There are innumerable contexts in which religion and politics come into contact and conflict. From the violence wielded against Uighur Muslims by the Chinese State to the issues around gender and religion in India’s temples, any state must come to terms with the religious composition of its population and the challenges it can pose secular society. Rather than a final exam, this class will conclude with the creation and display of a research poster or video presentation; you can either create a poster that concisely summarizes information gleaned from research in a way that is understandable and attractive to a wider audience, or you can create a short (~5 minute) documentary-esque style of video that looks into your chosen issue.
Either way, you will present information on the relationship between religion and politics in a time and place which you will select midway through the semester. I will provide a list of topics for you to choose from, but you are invited to investigate a topic of your own choosing (in consultation with me). As mentioned, if you find yourself drawn to a topic early on I encourage you to use the News Report assignments as a means to build your research over the entire semester. The class following Spring Break will be the time for you to commit to a topic.
At the least, projects must a) briefly consider the historical moments that led to the state of affairs, b) identify the main players in the issue, c) analyze what was at stake in the issue (the “so what” question), and d) give your own assessment of the scenario, including possible solutions or outcomes. For those examining a situation from the past, you should consider what happened and why.
You are expected to use at least 3 scholarly sources and whatever number of news sources you feel appropriate. All cases I will provide have been thoroughly analyzed by scholars, so there should be no shortage of material to use. You are expected to use academic databases (available through Montclair State’s library website: https://www.montclair.edu/library/ (Links to an external site.)) to identify scholarly articles to use in research. Reference librarians are available online to assist you, and I’m happy to help however I can if you’re unsure on how to go about researching.
The design, layout, information contained and overall aesthetic will be up to you, but I will also show you a model poster to give you some ideas on how to proceed, and we will spend time discussing what makes a good poster and what elements might be useful to include in either format (images, charts, timelines, etc.). On our last meeting day, you will display your project and engage with others in a discussion of your findings. Your peers will be completing their own grading sheer evaluating your poster itself and your ability to elaborate on the display and respond to their questions. Peer grading will account for 10% of the presentation grade. More details will be available as the semester progresses.
REV: While the project will still be the capstone of the course, the suggestion for a digital form has now become a necessity. Everything here written is still active, the only big shift will be the medium for the project itself. What was intended to be a physical poster will now be a digital format, and there are a few ways you can do that. The first is the mini-documentary that I suggested above. For that you should channel your inner Warner Hertzog, Michael Moore, or Jehane Noujaim and create a 5-10 minute documentary on the topic you’re assigned.
Another option would be to channel your inner professor and approach the project as though teaching a mini-class. If you go this route, you could create a narrated PowerPoint lecture regarding your topic. PowerPoint makes it very easy to record audio and video as part of a slideshow. After creating a number of slides you feel appropriate, you would then go through and record a PowerPoint show to elaborate on the points visible on your slides. You’ve seen me and other (undoubtedly less skilled) professors do this by this point, and now is your chance! Keep any such shows to under 10 minutes.
A final option would be for you to mimic your first (and too often only) stop for research: you could create a Wiki page for your topic. Canvas offers the opportunity to create Wiki pages right on our site, so if you choose to go this direction you would write up a page that would be at home on Wikipedia. You will NOT copy any such pages; you would be creating your own based on your own research, analysis and insight. Let me know if you choose to go this path, as I may need to initially create the page for you.
Whichever format you choose, you should attend to the a)-d) aspects outlined above, and provide a bibliography recounting the material you used in research. These are to show your ability to parse the complex relationship between religion and politics in the realm of your topic. I expect these to be thoughtful, detailed, and succinct, and be sure to think about your presentation.
All projects must be posted on Canvas by our last class period on May 5. Peer grading will still be part of the grading for this assignment; since we can walk around conversing with each other, from 5:30-8p on May 5th we will hold a virtual session where you’ll watch/read/listen to the projects of your classmates and give them a grade using a sheet I will give you. This not only gives you a chance to comment and view the work of your colleagues, but also experience the process of academic evaluation. It’s fun.
I strongly encourage you to begin working on the project as soon as possible. Using the News Reports will allow you to make incremental progress as we proceed through the remainder of the semester, and taking small steps will make a huge difference as the semester comes to a close. I am here to answer any questions you have or that come up; don’t hesitate to email or set up a video conference so we can talk it over.
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