Religion and Media course at Steinhardt

Another course that may interest Draper students. Talk to Robert during advisement if you’re interested in registering; this would count as a non-GSAS course.

MCC-GE 2284 Religion & Media / Prof. Arvind Rajagopal
Tuesdays, 2:00 pm -4:10 pm

Religion has for a long time been understood as superseded by science through a process of secularization. Meanwhile, the natural world has become “disenchanted,” we usually assume. However, the importance of religion has grown enormously, instead of declining.

Media, which are products of the most advanced science, “mediate” most information (you are reading this in one or other kind of medium, e.g.) and thus cut across the divide between religion and science. The faith we used to place in religion reappears in relation to media, and more broadly, all around us in everyday life. The more science and modern information appear to disenchant and rationalize the world, the more we witness new practices of enchantment, fetishistic thought and image worship.

Media are often treated as if they had magical effects – think of the positive reaction in the west when Facebook, Twitter and other social media were noticed during the uprisings in the Arab Spring. Practices regarded as secular, such as market capitalism, are defended as if they were sacred. Sacrifice is outdated if not outlawed, but the logic of sacrifice has entered the political arena even in many secular societies. When religion and secularism clash, secularism wins the theoretical battle, but often loses it in reality to religion. What kinds of analysis can respond adequately to such a conundrum? Studying the relationship of “media” and “religion” is a powerful tool, as we will see in this class.

In this class, we will trace shifts in debates about religion in modernity from the late 19th C. onwards (Nietzsche, Durkheim, Weber, Agamben), and explore key concepts including fetish, image, sacrifice and sovereignty. We will conclude with the present-day wars on Islamic terror and the clash of civilizations.


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