2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

In Our Image: Communities of Faith


Spring 2012 quarter

Rita Pougiales anthropology, education
Fields of Study
American studies, anthropology, cultural studies and religious studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
religious studies and community studies.

“Communities of faith” are those groups of people who are dedicated to one another and to seeking the good. We will approach “faith” as a commitment to a good that can be illusive and hard to grasp, yet represents what Paul Tillich describes as an “ultimate concern.”  Faith, as such, is a matter of trust in the process of seeking that ultimate concern.  Faith, understood in this way, cuts across all dimensions of our society including those committed to political, environmental, educational, and spiritual ends.

We are particularly interested in the means by which members of religious communities embody their faith and beliefs.  Our study will be largely ethnographic, looking in depth at the rituals, devotions, and practices of faith communities. In particular, we will focus on those practices that depend on the body for expression, movement and sound. Such practices are not only reflections of faith, they also expand its experience and meaning.

We will look at the cultural practices, experiences and shared expectations of members of communities of faith, and attempt to understand what is meaningful for them.  We will be guided in our study of “faith” by Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith and additional readings by authors Karen Armstrong and Richard Niebuhr. We will delve into the nature of communities through ethnographic and historical case studies including a medieval religious community led by Hildegard of Bingen, Orthodox fire-walking communities in rural Greece and Maine, and a contemporary Catholic convent in Mexico. In addition to these studies, each student will conduct her or his own research on a particular community of faith.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
March 5th, 2012 Slight name change from Communities of Faith.
February 14th, 2012 New offering added.