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Graduate Program


Graduate Program

Course Offerings


Graduate Fall 2008 Courses


JS 540H: Rabbinic Judaism: Midrash

JS 561: Methods in Jewish Studies

JS 597R: Directed Study
JS 598R: Thesis/Exam Preparation

JS 730: Ethnography of Religious Experience: A Critical Introduction
JS 730: Issues in Israel's National Security, 1949-Present



JS 540H: Rabbinic Judaism: Midrash
Blumenthal, Time: W 2-5, MAX: 12


Course description: Midrash is the key form of biblical interpretation in rabbinic Judaism. It is also one of the main genres of rabbinic literature. This class will study closely one text: Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. We will first read through the text in English and then concentrate on selections from the Hebrew text.



  • Midrash Rabbah: Genesis

Particulars: TBA

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JS 561: Methods in Jewish Studies
, M 2:00-5:00, MAX: 12

Course description: Throughout Jewish history, from its earliest beginnings to the current day, Jews as a group have understood their neighbors through various concepts of "other" while at the same time often being seen and treated as "the other" by the larger society.  Against the backdrop of this lengthy and multi-faceted narrative, we will explore how a variety of disciplines, including history, anthropology, theology, literature, linguistics, and art history look at these issues.  For each discipline, we will examine its assumptions and articulate clearly the questions it seeks to answer, looking at examples of its approach each week.  The feminist critique of disciplines will also be covered.


  • 2 to 3 articles or book chapters each week

Particulars: Intensive weekly readings, student presentations, final paper.

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JS 597R: Directed Study
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 598R: Thesis/Exam Preparation
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 730: Ethnography of Religious Experience: A Critical Introduction (same as RLSR 780, ANT 585)
Seeman, Th 2:00-5:00, MAX: 18 (6 RLSR, 6 JS, 6 ANT)

Course description : "Experience" is an under-theorized concept in both anthropology and the study of religion. This course asks how both disciplines can be transformed through the ethnographic study of religious experience in its lived contexts. What constitutes experience, and how can it be described cross-culturally? What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research methodology in the study of religion? What are the theoretical as well as practical and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to be human in different social and religious settings, from spirit possession in Northern Sudan to charismatic healing in Catholic America? What is at stake for people in these settings?

This seminar is a critical introduction to theory and methodology in the anthropology of religion. We will read full-length ethnographies that focus on a variety of religious settings, as well as William James, Clifford Geertz and at least one work of fiction. How does ethnography ask and answer questions differently than any other methodology in the study of religion? What are its strengths and limitations? And how do recent trends in the anthropology of human experience promise to transform both anthropology and the study of religion as academic disciplines? Case studies that include the ethnography of Charismatic Christian healers in America, Muslim women in Sudan and Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to Israel will be read alongside ethnographies of Haitian spiritualists and African diviners. Films will be shown four times during the semester at an additional meeting. Students will write a critical book review of two or more books and will conduct their own mini-ethnography.

Texts Available for Purchase:

  • Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
  • Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men and the Zar Cult in
    Northern Sudan
  • Geoffrey Lienhardt, Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka
  • Thomas Csordas, Language, Charisma and Creativity: The Ritual Life of a
    Religious Movement
  • Elenore Smith Bowen, Return to Laughter
  • Unni Wikan, Tomorrow, God Willing: Self Made Destinies in Cairo
  • Vincent Crapanzano, Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan
  • Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity
  • Gananath Obeyesekere, Medusa's Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and
    Religious Experience
  • William James, Varieties of Religious Experience
  • Robert Desjarlais, Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths Among Nepal's
    Yolmo Buddhists

Texts Available in Class:

  • Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System" and "Thick Description,"
    both from The Interpretation of Cultures
  • Don Seeman, Tainted Hearts: Being "Felashmura" in Israel
  • Rudolph Otto, The Holy
  • Arthur Kleinman, "Everything that Really Matters," Harvard Theological

Particulars: This course will be run in seminar format. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions and to take turns presenting material and leading class discussions. We will average one full ethnography per week. There will be one short paper (possibly a mini-ethnography or interview assignment) and one longer paper (possibly a critical book review). Students who are currently conducting ethnographic research projects may petition to write about their own ethnography.

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JS 730: Issues in Israel's National Security, 1949-Present (same as HIST 585)
, Time: M 4:00-7:00, MAX: 6 (JS 2, HIST 4)

Content: National security is a prime issue in Israel, and it was so since its existence. Being established in war, leaving in hostile environment, Israel had to deal with issues pertaining to its national security with the highest priority. The course will focus on several issues pertaining to Israel's national security, bringing together military, diplomatic and social issues. We'll study the ideas that provided the basis for the development of Israel's national security policy, build up of the IDF and the development of military strategy that were aimed to accomplish the goals of Israel's national security policy; the role of diplomacy in shaping and conduct of Israel's national security policy; the pursuit of peace and the conduct of wars; military-civic relations in Israel; Israel and the non-conventional threats, nuclear and low-intensity conflicts.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA

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Last updated: June 12, 2008



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