The Department of Religious Studies is the main place on campus to study religious life around the world. An interdisciplinary field of study that bridges the humanities and social sciences, the academic study of religion cultivates understanding of societies and cultures throughout the world by exploring religious thought and practice in various historical, geographic, and political contexts. In addition to interrogating public and private concerns such as understandings of self, community, authority, and inequality, students learn how political affairs, institutions, conflicts, and social spheres commonly seen as secular have developed through religious beliefs, behaviors, values, and rituals. Concentrators are equipped with interdisciplinary skills of interpretation and analysis. Those skills include: close analysis of texts, images, artifacts, artistic works, and other social data; synthesis of research through written and verbal expression; interpretation of the past and present through mulitiple forms of evidence; and engagement with contemporary social issues and communities.
Many of today's pressing political and social concerns are illuminated by an understanding of the religious ideas and practices that lie beneath news headlines. By exploring the public and private concerns that religions engage -- for example, the nature of community and solitude, suffering and death, good and evil -- students discover new ways of interpreting the complex world in which they live. As students venture into the religions of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Europe, students not only learn about conflict and accord between religious traditions and communities but also between political, ethical, and economic perspectives typically seen as secular.
The Department of Religious Studies offers vibrant community and diverse courses that represent various academic approaches to the study of religion, including socio historical, textual, ethnographical, ethical, and philosophical. Through these courses, the academic study of religion at Brown engages a wide array of interests, questions, and approaches, while respecting diversity in interest and approach, the Department of Religous Studies endeavors to foster an intellectual community among its faculty and students that is coherent, identifiable, and collegial.