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

Social Theory Foundations

REL 501-001Fall 2018 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Steven Ramey

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

None, except admission to degree program

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

This three credit hour graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas from social theory and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will apply theories to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies, both ancient and modern. Each student will also select an important work in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • FIELDS / RACECRAFT (Required)

Course Objectives

1. Students will engage various social theorists and their ideas

2. Students will apply these ideas to issues and discussion in the academic study of religion

3. Students will develop their own sense of the role of social theory in religious studies

Student Learning Outcomes

Students in REL 501 will be able to

  1. Understand the issues raised by specific social theorists

  2. Apply these theoretical issues to the analysis of various examples in class

  3. Use these theorists to analyze publications and data related to Religious Studies

  4. Present their analysis persuasively and professionally in a written format

  5. Present effectively their analysis of readings and examples orally in class

Other Course Materials

Additional Readings will be available on Blackboard and are marked with asterisks (**) on the schedule of topics and readings below.

Outline of Topics



Reading / Assignment

Aug 22


    ** Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe Introduction

Aug 29

The Self

    Judith Butler, chps 1, 2

    ** Chakrabarty, chp 2

Sept 5


    Pierre Bourdieu, On Television

    ** Joan Scott, “Evidence of Experience” 

Sept 12

The Other

  Fields and Fields, Introduction, chps 1 - 4

    ** Edward Said, Orientalism Introduction

Sept 19


    Fields and Fields, chps 5, 8

    ** Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse chp 4

    ** Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak”

Sept 26


    ** Eric Hobsbawm & Terrence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition chps 1, 2

    ** Frantz Fanon, “On National Culture”

Oct 3


    Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Oct 10


    ** Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity Without Groups chps. 1, 2

    ** Jean-Francois Bayart, Illusion of Cultural Identity chp. 2

    ** Katherine Pratt Ewing, “Revealing and Concealing”

Oct 17


    ** Kamala Vishweswaran, Un/common Cultures chps 2, 3, 7

    **Sherry Ortner, “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture”

    **Sherry Ortner, “So, Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture”

Oct 24


    Fields and Fields, chp. 6

    ** Roland Barthes, “Mythology Today”  

    ** R. Radhkrishnan, “Is Translation a Mode?”

Oct 31


    ** Henri Lefebvre, “Social Space” sections I-IV

    ** Prasanjit Duara, “Asia Redux”

    ** Chakrabarty, chp 7

Nov 7


    ** Talal Asad, “The Construction of Religion”

    ** Tomoko Masuzawa, “From Theology to World Religions”

    ** Hans Penner, “Phenomenology of Religion”

Nov 14


    Butler, chp 3

    ** Chakrabarty, Epilogue              

    ** Bruce Lincoln, “Theses on Method”

Nov 29

Peer Review

Submit draft for peer review by date determined in class

Dec 5


Dec 11

Final paper due at 7:00 pm

Exams and Assignments

Reading comments

Readings for each seminar session must be completed before the seminar. Each student will circulate brief comments (1-2 paragraphs) to the entire class through the #Rel501 channel on Slack prior to the start of the seminar each week (after August 22). These comments should reflect on the reading, asking questions, debating a passage, or considering particular issues and approaches that are especially relevant to the student’s research. Each student should read the comments of others prior to the seminar.

Examples for application

Students will sign up for two seminar sessions at which they will present informally a news article, current event, or everyday example that provides an opportunity to apply and refine the ideas and theory from the readings of that week.

Blog posts

Over the course of the semester, each student will prepare two blog posts, each discussing an example that illustrates a particular point from one of the recent readings. The posts should be succinct (maximum 750 words) and accessible to a broad audience. Students may choose to publish revised versions of posts on the course's blog as well as their own blog.

Final paper and peer editing

Each student is responsible for submitting by the University-scheduled time for the final exam (Dec. 11 @ 7:00 pm) a research paper that illustrates their engagement with and application of social theory. The topic is open but ideally connects with the students broader academic interests. For example, papers could engage one or more examples of scholarship in Religious Studies that relates to the student's area of specialization, analyzing the scholarship in relation to multiple theorists and issues discussed throughout the semester. Students should discuss their topic with the professor by midterm and have a draft ready before Nov 29 for peer editing.

The final paper should be an article length formal academic paper with proper citations. Further instructions and rubrics will be provided by the middle of the semester.

Grading Policy


Points possible

Reading comments / Discussion participation


2 Seminar examples


2 blog posts


Peer editing


Final paper


Final grades will be assigned according to the following grading scale

90-100 points A

80-89 points B

70-79 points C

60-69 points D

below 60 F

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Due to the cooperative nature of the seminar, late and missed assignments frequently have negative effects on others within the seminar. Late or missed assignments, therefore, will be penalized. If the circumstances leading to the late/missed assignment are beyond the control of the student, then reductions in penalties may be applied.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to be present at each seminar session, having completed the assigned reading and student commentaries and prepared to discuss the relevant issues. If a student cannot attend, please notify the professor as soon as possible.

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.