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2015-2016 Catalog

INDS 173 Religion, Society

This course is an intensive introduction to the social and religious dynamics of Kenya. East Africa is a unique living laboratory for exploring African religious thought and practice for a number of reasons: Early anthropological studies of stateless societies in East Africa have played a very prominent role in the development of theories and methods for the academic study of non-western religions; Kenya has ethnolinguistic diversity simply not present throughout the rest of the continent where Bantu, Nilotic, and Kushitic languages and social systems have developed in close proximity; Kenya has an extremely complicated history of missionization both during and after the colonial period, which has spawned myriad independent churches, connections with transnational churches and theologies, as well as neo-traditional revivalist movements; and Kenya's coastal communities have historically played key roles in the Indian Ocean slave trade, engaging these communities in a thousand year conversation concerning what constitutes "proper" Islamic belief and practice. To explore these dynamics of continuity and change, students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in three of Kenya's distinct communities: the Kikuyu, the Maasai, and the Swahili. Besides studying intensive Kishwahili on the coast for one week, students will stay in Maasailand in southern Kenya. While learning on the move, students will not only engage with academic literatures specific to the study of African religions and societies, but will also have a genuine opportunity to engage with Kenyans in a meaningful way. [H, SS, GM1, GM2, V]


Belletto, Blunt