in Religion will be a very preliminary version of the methodology paper.
Preparation for Teaching
This examination requires the student to prepare a full syllabus with clearly defined objectives, requirements, expectations, evaluation criteria, and a reading list for an introductory course with no prerequisites. The course can be an introductory course in the student’s religious tradition or culture of specialization (see exam 1), an introduction to the study of religion, a course on world religions, or an introductory course whose scope is broader than the student’s religious tradition or culture of specialization. The syllabus is to be accompanied by a 15-20 page paper describing the intellectual approach of the course and specifying the decisions made about both content and instruction. The bibliography should include literature on pedagogy as well as on the topic of the course. Students doing this comprehensive are required to take Doctoral Seminar IDS 6016 Seminar on Course Design and Syllabus Development as a context in which to develop this syllabus.
Students whose primary professional goals are other than teaching may petition for an alternative form of this comprehensive, designed to prepare them to meet their professional goals. The petition should include a project or course and paper equivalent in sophistication to the pedagogical requirement. The student would develop the petition with his or her advisor/committee and submit it to the Area for approval in principle prior to proposing comprehensives.
This paper represents the student’s distinctive approach to research in religious studies, using the methodology discussed in examination 2 in conjunction with the religious tradition or culture discussed in examination 1. The paper may be related to the topic of the dissertation, but should be a self-contained, autonomous 30-40 page research paper.
Area students are expected to meet all general GTU requirements and standards for the dissertation proposal and the dissertation. In addition, Area students must have demonstrated proficiency in their classical or field work languages (in addition to modern research languages) prior to proposing the dissertation. Languages should be appropriately represented in the bibliographies of the proposal and of the dissertation.
The primary responsibility for vetting the proposal lies with the student’s committee; normally the committee will have thoroughly reviewed several drafts of the proposal before it comes to the Area. Area reviews will give special attention to coherence of the proposal, clear articulation so that the proposal is understandable beyond a small sub-specialty, appropriate methodology, appropriate use of languages, and recognition of the research’s location within the larger field of religious studies.
Dissertations will be evaluated using the Dissertation Rubric developed by the Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions Area.
- Satisfactorily complete HR 6006.
- Take a course 3000 or above in a tradition beyond their tradition of specialization, in which students write a substantial essay equivalent to comprehensives examination #2.