What should Comparative Religion look like in the 21st century? Which research topics need more attention in the future? Which challenges will this area of studies face in upcoming decades?
These core questions were debated in a joint workshop of the Department of Religious Studies at Syracuse University and CERES in June 2017. Delegates from both institutions discussed what a curriculum of Comparative Religion should ideally look like in the 21st century. Both sides agreed that students should be offered more international experience. In order to implement this target, both institutions agreed to set up a student exchange program. Students will benefit from taking courses with the respective partner institution as this will broaden their perspectives in terms of both the subject and their learning environment.
The workshop made clear that a mere student exchange program is insufficient: Broadening one’s view is important for faculty members as well, both in teaching and research. Like students, faculty members shall be able to participate in exchange programs to learn more about their partner institution’s research approaches and methods and teach at the hosting institution. This type of exchange is especially important in the small field of Religious Studies. In contrast to the relative brevity and superficiality of annual conferences and other international meetings, for instance, faculty exchange offers opportunities of in-depth involvement and active participation in research programs and projects at the respective partner institution. Both institutions feature a number of similarities, but also complementary differences. Specifically, they differ in terms of theoretical approaches as well as regional and temporal foci. While Syracuse covers contemporary and indigenous religions, Bochum focuses on the history of religions and on training students for the non-academic job market.
In order to implement a mutual exchange program, a task force was set up consisting of members from both sides. It will determine how to connect both institutions, their respective traditions, as well as their systems of teaching and research fruitfully in order to set out details of the collaboration.