Spring 2019

Religion, Empires, and Secular States in the Nineteenth Century

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-320  |  History, as HIST-319  |  Religion, as RELI-322


Trent E. Maxey (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 319 [ME/TC/TEC], ASLC 320 [WA] and RELI 322) Conceptions of the religious and the secular that continue to resonate today assumed global significance in the course of the nineteenth century as colonial empires and nascent nation-states negotiated how they would govern heterogeneous populations and interact with each other. Drawing on scholarship from a number of disciplines that historicize the categories of religion and secularity, this course will examine the political function of the religious and the secular as conceptual and regulatory categories in the 19th century. Colonial administrations, for example, employed the conceit of secularism to neutralize religious difference while individuals and communities attempted to reform and modernize local traditions as “religion” in order to navigate global hierarchies. We will begin with a historiographic and theoretical survey, covering topics that include the academic creation of “World Religions,” the politics of conversion within the British Empire, and the discourse of Orientalist spiritualism. The second half of the course will apply these historiographic and theoretical concerns to East Asia and Japan in particular. Requirements will include two topical essays and one longer paper entailing modest research. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Maxey.

If Overenrolled: Priority will be given to junior and senior history majors, with the remainder on a first come basis.


Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2019