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

Rel & Ident in South Asia

REL 321-001Spring 2018 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Steven Ramey

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

This course critically analyzes how people identify themselves/draw boundaries to separate groups from each other, using South Asian case studies. While these divisions involve many elements, such as nationality, linguistic identity, gender, and class, aspects of human experience commonly identified as religious frequently intersect with these divisions and identities. IBA ASST

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

No description found

This course will analyze critically the various ways people identify themselves and separate groups from each other. While these divisions involve many elements, such as nationality, ethnic/linguistic identity, gender, and occupation, aspects of society commonly identified as religions frequently intersect with these divisions. Focusing on South Asia, we will investigate how communities construct these boundaries legally and informally, how these boundaries have changed over time and intersected with other areas of society, and how minority communities contest the dominant forms of these boundaries. After introducing South Asia, we will focus on the relation of identification to conflict and Indian nationalism, the complexity of labels, and a case study of what is commonly labeled Sikhism, considering how the various issues of the course and the alternate approach fit with the discourse surrounding Sikhism. Throughout this study, we will theorize about the relations between various aspects of human experience and the different representations of these relationships in both society and scholarship.

In this room, we become a community of scholars, constantly refining our academic skills as well as developing our understanding of various subjects. Approaching religions in an academic setting requires that we think critically to analyze the persuasiveness and biases that our sources of information present. To make the class successful, each scholar must listen respectfully to the opinions of others and contribute their insights honestly. No one has to accept a particular viewpoint, but everyone needs to understand the variety of opinions and the reasoning behind those opinions.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

Course Objectives

  • Present background knowledge about the complexity of Indian society

  • Discuss theories of identification

  • Use Indian society and Sikhism specifically to apply theories to current experience

Student Learning Outcomes

Scholars in Rel 321 will be able to

1) Describe the complexity of religious boundaries and identities in South Asia.

2) Theorize about issues related to identity using data of religions in South Asia.

3) Critically discriminate between reliable and less reliable information from a variety of sources providing data about South Asia.

4) Apply appropriate scholarly and research methods that pertain to the study of religion to a topic of their choosing.

5) Develop effective written communication skills.

Other Course Materials

Additional readings will be available on Blackboard and are marked in the course schedule below with **

Outline of Topics






Jan 10

What is identity?

**Appiah, Ethics of Identity, pp. 62-71

Jan 17

What is Hinduism?

** King, “Colonialism, Hinduism, & Discourse of Rel”

** Jha, "The Myth of the Holy Cow"

Jan 24

What is Islam?

** Metcalf “Imagining Muslim Futures”

** Flueckiger “Rel Healing & Ritual Relationships”

Jan 31

What is Sikhism?

Nesbitt chps 1-4


Feb 7

Violence, Identity, and History

Pandey chps 1-2

Feb 14

Identity Politics and Lord Ram

Pandey chp. 4 and chp. 4 Appendix

Feb 21

Marked and Unmarked Indians

Pandy chps. 5-6


Feb 28

The Indian Census and Labels

Nesbitt chp. 5

**Jones, “Religious Identity & Indian Census”

Proposal due

Mar 7

Contesting Labels

**Lelyveld, “Colonial Knowledge and the Fate of Hindustani”

** Sikand, “The Sai Baba of Shirdi”

Mar 21

Caste and Social Structure

Pandey chp. 7

Nesbitt chp. 7

Mar 28

Challenging Dominant Labels

**Ramey, “Contesting Categories”

**Ramey, “Forging Identities”

Reading List / Outline due


Apr 4

1984 and Sikh Identity

**Chopra, “Commemorating Hurt”

Apr 11

Diasporic Sikhs

Nesbitt chp. 6

**Leonard, “Historical Constructions of Ethnicity”

Apr 18

Peer Review

Draft to reviewer by 5 pm 17 Apr

Apr 25

Conclusions and Review

May 3

Final papers due by 7:00 pm

Exams and Assignments


Each scholar will present 3 news items/current events that relate to the course topic and theory in some fashion. Class sessions will typically begin with these presentations, and no scholar can do more than one presentation in a week. Presentations should be brief (5-10 minutes) and provide an overview of the event/news article, a critical analysis of the source, and a discussion of how the current event extends or connects to issues in the course.


Each scholar must submit, at the beginning of a class session, a one-page typed reflection on a reading for that week. Each reflection should include a paragraph summarizing the specific reading (including the citation for that reading) and a paragraph reflecting on the reading, either relating that reading to something else from the class, a more specific discussion of a particular example in the reading, a variety of questions that the reading raises for the scholar, or a suggestion of a similarity to something outside of the class material. Over the course of the semester, each scholar must submit 8 reading reflections (1 per week for 8 of the 12 weeks with readings assigned, excluding January 10).


Each scholar must prepare and write a research paper on a topic related to South Asia of their own choosing that will be graded according to the grading rubric presented in class early in the semester. The body of the research paper (not counting title page, if any, or reference list) should be at least a full 10 pages. The selection of topic should take place in consultation with the professor prior to submitting the formal proposal, which is one page describing the topic, the anticipated analysis and, most importantly, the argument that the scholar anticipates making. This proposal is due on 28 February. The second step in the process is to prepare a reading list of relevant sources and a general outline of the paper’s argument, which is due 28 March.

Scholars will be assigned a peer review writing group. Each scholar must submit a complete draft to the group through Blackboard by 5:00 pm on 17 April. Each group member should review and comment on the other drafts in the group. During class on 18 April, groups will meet to discuss those drafts, comments, and rubrics.

The final research paper must be a formal academic paper that demonstrates analytical and critical thinking skills, presents a coherent argument, and reflects careful editing. The paper will serve as the final exam and is due by 7:00 pm on May 3. I expect quality academic research making use of primary sources, peer-reviewed journals and books in Gorgas Library as appropriate, and the approaches discussed in class. Accurate citations/references are required for any academic paper. When submitting the final paper, scholars must include each component of the paper (proposal, reading list and outline, draft and peer review comments) along with the final draft.


Your positive participation in the seminar is also vital. Participation goes beyond the number of words someone speaks to include both their contribution to the overall class and their attentiveness. I expect everyone to speak up during classes. Be prepared to ask questions about the readings and class material and/or contribute your own ideas or analysis. Disruptive behavior or disrespect shown to others will not be tolerated.

Grading Policy

The course includes a total of 1000 points possible, distributed as follows:


Points possible (Total 1000 points)

Attendance / Participation


8 Reading Reflections (25 points each)


3 Current Event Presentations (50 points each)


Research proposal


Reading List / Outline of research paper


Draft for peer review


Peer Review participation


Final Research Paper


Final grades will be based on the following ranges: 970-1000 = A+; 920-969 = A; 900-919 = A-; 870-899 = B+; 820-869 = B; 800-819 = B-; 770-799 = C+; 720-769 = C; 700-719= C-; 600-699 = D; 0-599 = F

All academic work must be the product of the scholar submitting it. Cheating will not be tolerated. Plagiarizing the work of someone else (quoting or summarizing another person’s ideas or intellectual labor without giving them credit through proper quotations, citations, and acknowledgment) is a serious offence. If I discover that a scholar has copied the work of another author (whether a peer, classmate, or published author), the case will be referred to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

All scholars are encouraged to come to my office hours, set up an appointment, and/or contact me by phone (348-4218), or email steven.ramey@ua.edu for assistance. Please speak with me well in advance if you are having difficulties satisfactorily completing the course’s requirements on time or if you anticipate routine absences. Although I cannot guarantee that reasonable accommodations can be made, speaking with me before a problem arises will greatly enhance our ability to address the situation in a way that is fair to your classmates and beneficial to you.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Late submissions of any assignments or missed presentations will be penalized significantly, and a late draft prohibits proper peer review. Final papers must be submitted by the due date because of the necessity of submitting final grades.

Attendance Policy

The success of this course requires the contribution of all scholars. When you are absent, you miss an opportunity to learn from the other scholars, and they miss an opportunity to learn from you. More than 2 absences will significantly impact your attendance /participation grade. If the absences are beyond your control due to health or family reasons, let me know as soon as possible. The impact of such excused absences may be reduced. If you are late, please join the class as soon as possible without disrupting the learning experience. Habitual tardiness, however, is unacceptable and can be counted as an absence. You remain responsible for anything that you miss, including announcements

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.