Foundations II: Scripture and Authority in Book Religions

Course Description: 

Claims of cultural supremacy have often been inherent in the classificatory concept of “book religions”, from its qur’anic origins until the academic scholarship of the colonial age, but the same concept has also opened a vast field of comparative study between European and Asian traditions of the sacred text. The recent scholarly interest in communication processes and media has developed new approaches to the ways in which the so-called book religions have placed supreme authority in a certain canonic text, considered to be the infallibly truthful message of the divinity. Sanctified by its long-duration transmission, the holy book becomes the object of a peculiar scribal culture, of complex procedures of exegesis and application as well as intense liturgical and popular veneration. The presence of the Book shapes ritual, law, education, social order, gender roles, and, on a more profound anthropological level, the specific interaction between scribal, oral, and visual practices. The present course will reflect the impact of scripturalism on religious culture on the basis of a succinct introduction to the content, historical origins and reception of the Bible and the Qur’an. Throughout the class we will critically reflect on the use of scripture-related concepts and practices as markers of collective identity.