John Steuart Curry, Baptism in Kansas, 1928

Fundamentalism: An Introduction

Instructor: Suzanne Schneider
Colors NYC
178 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002

“Fundamentalism” emerged in the late nineteenth century to describe groups of Protestant Christians in the United States that, although varying, most frequently orbited around a key set of practices and principles: a literalist and unmediated reading of text, a desire to purge “new” ideas, and a return to “original” precepts and foundations. Today, the impulse to to go back to “the roots” or fundamental principles that inform a society, state, or religious community is associated with a wide range of contemporary actors and movements. From Christian evangelicals to American judges fixated on original intent, Saudi clerics  and Hindu political leaders, fundamentalism has become synonymous with anti-liberal practices the world over. But what is fundamentalism, and what (if anything) do its various popular manifestations actually have in common?

This course will explore fundamentalism in both theory and practice, drawing on a variety of historic and contemporary case studies. What characterizes fundamentalism as a set of interpretive practices? How do fundamentalists imagine the past, and in what ways does this stance toward history shape their designs for the future? Need the impulse to “go back” to the core of something necessarily be romantic or reactionary? Students will consider these questions by looking at thinkers associated with movements as diverse as Constitutional Originalism, American Protestantism, and Salafi Islam. We will begin with documents and studies of the foundation of Christian fundamentalism, such as The Fundamentals (a collection of essays published in 1915 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles), before turning to pivotal court cases and the writings of Justices Hugo Black, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Finally, we will consider a series of case-studies of contemporary religious fundamentalism including Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones, Roxanne Euben’s Enemy in the Mirror, and Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Wal-Mart.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
September 12 — October 03, 2017
4 weeks


Registration Open

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