A study of the contexts in which Europeans have encountered Asian religions since 1500, the representations of Asian religions which resulted and the uses to which such representations were put in European and Asian debate.
Whether in the sterotype of the mystical Indian yogi, the threatening Muslim despot
or the saintly Tibetan lama, the religions of Asia have long exerted a powerful fascination
over the Western mind. This paper will provide a long-term historical perspective
on the kinds of images that continue to circulate in contemporary film, novels and
science fiction. The paper begins with an overview of the contexts in which European
travellers, colonists, missionaries, writers and artists have encountered and depicted
the religions of China, India, Japan, the Middle East and Tibet over the last five
The second part of the paper begins with the enormously influential work of Edward Said and will consider some theoretical issues arising from the impact of colonialism on European understanding of Asian religions. The final part of this paper examines a range of further issues, including the impact of European thinking about gender and race on representations of Asian religions and the representation of Asian cultures and religions in literature and film.
|Paper title||Asian Religions and the West|
|Points||20 points 20 points|
|Teaching period(s)||Second Semester, Second Semester|
|Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD)||$1,098.05|
|International Tuition Fees (NZD)||$4,352.87|
- One 300-level RELS or RELX paper
- RELS 310, RELX 310, RELX 462
- May not be credited together with RELS 331 or 430 passed in 2005.
- Associate Professor Will Sweetman: firstname.lastname@example.org
- More information link
- View more information on the Department of Theology and Religion's websites: www.otago.ac.nz/theology or www.otago.ac.nz/religion
- Teaching staff
- Lecturer: Will Sweetman
- Paper Structure
- This paper is divided into six modules. The first two examine the different historical
contexts in which Europeans have encountered Asian religions and the representations
that emerged from those encounters. The next considers the theoretical framework that
has been developed in recent decades to understand those representations. The final
three modules focus on some particular themes that cut across the different contexts
and different religions examined in the first part of the paper.
Assessment for this paper consists of two written assignments (5,000 words) - 50% each
- Teaching Arrangements
- For on-campus students: Each week there is a one-hour lecture. In alternate weeks
there will also be either a second one-hour lecture or a two-hour film screening.
For distance students: There are fortnightly tutorials (via Zoom videoconferences).
- A coursebook has been developed for this paper and will be available in print and PDF form.
- Course outline
- View a sample course outline for RELS 462
- Graduate Attributes Emphasised
- Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical
thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
- Learning Outcomes
- Students that successfully complete this paper will have a sound knowledge of
- The historical contexts in which Europeans have encountered Asian religions since 1500
- Conceptions and representations of Asian religions by European writers (including missionaries, scholars, artists, novelists, philosophers and filmmakers)
- Recent scholarly critique of such representations
- The use of Asian religions in debate in both Europe and Asia
- The impact of European interest upon the religions themselves