1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement

Survey Of Asian Religion

REL 220-001Fall 2017 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Nathan Loewen

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

No description found

The religions of Asia can be studied with a variety of academic approaches. One typical approach is to focus on ancient scriptures alongside archeological and historical data. Another common approach is to investigate social movements and political events leading up to the emergence of modern nation-states. A more difficult approach involves critical examination of the above by asking about religion in culture. Such a critical approach focuses on questioning the ways in which Asian religions are studied and presented.

REL220 sets the stage for pursuing the critical approach. The course will examine the identities and practices in various ancient South Asian contexts and then consider how these influence contexts in nations considered to be a part of Asia. At a basic level, the class sessions and assignments will revolve around identities associated with terms such as Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. The course will open onto more sophisticated considerations of the various ways people have and do negotiate the diverse practices and ideas of their local contexts. Ideally, the course will make it possible to challenge assumptions that religion is a distinct aspect of the human that interacts only with elements of elite or high culture by examining the ways that the beliefs and behaviors that we commonly classify as religious are a part of everyday culture. Myths, rituals, ideas and traditions circulate all throughout mass culture via print, radio, television, and now the web. The course will therefore often introduce recent, historical examples where the scholar of religion can shed light on the workings of contemporary day-to-day life.

To enroll in REL220 is to join a community of scholars. Everyone in the course, including the professor, will be expected to develop and refine academic skills required to do university-level studies. What does this entail? Studies in the course will involve practicing research skills to find and assemble information into knowledge as well as applying critical analysis to analyze the persuasiveness and biases of that knowledge. Therefore, everyone will be expected to hear, entertain, appreciate and question each other’s viewpoints.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • NONE / NO TEXT REQUIRED (Required)

All readings will be found on Blackboard.

Course Objectives

1. Students will be introduced to the academic study of Asian religions.

2. Students will be introduced to issues in the academic study of religion.

3. Students will practice critical thinking skills.

4. Students will examine and analyze how religion produces, and is produced by, culture.

Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

1. Explain key terms and concepts related to the academic study of religion in Asia.

2. Describe some of the beliefs, practices, texts and institutions of relevance to the people studied by scholars of Asian religions.

3. Apply critical tools (theoretical frameworks) to analyze discourses about religion inAsia.

4. Deploy online reading, writing and research skills in the service of religious studies.

5. Situate and analyze personal preconceptions about Asian religions to larger historical and cultural contexts.

6. Produce analyses of Asian religion scholarship that illustrate the construction and qualification of beliefs and practices considered to be religious.

Other Course Materials

You will need to have access to a computer with a reliable internet connection throughout the course. Ideally, this should be a computer that you can install Google Chrome browser and the Hypothesis Chrome plug-in.

Outline of Topics

Over the course of the term, our class will study the following topics:

• Approaches to defining and studying Asian religions.

• Historical topics and issues regarding the study of Asian religions.

• Consideration of Asian religions amid the formations of early and modern states.

• Consideration of Asian religions in contemporary contexts.

Exams and Assignments

For the schedule of assignments please review the proposed course schedule in the final section of this syllabus. Note : Any changes will be posted as Blackboard announcements as well as updated in the course schedule posted on Blackboard.


Participation in the course takes the form of attending class sessions, participating in class activities during scheduled class sessions or on Blackboard and adding content or comments to course readings (using Hypothesis ; specific instructions will be given in class and on Blackboard). Your participation in online activities will be announced in-class and on Blackboard. Participation in the course is cumulatively worth 20% of your final grade. Missing three class sessions results in a 5% reduction of this score.


There are three written tests during the term. Their dates are listed on the course schedule posted on Blackboard. The tests consists of multiple choice or short answer questions as well as one question distributed the week before the test. Your answers will be evaluated on how substantially and accurately they present your understand the course content. The three tests are worth a total of 40% of your final grade.

Final essay

The final essay will ask you to write on a topic subject to the approval of the professor. The entire set of assignments is worth a total of 40% of your final grade. The grade will be composed of several assignments:

  • Topic proposal.

  • Annotated bibliography.

  • Rough draft.

  • Peer review.

  • Final draft.

  • 60-second presentation.

Extra Credit

There will be several events that present opportunities to earn extra credit during the term. All extra credit opportunities will be made available to the entire class. The typical requirement for extra credit will include proof of attendance and a short writing assignment evaluated on how substantially and accurately the event may be related to the course content. Successfully completed extra credit assignments will add 1% to a final course grade. Students are welcome to propose such opportunities at least two weeks in advance. Examples of such events includes:

  • REL360 films.

  • Diwali celebrations at UA.

  • Other events supported by the Department of Religious Studies.

  • Acceptance of a blog post for the REL student blog.

Grading Policy

Final grades are calculated as follows: 1000-930=A; 929-900=A-; 899-870=B+; 869-830=B; 829-800=B-; 799-770=C+; 769-730=C; 729-700=C-; 699-600=D; 599-0=F

No grades of “I” (Incomplete) will be assigned in this course. Please speak with me well in advance if you are having difficulties satisfactorily completing the course’s requirements on time or if you anticipate your absence from class becoming routine and thus a problem. Although I cannot guarantee that an accommodation can be made for all occasions that may arise, speaking with the professor before a problem arises will greatly enhance our ability to address the situation in a way that is both fair to your classmates and beneficial to you. No extra credit will be offered as substitutes for any assignments.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Missed Assignments

Unless noted otherwise, late assignments will be marked off one letter grade for each day that they are late (including weekends and holidays). Extensions will be granted only with the prior approval of the instructor only in cases of extraordinary circumstances. The late penalty will be waived if you are unable to submit an assignment due to legitimate circumstances beyond your control such as a documented illness, a serious family emergencies, or severe weather.

Missed tests

An excused absence from tests, quizzes and exams will require evidence of your legitimate absence, such as a documented illness, a serious family emergencies, or severe weather, to be presented to the professor in a timely fashion if you wish not to lose marks on your grade. If you miss a test, quiz or exam you must contact the professor immediately to explain your absence; make‐up tests and quizzes are not an option in this course; instead, for such absences that the professor deems legitimate, the portion of the grade dedicated to the missed test or quiz will be completely transferred to the next test or quiz.

Attendance Policy

REL220 is a combined lecture and discussion course. And so, you are responsible for contributing to your learning experience as well as that of everyone else in the course. Therefore, behaviors that make others feel uncomfortable in their learning environment will not be tolerated. Regular attendance and participation in the course is expected both in class and online. Please see further details on the UA attendance policy.

The Code of Student Conduct requires that students behave in a manner that is conducive to a teaching/learning environment. Students who engage in behavior that is disruptive or obstructive to the teaching/learning environment will be subject to disciplinary sanctions outlined by the Code of Student Conduct. The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility. The UAact website provides a list of reporting channels that can be used to report incidences of illegal discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence, retaliation, threat assessment or fraud.

You are strongly advised to take hand-written notes during this course. Your use of technology in the classroom will be at the discretion of the professor. Unless otherwise asked, please put your cell phone on silent or airplane mode during class. If you bring a laptop or tablet to class, please be ready to be called upon for information or to use it during in-class activities.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.