Disability and Religion
Advanced undergraduate seminar.
This course considers the relationship between religion and experiences/understandings of disability across three major world monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students will examine theologies of the body and its relation to the soul/spirit/individual personhood, interpretations of disability in relation to spirituality, medical treatment of individuals with disabilities, and the histories of key religious figures who themselves had disabilities. By the end of this course, students will:
Understand various theological interpretations of disability in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam;
Develop critical perspectives on the influence of religion upon real people’s experiences of disability both historically and in the present day; and
Practice analyzing literary and artistic representations of the disabled body in religious contexts.
Three online quizzes, primarily composed of short-answer and short-essay questions, which will gauge students’ understanding of the basic principles and history of each religion under study.
A short essay (1,000–1,500 words) responding to an example of the student’s choosing from recent news, current events, or popular culture in which concepts of disability and religion/faith intersect.
An analytical paper of 3,000 to 3,500 words (not counting bibliography), drawing on secondary scholarship to discuss one of the primary texts or topics from this course, or another text/topic pertaining to disability and religion. This project will be assessed at multiple stages, including a topic proposal, research plan, and a conference with the instructor prior to final submission of the essay.
Readings will include:
Contemporary first-person narratives by people with disabilities that examine their relationship to faith and religion
Major figures in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism who had disabilities—such as Moses and his speech impairment—and how those disabilities have been discussed
Scriptures, including the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an
Exegesis, including the Qumran (aka Dead Sea) Scrolls, Augustine of Hippo’s commentary on Christian theology, and both Sunni and Shi’a tafsir of the Qur’an
Narratives of healing miracles and accounts of sanctity
Historical studies of medicine and health care in religious communities
Theology on death and the afterlife
Studies of (often intersecting) stigma against religious alterity and disability