All written assignments should be turned in to your Dropbox on Sakai.

Skip ahead to reflection essays or final paper.



In-class debates

On February 25 and April 19, the class will conduct two debates concerning the relationship between religion and power in the encounter with "others." The class will be divided each day into debaters (pro and con) and judges, who will vote on the winners of each debate. (The judges from the first debate will be the debaters in the second, and vice versa).


Both sides of the debate should argue from materials we have explored in class, both primary and secondary sources. No outside sources should be used.


Debate 1 Topic: Their Religion or Ours? (detailed debate instructions here.)

In the first debate, the two teams must persuade the judges of the following propositions:

Pro: We primarily study "other" religions in order to find something of ourselves.
Con: We primarily study "other" religion for their own sakes.


Debate 2 Topic: Colonial Religion?

In the second debate, the two teams must persuade the judges of the following propositions:

Pro: Religion primarily assisted the colonialist enterprise, and remains tinged with imperial ideas.
Con: Religion resisted colonialism, and remains an important tool to question imperial ideas.

The class period immediately following each debate (March 1 and April 21, respectively), all students must turn in a 200-400 word (typed, double-spaced) overview of the debate, including:




Reflection essays

The two reflection essays (due on March 10 and April 14) are extended, carefully composed considerations of first-person travel accounts. You are not expected to have a thesis, but to reflect maturely and analytically on the ways in which these texts construct a persona who defines and experiences something like "religion" in the context of travel.


Both essays should be 800-1000 words (typed, double-spaced). Do not include multi-lined headers on every page: include your name and the date on the first page, and page numbers on every subsequent page.


You should not consult outside sources for your papers, and should cite only the texts assigned for that essay. (You may, if you feel it is particularly relevant, cite other material we have read in this class.) Whenever you refer to material, whether or not it is cited in quotes, provide the relevant page numbers.


Each essay should be structured around your answer to the question prompt: each section should contribute a substantial point that contributes to your answer to the question, and should contain references, analysis, and reflection upon the sources themselves. You do not need to summarize the sources or their contexts (beyond very general statements that help frame your central organizing principle).


First reflection essay, due March 10, 2016: Through a comparison of Conrad Rudolph's Pilgrimage to the End of the World and the pilgrimage chapters from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, answer the following question:

According to Rudolph and Malcolm, what makes an authentic pilgrim?

Second reflection essay, due April 14, 2016: After reading Bartolomé de las Casas' Short History of the Destruction of the Indies, answer the following question:

What does de las Casas think of the Indians, and how do they help him understand the Spanish?






Final paper


Early in the semester, you should start choosing a topic for your final paper, which will explore a single text or site in which we can see the interplay of religion, travel, identity, and difference (a suggested list of topics is found below). Below you will find a list of sites and texts from which you should choose.


All students should meet with the professor before spring break to discuss paper topics; with permission, students may choose to write about a text or site not included on the list below.


Alternative final assignments: Students may also work with the professor to develop alternate final writing assignments, such as extended book/movie reviews or creative works (of art or fiction). For more information, contact the professor.


Format: Papers should be 10-15 pages (typed, double-spaced), not including any tables, charts, maps, or illustrations (please do not turn in two pages of text and 13 full-page, color pictures). Use a reasonably-sized font (preferably Times New Roman, 12-pt.). Pages should be numbered, and margins should be no more than 1.25" all around. You should include a bibliography of all works cited and consulted in writing your paper. Citation style is open, but should be consistent. For a variety of citation styles, check here:


Your paper should give a good overview of your topic, but also should have a central thesis or argument in answer to the following question: What does your topic teach us about travel, encounter, and the construction of "religion"?


You should, therefore, spend some time describing your subject (its content, its context, and so forth), but do not write a 10-page summary.


Research guides: For links to electronic research resources, please see the links and resources page. We will also be holding a research and writing workshop in class on April 5.


Paper Topics

Choose a topic from among the categories below:

Sites in which "other" religions are on display. These sites are not only popular "pilgrimage" destinations, but are also frequently the object of study and visitation by people who do not belong to the religion of the site. They have been particularly of interest to Western students of religion.


If you choose to study a site, you should explore a combination of popular accounts (websites, magazine articles, travel guides) as well as scholarly accounts (books, articles, essays).


Travel Texts. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, multiple first-person accounts of religious travel have appeared and, often, been made into films. You can examine one of these accounts with a particular eye to the role of religion (both the author's and the "others'"); you may choose note only to conduct a close reading of the text/film, but also examine reader/audience response to these accounts.


Famous travelers. Famous travelers in the modern and premodern period have also left their mark, either in popular imagination or in certain texts. You can research these travelers both through their own texts but also through their influence at the time and their legacy in the construction of "religion."


Denison collections. Denison Library also has a tremendous collection of resources related to travel and religion, including the following (please note: in order to work with special collections at Denison Library, you must work with the Denison Librarian):



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