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The full title of this course is Myth, Ritual, & Magic: Intro to Anthropology of Religion. The seminar explores the social and cultural uses and meanings of religion, ritual and magic from a cross-cultural perspective. The class will examine the category of 'religion' in relation to those of 'magic' and 'science' as well as the use of rituals in groups.


In this course, students will learn how narratives of grief are constructed, experienced, debated, politicized, and pathologized. We will examine various aspects of grief including cultural difference, social policing, media portrayals, and theoretical debates. Students will learn how tragedy and grief are used to sell politics and products and what implications this has on individual and cultural understandings of loss.

This course applies sociological principles to health, illness, and health care. In order for students to fully develop an understanding in this context, a variety of perspectives will be explored and critiqued including that of patients, providers and society. This draws on foundational disciplines at the broader level and frames them into the biomedical experience. For example, sociological constructs of age, gender, ethnicity, and social class; psychosocial aspects of personal illness experience, historical and political perspectives of dominance, regulation and governance of providers and health care organizations will be the multidisciplinary topics covered. Other topics may include but are not limited to: history of 'western' medicine, models of illness, stress and well-being, social stratification of illness, health demography, medicalization and de-medicalization of illness, disability, and patient-provider relationships. A combination of reading, discussion, reflective activities, and paper/project composition will be used to facilitate comprehension of the course material. May be used as part of Sociology or Anthropology major/minor/concentrations.

This is an unusual course that looks at the intersection of visual language and the study of natural history. Students will explore the fundamentals of art making through the lens of organic form and function. We will take a critical look at artists as scientists and naturalists throughout history -- those who used drawing to hypothesize about living systems. We will gain a better understanding of our own relationship with the natural world as we explore their processes of visualization in studio. The course will consist of seminar, art studio, and experimental field trips to important resource sites locally and statewide.

This course will examine current ethical discussions that arise in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

This course gives upper-level Honors students the opportunity to craft effective leadership skills to mentor small groups of 12-15 first year students enrolled Honors 001 First Year Practicum. Students collaborate in pairs as co-guides on development and implementation of curriculum, service and social activities for assigned first year groups. Guides will work closely with the Director of Honors to develop the skills and materials necessary to lead the assigned groups. The Goals of the Practicum (subject to mild modification): communicate information about making the most of the Honors Program; foster community within the group; foster connections of the group with the larger Honors community; enhance students understanding of their own learning processes; develop skills necessary for success in Honors courses; nurture intellectual curiosity. Guides must be independent thinkers, thoughtful leaders and effective communicators who are committed to growing in all of these areas.


This course brings together multiple humanistic endeavors – most obviously religious studies, but also literature interpretation, history (of colonization), anthropology of particular cultures, mythology and religious principles of a variety of world religions. The Bible was the primary religious text of the 16th-20th century colonization project of the European powers, after decolonization communities began to infuse their indigenous cultures into their reading of the biblical text creating a new hybrid understanding of God, the biblical stories, and humanity.

Students in this course will focus on two genres of life writing: autobiography (primarily based on verifiable information) and memoir (primarily based on the author's memories). The course will address remembering and capturing the past; vividly describing people and places; incorporating dialogue, emotion, historical context, and humor; and other components of effective life writing. The class will also examine the ethics of life writing. Over the course of the semester, students will explore the strategies discussed in class by writing and revising their own memoirs. Frequent writing and revision.

Students will learn about aesthetics and the philosophy of art from both historical and contemporary perspectives, and through readings in both analytic and continental philosophy. Our overarching question will be "What is art?" and we will read, discuss, and evaluate four proposed definitions: art as representation, art as expression, art at form, and art as aesthetic experience. Students will engage these definitions at a theoretical as well as a practical level, in application to actual works of art. Finally, students will end the semester by putting forward their own "manifesto" on the nature of art.


This course will be an interdisciplinary investigation of anthropogenic global change, using global warming as a semester-long case study. In this course students will learn to investigate a major environmental issue by first obtaining a strong scientific background in the issue, then applying methods of policy analysis, and finally advocating for effective governmental decision making. Students will also gain a strong appreciation for the complexity and gravity of climate change issues. Prerequisite: Math 020, Math 050, or Math 070.

What caused the infamous witch trials? Religious attitudes? A social crisis? Introduction of new ideas from the West Indies? Trauma from recent Indian attacks? Changes in the status of women? This course will read a variety of explanations of the Salem witch trials. However, rather than decide what "really" caused them or argue about what "really" happened, this course will focus more on the nature of evidence. When we read a description of "what happened" what constitutes the evidence? Who gets to decide what is valid and what is not? How do these ideas of evidence come into play with various strategies of writing from personal narrative to sermon to other forms? How does this increased awareness of the way evidence is "embedded" in social reality affect your views about your own reading, writing, and judging? In addition to thinking and writing about these questions, we will assess similarities and differences between the witch trials and the trail of Anne Hutchinson. We will do this through a "Reacting to the Past" curriculum which provides selected readings and role playing. This unit will be about a month of the semester and will give us another "body of evidence," so to speak. Readings will include historical and sociological explanations of the witch trials, 17 century readings (diaries, accounts of trials, etc.), and 19th - 21st century imaginative writings about the Salem event, such as "The Crucible." There will be several short papers rather than a single large project.

The philosophy of religion, broadly defined, is the philosophical examination of religious reasoning. As practiced, however, the philosophy of religion usually gets narrowly focused on either the rationality of modern-western religion or the religiosity of modern-western philosophy. This course ventures a new approach in the philosophy of religion, one that is religiously diverse and historically grounded. As such, it seeks first to survey several different instances of reason-giving in several different religions of the world. It will then formally compare these instances of reason-giving in an effort to detect important and interesting similarities and differences between them. Finally, it will ask whether and how these instances and patterns can be critically evaluated with respect to their truth and value. Since this is a philosophy of religion course, particular emphasis will be placed on this third and final step: can one inquire into the truth and value of religious reasons and ideas? If so, how? If not, why not? Note that this class is designed to accompany Drake University’s public program in comparative religion, The Comparison Project (

The course will examine the major topics and issues of contemporary philosophy of science, including (but not limited to) the demarcation criteria of science, the rationality and objectivity of scientific theories, the verification and falsification of scientific theories, and the claims and merits of realism, pragmatism, empiricism, and constructivism. The course will also consider the ways in which various contexts of scientific activity (technological, social, historical, economic, political, personal) affects the practice and aims of science.

Theories are the fundamental construct of academic activity, and despite the conventional notion, most of us do not know what, exactly, theory is. What makes a theory a theory? Why are theories used? To what extent do theories help us understand the world? To what extent do theories limit our understanding of the world? When is theory helpful or unhelpful? This course will attempt to answer these, and other, questions about theories. Despite the notion that theory is impractical, theory guides the activity of most academic research, knowledge production, and disciplinary pursuits, and then filters out into public consciousness, influencing the way people think and live. This course will begin with the examination of three specific theories such as postmodernism, Marxism, feminism, and pragmatism, socialism, critical theory, or capitalism. Students will explore the origins, key characteristics, and applications of these theories to various disciplines in the humanities, liberal arts, and professional fields. Students will gain the skill a capacity to work with, apply, and deconstruct complex issues using theories, and as such, this course would be of particular interest and use to students considering graduate school.


This semester Digital Religion will analyze the Peoples Temple movement and their agricultural project in Jonestown, Guyana. This group, led by Jim Jones and an inner circle of devoted socialists, rose to prominence in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1970's, working on radical political issues, establishing communal living facilities, and emphasizing racial and economic equality. The group left the Bay Area for Guyana where it established a communal agricultural project. Ultimately, the group committed what they called "revolutionary suicide" in late 1978. In cooperation with the "Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and the Peoples Temple" project hosted by the San Diego State University, students will assist in the analysis and annotation of an online selection of documents originally produced by Jim Jones and members of the Peoples Temple.

The course seeks to give students both an overview of disciplinary sociology of deviance and then to pursue in more detail the story of meaning making and the social and cultural structures that grow up with that meaning. The essence here is to study “badness,” as Peter Conrad and Joseph Schneider called it in the co-authored book, "Deviance and Medicalization." How are stigmatizing, negative meanings created around various categories of people and their actions or alleged actions and then attached to them to provide various professionals populations of people that they serve in careers that help, punish, rehabilitate them? Prerequisite: Entry-level sociology or anthropology course or instructor's consent.

The course raises questions about what violence is; what it does; whether it is necessary, legitimate or illegitimate; and what its' constitutive and destructive qualities are. We investigate the main theories of violence from philosophy and political science but also explore ethnographic cases from across the globe, looking at significant occurrences of violence in history and their reverberations in the present. The course also looks at representations of violence in rituals, art, and movies, as well as how art and poetry are often the only way through which the brutal experience of violence is elaborated, revered, and possibly reworked.


This course serves both as an introduction to religion in South Africa and as means of developing a collaborative photo-narrative project about religion in South Africa with Drake’s international partner, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). In the way of introduction, we will learn the history of (religion in) South Africa, especially in encounter with colonial powers and Christian missionaries. In the way of the photo-narrative project, we will work with faculty and students at UKZN to begin identifying and learning about religious sites in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, especially as they relate to an environmentally themed book. This course can also be used to prepare students who are going on the J21 travel-seminar to South Africa where we will visit these sites in person with faculty and students at UKZN.


The immense growth of slavery and slave trade research in the last quarter century has made examinations of unfree labor a major issue for world research. Studies of Atlantic slavery have generated the bulk of that research, and as a result have challenged many traditional perceptions of that trade and its associated system of slavery. However, despite the unquestioned value of these recent analyses, most of these studies have looked at Atlantic slavery from the American side of the ocean. Consequently, the African nature of Atlantic slavery has often lacked close scrutiny. This course has two goals: 1) to root Atlantic slavery and its trade in its African context, and 2) to help incorporate recent research findings into popular understandings of the Atlantic trade. The major argument of this course is that one cannot know why the Atlantic trade happened as it did nor how Atlantic slavery developed as it did without understanding the context which produced the people who were sold into slavery. Therefore, the course looks at the influence political, social, economic, and cultural factors in Africa had on the making of slavery and the slave trade both in Africa and the Americas. In doing so, the course will challenge students to rethink their own notions of Atlantic slavery as they analyze and critique the ideas encountered in this course.

The history of cities cannot be understood without under- standing the physical world. This course introduces the ways that the environment has been influential in shaping human experience, as well as how humans have in turn shaped the environment. Themes include the interconnectedness of people and nature, public health, ecological health, and the link between local and global. The course balances environments that are both physical (geology, rivers, trees and concrete) and cultural (society, ideas and design). We will investigate urban environmental history through different times, places and lenses. We seek to use historical context to understand recent social and environmental events like Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, Midwestern flooding, and municipal water supply crises (Flint and Des Moines). We will include subjects like campus sustainability, environmental inequality, urban agriculture, food justice, urban planning, walkability, and our class will ponder post-industrial challenges and visions. Importantly, we will understand the city through environmental and social lenses and link the two. We'll explore urban environments with texts, guests and field trips. We'll define the city as the environment and an environment. We'll consider the future in light of its past and, as we become sensitive to historical context, we'll see how diverse actors, dramatic events, and policy-making reverberate today.


This discussion-based course focuses on U.S public health and medicine from the Civil War to the present. Although the U.S. is placed at the center, international context is necessary. We begin in the mid-nineteenth century because of shifts in medical knowledge and a re-framing of responsibility. Through a combination of primary and secondary sources, major themes explored are: how Truth changes over time; how bodies are understood to interact with the environment; how race, class, gender and sexuality influence aspects of public health; the influence of technologies; the role of government and the locus of responsibility; urban and industrial issues; and how change happens--from specific events, people and discoveries to long-term shifts visible in hindsight. This course takes a humanities view and uses historical perspective to understand the complexity of public health and medicine--this is especially important considering that many people who work in the field of public health have science, business and policy backgrounds.


This seminar reviews how sex role understandings have affected various aspects of the law including criminal law; employment credit and insurance discrimination; abortion and fetal protection; family law; and lesbian and gay rights. Standards of review for laws that discriminate on the basis of sex as opposed to other kinds of discrimination also are discussed, as is the issue of how women are treated in courts today.


University News
February 4, 2021