Undergraduate Study

Undergraduate Concentration 

Daniel Vaca, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Tina Creamer, Departmental Administrator

Religious Studies explores religious thought and practice in various historical, cultual, and social contexts, in order to understand and interpret societies and cultures throughout the world.  It fosters scholarly skills such as close reading (of text, images, artifacts, and other social data), excellence in writing and verbal expression, interpretation of the past from multiple forms of evidence, and assessment of contemporary social issues.  By exploring the public and private concerns that a focus on religion highlights - for example, the creation of community, the nature of the individual, suffering, and death, good and evil - students discover new ways of interpreting the complex world in which they live.  As studens examine religious activity in regions like Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Europe, they not only learn about the formation and transmission of beliefs, behaviors, values, rituals, and identities but also come to understand how divers peoples have expressed religious understandings of themselves and others through social policies, institutions, and conflicts often seen as secular

1. Basic Requirment

A concentration in religious studies includes a minimum of nine semester-long courses, including RELS 1000 (a junior seminar in methods in the study of religion) and eight other courses conforming to the concentration requirements.  Students who transfer to Brown or study abroad must complete at least five courses in Religious Studies.

2. Distribution of Introductor, Intermediate, and Advanced Courses

Among the eight concentration courses, no more than four courses (out of nine) can be at the introductory level (below 1000).  In addition to any introductory courses and RELS 1000, the plan of study must include at least two intermediate-level courses (0200-0999) and  two advanced level courses (above 1000).

3. Geographic and Methodological Distribution

In order to ensure that students study a diveristy of religious traditions, through multiple methods of study, ethe eight concentration courses (in addition to RELS 1000) must: 1) reflect more than one approach to the study of religion (e.g., philosophical and historical); and 2) examine more than one religious tradition.  To ensure that students examine multiple traditions, the plan of study ordinarily should include two or more courses in each of these areas:

- Traditions that emerge from West Asia and the Mediterranean world (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam).

- Traditions that emerge from South and East Asis (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism)

4.  Courses in Other Departments

Courses listed in other departments but taught by religious studies faculty count toward the program of study.  In addition to courses taught by religious studies faculty, up to three courses taught by faculty in other departments can count toward the program.  Students who transfer to Brown, study abroad, or otherwise petition to include Brwon courses not cross-listed with Religious Studies must still complete at least five courses in Religious Studies.

5. Capstone Project

No later than the end of spring registration in the junior year, the concentrator will determine how he or she will complete a capstone project for the requirement - either by selecting a capstone course, or by undertaking an honors thesis.  A capstone course will be selected in consultation with the concentration advisor and other faculty as appropriate.  Within the frame of this capstone course and through work completed for the course, the concentrator will address the theoretical and interpretive issues of his or her particular focus in the religious studies concentration.

Honors Thesis (Optional)

A thesis is an opportunity for students to conduct extended independent research under the guidance of faculty.  If a student chooses to write an honors thesis, in addition to completing the typical eight concentration courses (in addition to RELS 1000), the student will enroll in RELS 1999 during both semesters of the senior year.  Whether or not a student receives honors, RELS 1999 will serve as the student's capstone course.  To be eligible to write a thesis, a student must have eanred a grade point average of greater than 3.5 (A=4, B=3, C=2) on courses that count toward the concentration.  Additionally, to be eligible for honors, concentrators take no more than two of the concentration courses with the "S/NC" option, after declaring a Religious Studies concentration.  (Note: if a student is philosophically committed to taking the majority of her or his courses at Brown as "S/NC," that student may petition the Department to waive the "S/NC" limit.)  Writing the thesis is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for receiving Honors.  In order to receive Honors, the student's thesis must earn an A from its readers, and the student must have earned a grade point average of greater than 3.5 in the concentration and satisfied all other concetration requirements.