Can religion be an ethnicity? What is the difference between race and ethnicity? How have contemporary nation- states shaped the experience of religious identity? Of racial and ethnic identities? How has the historical construction of race and ethnicity influenced American religion? In response to questions such as these, this course examines the linkage between religion, race, and ethnicity as powerful social formations. The course focuses on the reciprocal, mutually constitutive effects of these identities. We will also devote special attention to the role that religious, racial, and ethnic identities play in shaping American nationalism.
Readings include critical social theory and historical studies of such themes as the medieval concept of limpieza de sangre (“purity of blood”), Manifest Destiny, race and scriptures, the Aryanization of Jesus, and American religious groups like the Moorish Science Temple, Reconstructionist Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, and what experts have described as the racialization of Islam. This course of study will imbue a rich understanding of the historical construction of race and ethnicity and the continuing dependence of religious categories on racial and ethnic formations to shape the public meanings of American nationalism. Sylvester Johnson.