School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies
TH240 Religion, Secularity, and Affect in the Modern World
This inter-disciplinary course explores the ways in which theatre, performance and film intervene into debates about religion, secularity, and affect in the modern world. Even a cursory look at recent world events such as the storm over the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, the ire over the Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, the demolition of the Babri mosque in India by right-wing Hindu groups, the hijab (heardscarf) controversy in Europe, the protests within the Sikh community in Birmingham around Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti (2004) exposes the fragility of claims of a secular public sphere. The increasing public contestations of the secular ideal mobilize passionate performances through claims and counter-claims that confirm the importance of religion in public life. Our increasingly globalized world has not rendered religion irrelevant but rather ever more powerful. How do we understand this seeming paradox? What do we mean by “secular”? How has the category of “secular” been historically constructed in opposition to religion? What role does religion play in the shaping of national identity? Why is our increasingly globalized world confronted with the concurrent rise in religious extremism? How are progressive sexual politics in Western democracies instrumentalised to discriminate against religious minorities? We will consider how a variety of artists and scholars tackle these questions.
By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of contemporary theatrical practice in the light of cultural, political, historical, and philosophical debates on religion and secularity in the modern world. Furthermore, students should come away from this seminar with a new set of conceptual models and analytic tools to make use of in thinking about this complex and rich body of art. Students will achieve these learning outcomes through close reading of primary and secondary material, seminar discussions based around prescribed texts and seminar papers on specific topics. In addition to film screening, performance recordings will be used to illustrate the theatrical dimensions of the plays.
Thursdays, 12:00-14:00 G56, Milburn House
Written Exam, 1.5 hr: 50%