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 321-001Fall 2019 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Steven Ramey

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:

Office hours Thursdays 9-10 and 1-2

Everyone in this seminar is encouraged to come to my office hours. A professor's office hours are time set aside especially for discussions with students about the course or other issues. If those times are not convenient, you are also welcome to 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.


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

Investigates the intersections of various social divisions and identities with religious labels and practices by analyzing case studies from South Asia.

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 intersect 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 fit with the discourse surrounding religions in South Asia. 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.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • NESBITT / (eBook) Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction (Optional)

Student Learning Outcomes

Students 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. Analytically compare scholarly articles that pertain to the study of South Asian religions.

  5. Develop effective written communication skills.

Other Course Materials

Additional readings will be available on Blackboard as a PDF.

Outline of Topics

The readings listed with each day should be completed before that day’s seminar. Assignments listed as Pandey and Nesbitt can be found in Gyanendra Pandey, Routine Violence and Eleanor Nesbitt A Very Short Introduction to Sikhism, respectively. Other readings marked with ** will be available on the course’s Blackboard page.

Class session



Aug 27 What is Identity?

**Appiah, Ethics Of Identity, pp. 62‐71

Sept 3 What is Hinduism?

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

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

Sept 10 What is Islam?

** Metcalf “Imagining Muslim Futures”

** Flueckiger “Religious Healing & Ritual Relationships”

Sept 17 What is Sikhism?

Nesbitt chps 1-4

Sept 24 Textbook Analysis Presentations

Group Presentations

Oct 1 Violence, Identity, and History

Pandey chps 1-2

Oct 8 Identity Politics and Lord Ram

Pandey chp. 4 and chp 4 Appendix

Textbook Analysis Essay due

Oct 15 Marked and Unmarked Indians

Pandey chps 5-6

Oct 22 The Indian Census and Labels

Nesbitt chp 5

**Jones, “Religious Identity & Indian Census”

** Sikand, “The Sai Baba of Shirdi”

Oct 29 Caste and Social Structure

Pandey chp 7

Nesbitt chp 7

Nov 5 Challenging Dominant Labels

**Ramey, “Accidental Favorites”

**Ramey, “Forging Identities”

Nov 12 1984 and Sikh Identity

**Chopra, “Commemorating Hurt”

Current event blog post due

Nov 19 Diasporic Sikhs

Nesbitt chp 6

**Leonard, “Historical Constructions of Ethnicity”

Nov 26 Library Research Day

No Class Meeting

Locate articles for Analysis Paper

Dec 3 Conclusions

Optional Rewrites of blog posts due

Dec 12 Analysis Paper Due

Paper due at 7:00 pm (University set Final Exam time)

Exams and Assignments


Before the start of class each week, each student should post on the Blackboard discussion board a comment or questions related to the reading (about 1 paragraph worth). These comments may address a specific passage or an issue across the entire reading. Posts may involve an observation about the representation of a particular issue (power dynamics, social relations, gender, religious identification, etc.), questions that the readings raised that you want to discuss further, or connections with other assigned readings or class discussion. Each response is worth 15 points, with credit for a maximum of 8 responses out of the 11 weeks with assigned readings.


Students will be divided into three groups, each group being assigned one of the three religions that will be the focal point of the seminar. Each student in a group will be loaned a different world religions textbook with a chapter on their assigned religion. The group’s task is to compare the ways each textbook presents the religion and the choices that the respective authors make. The group presentation on September 24 should be about 15 minutes, with each person contributing to the oral presentation.


Each student will write an essay of 4-5 pages that presents an analysis of the textbook chapter that they were assigned for the group presentation. They should analyze the textbook for the choices and emphases that the author makes, using class material and readings and the chapters of others in the group as comparative material. Essays should be written as professional academic papers, and they will be graded according to a rubric provided in class. These essays are due on October 8.


Each student will present 2 news items/current events that relate to the course topic and theory in some fashion. Students must submit 1-3 powerpoint slides by noon on the day of the class during which they want to present. No student 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 student will write a brief (maximum 700 words) blog post that applies the ideas from the course to a particular current event. The current event can be one that the student has presented in class (but it does not have to be), and the post can draw on class discussion. The blog post should be written for a general audience and is due November 12. Anyone dissatisfied with their grade on the blog post will have the opportunity to rewrite their post, which can be submitted anytime before December 3. Selected posts, with the permission of the author, will be posted on the department blog. A rubric and details will be presented in class prior to the due date.


Each student must prepare and write an analysis paper that compares two scholarly articles related to South Asia. Students may select articles using the library database. The body of the analysis paper (not counting title page, if any, or reference list) should be at least 8 pages. The focus of the analysis will be the ways the author represents communities in South Asia, using tools and examples from the course to engage the articles. Each paper will be graded according to the grading rubric presented in class early in the semester. The final analysis 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 Dec. 12. Accurate citations/references are required for any academic paper.

Grading Policy

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


Points possible (Total of 1000)



Discussion Board Posts

8 @ 15 points each


Textbook Analysis Group Presentation


Textbook Analysis Essay


Current Event Presentations

2 @ 25 points each


Current Event Blog Post


Final Analysis 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. (See Academic Misconduct Policy linked below.)

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Late submissions of any assignments will be penalized. 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 others, 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.

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.

Notification of Changes

The professor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the professor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the professor 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.