Course Syllabus

Instructor: Ted Vial

Course Description

Several important books have recently been published making the case that religion, and more specifically, Christian theology, have played a constitutive role in creating the ideas of race and racial hierarchies. This course is an extended argument (with which students are free to agree or disagree in part or in whole—in any case they will become familiar with the relevant literature and concepts) that 1. In significant ways religion and race are modern, not universal or permanent, constructions; that 2.  Religion and race are two of the very few fundamental conceptual building blocks of the modern world, such that, no matter what one thinks of religion and race, one is unable to think or operate in the modern world without them; and that 3. Religion and race are mutually imbricated in such a way that, even when race is not explicitly a topic of discussion or observation, modern religion is always already racialized.

Course Goals

  1. to see the way religion and race have been constructed in the modern world
  2. to see the way that religion and race are linked in the modern world;
  3. to see the work that these concepts do;
  4. and to become familiar with many of the leading theorists religion, theology, and race.

Required Books

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (Vintage 1992)

Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination:  Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale 2010)

Jarena Lee, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee (CreateSpace 2017)

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (Beacon Press 1996)

Theodore Vial, Modern Religion, Modern Race (Oxford, 2016) (e-copy available through Iliff’s library:


Additional required readings (marked with an asterisk* in the Schedule of Readings) are available on the course Canvas page.

Paper Guidelines

Background Assignment Guidelines

Discussion Guidelines

Policies and Services

Course Summary:

Date Details Due