HISTORICAL/SOCIAL ANALYSIS OF CHRISTIANITIES IN MODERNITY
In this course we will examine Christianity in the modern period under the category of “religion” which is one of the categories that arose in modernity. We will also examine how Christianity interacts with other historical and intellectual developments in modernity. The course analyses the impact European voyages of discovery, the Renaissance, and the forces associated with the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the American, French and Industrial Revolutions had on Christian religious practices, mentalities, and sensibilities(spiritualities?) in the West and, also, those who became westernized through colonialism, slavery, and Christian missions—hence, the plural, Christianities, in the course title.
Modernity can be narrated in terms of seven interacting religious, historical and intellectual developments: 1) The Protestant Reformation; 2) European Colonialism; 3) the Atlantic Slave Trade; 4) Christian Missions; 5) the French Revolution; 6) the Industrial Revolution and 7) the Enlightenment and Romanticism. What arose from these trajectories were ways of employing categories already extant for understanding the Other: culture (from colonialism); race (from the slave trade); religion (from Christian missions); equality and freedom (from French Revolution); class (from Industrial Revolution). The rise of the nation state also occurred in modernity and this determines scale in social analysis. In terms of scale, we have the following objects of study by separate disciplines in modernity: the nation state and nationality (which was complicated by "the Jewish question"); society; class; religion; ethnicity, culture and race. These things come into play in determining and relativising the character and epistemological location of different religions as well as social groups. What became normative was significantly determined by non-reciprocal power relations. Walter D. Mignolo writes in The Idea of Latin America:
“Culture”…created national unity…to name and institute the homogeneity of the nation-state. However, insofar as the term emerged in the nineteenth century when England and France were embarking on the second wave of colonial expansion, “culture” also served the colonial purpose of naming and describing those alien and inferior “cultures” that would be under European “civilization”…and “civilization” is nothing more than a European self-description of its role in history” (p. xvii).
Christian missions entailed first civilizing the people that were colonized and enslaved making Christianization a form of cultural imposition in the non-reciprocal or unequal exchange between the West and its Other. This did not result in uniformity but rather perpetuated the plurality of Christianities and spiritualities that conform in modernity to nationality, race, class, culture, etc. Internal to the West, inequality came sharply into view when freedom and equality were posited as society’s founding principles. The social/economic inequalities exacerbated by the Industrial Revolution and slavery contradicted the French Revolution's discourse. External to the West, the material and non-material differences between and among populations served as problematic sites of theorization about the nature of humanity by the church, Enlightenment Philosophy, The Romantics, and what would subsequently become the Human Sciences such as Sociology, Anthropology, and the History of Religions. All of these developments had a profound impact upon Christianities and their theologies.
We begin the course looking at Bernini, Rubens, Velasquez, and others during the “Baroque.” A case will have to be made to justify this term “baroque.” Art lends specificity to our consideration of culture in relation to other things. The inclusion of art in this course will allow us to observe what some people in the past were seeing and perhaps enable us to reflect on the role seeing plays in the construction and maintenance of religious/cultural mentalities and sensibilities (spiritualities?) in interaction with social practices. If the constructs of culture, race, class, nationality, gender, etc. define our realities and identities then they must be accounted for historically in narrating the global spread and development of Christianities, mission, ecumenism, and pluralism.
I. Religion, Culture and Society in Europe During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
II. Religion, Race, Culture and Society in Latin America and the Caribbean During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
III. Religion, Race, Culture and Society in the US Seventeenth Century & Eighteenth Centuries.
7) March 15th: MID-TERM EXAM
March 22nd: RECESS
IV. Religion, Race, Class, Culture and Society in Europe & the US During the Eighteenth Century.
V. Epistemologies, Spiritualities and Theologies in Europe and the US During the Nineteenth Century.
VI. Epistemologies, Spiritualities and Theologies in the US and India During the Twentieth Century.
14) May 10th: Review
15) May 17th: FINAL EXAM