Catalog Version

Summer/Autumn 2013
Catalog update:
May 15, 2013

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​The Department of Religious Studies offers students the opportunity to engage in the academic study of religion.  Because our era is characterized by a resurgence of religion in the public sphere, we see that religion has become central to contemporary culture, politics, identity, and conflict in every part of the globe.  At the same time, our world is marked by an emerging pluralism, as globalization, migration, and technology bring diverse religious communities in closer proximity, and create new religious communities as well.  Drawing on a host of academic disciplines, religious studies challenges students to encounter the traditions of the world in all their rich diversity, and also prepares them to facilitate the important conversations of our day. Further, students may find that the study of religions can help them respond not only to political, social and environmental challenges, but also to existential questions faced by all peoples.  

A truly interdisciplinary field, the study of religion at DePaul develops broad cultural literacy and intellectual skills in the critical analysis of history, anthropology, literature, philosophy, sociology, theology, the visual arts, psychology, and gender studies.  In this way, a religious studies major or minor is positioned to pursue a wide variety of careers, as well as to become a bridge between the specialist's perspectives on religion and the wider world that is often in need of these perspectives.  In addition to academic careers, religious studies majors have worked in the fields of law, social work, regional and international business, governmental and non-governmental service, secondary school teaching, and service in religious communities.   

Religious Studies at DePaul expresses the university's distinct identity, which respects engaged pluralistic inquiry in all religious issues and traditions.  The department is committed to DePaul's Catholic, Vincentian and urban heritage, mission, and identity, and to its goal of establishing the university as a model of diversity.  The department's course offerings reflect the diversity of the city of Chicago and of the students who attend DePaul.  In the Department of Religious Studies, students can not only study multiple religious traditions, but also explore a range of topics and questions related to these traditions in various parts of the world.  Because of the interdisciplinary character of our department, and of the field in general, students can approach these traditions and questions from multiple methodological and disciplinary perspectives.  The study of religion includes not only the traditional areas of sacred texts, myths, rituals, and doctrines, but also the ways in which political, social and economic forces shape these phenomena for religious communities.  

The twenty-five full-time faculty constitute one of the largest and most diverse undergraduate departments of religious studies in the United States.  This size and diversity enables us to offer courses in a wide range of geographical regions and historical periods.  The research and teaching interests of the faculty include South and East Asia, Africa and the African diaspora, North and Meso-America, the Middle East and Europe, and focus on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, as well as Native American, African American, and Latino/a religious traditions. The Department of Religious Studies sponsors the Center for Interreligious Engagement; it also has a close working relationship with the Catholic Studies and Islamic World Studies programs.   Given the complexity of the subject matter, in their work the members of the department draw upon anthropology, art history, biblical studies, economics, environmental studies, ethics, gender studies, history, linguistics, literature, political science, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and theology.  In addition to excellence in teaching, the faculty also maintain high standards for research, and are actively engaged in presenting at major academic conferences and publishing their work in high-ranking professional journals.  

Beyond work with texts, students may also study religion through the media of film and video, music, the visual and dramatic arts, and the internet.  The department emphasizes comprehensive learning in writing, synthetic and analytic thinking, and oral communication skills.  Students can go beyond their course work with further learning opportunities, such as the senior thesis, independent study, study abroad and internships, and service learning, both locally and internationally.    

The Department encourages students in all major concentrations and minors to engage various questions related to the study of religion, such as (but not limited to):

  • What is religion?
  • How do religious communities come into being and define themselves?
  • How do religious communities form worldviews, doctrines, and practices, and how does the study of religion help us to understand their change over time?
  • How do sacred texts come into being, and what do they communicate to us?
  • How does religion shape culture, and how does the wider culture define religion?
  • What is the role of religion in the contemporary world?
  • How do religion or religious sensibilities help us to relate (or hinder us from relating) to each other?
  • How can an informed student of religion evaluate the rival claims to truth and moral rightness of different religious and secular ideologies?
  • How do religious traditions and texts treat issues of sexuality and gender, race and class?
  • How have religious traditions interacted with each other in the past, and how do they continue to do so today?