A new take on the course religion and society is being offered this semester at Wesleyan. Taught by Assistant Professor of Religion & Philosophy Dr. Karen Bray, this particular incarnation of religion and society provides the opportunity for students to gain insight about how digital and social media has affected traditional ideas and practices of faith.
"Through this course I'm looking to introduce students to the theories and methods of sociology, anthropology, and ritual studies so that they may better understand their own cultures, and more deeply encounter and engage in a diversity of cultures both in person and online," said Bray.
Students will learn to analyze and critique the lives they live on social media platforms."They will come to understand the rituals they participate in online and what values these rituals uphold or tear down. Once we can see how we are being shaped, we might have the chance to re-imagine this ritual process." The layout of how social media functions religiously and what sort of religions have arisen in the past twenty years will also be analyzed.
"I've had some interesting experiences regarding the intersection of religion and digital culture in the past year and I thought this class would help me make sense of that," said senior Zoe Nuhfer.
One of Bray's goals for the course is to share with students insights gained from her own research on the political theology of social media and from a network of international scholars of digital theology.
Bray's research areas include continental philosophy of religion; feminist, critical disability, critical race, queer, political, and decolonial theories and theologies; and secularism and the post-secular. Bray earned a M.Div. at Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in theological and philosophical studies in religion from Drew University.
Religious studies and philosophy are highly interdisciplinary fields at the core of a liberal arts education. Students at Wesleyan learn the fundamentals of both social sciences and the humanities. As such, they have the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary projects combining multiple majors and minors with religion and philosophy.