Christianity, capitalism, empire

This course takes up the classic question of the interrelation of religion and economics, both theoretically and historically. Beginning with key issues of the economics of religion before capitalism (poverty, charity, usury), the course then turns to Marx and Weber and the debates over their theories. Next, the course considers at different sites (South Africa, Melanesia, India) different aspects of religion as it surfaces in the colonial encounter and the “modernization” that followed: missionaries as agents of empire, the changing status of the object, the advent of ‘religion’ itself. The course concludes by asking students to apply the course’s interpretive frameworks to other religious phenomena (prosperity gospel, cargo cults, etc.).