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RELS330 Special Topic: Women in Religion

Please note this paper is taught on the Dunedin campus and by DISTANCE. It is also available at 200-level as RELS230

This paper is available for Interest Only enrolment on-campus


An introduction to Judaism in the modern world, with emphasis on contemporary issues and debates.
Although there are only 14 million Jews worldwide, Judaism is the precursor of both Christianity and Islam and has played a significant role in the cultures of Europe, the Middle East and the US. This paper focuses on modern Judaism, as it developed over the last two centuries, so as to understand the beliefs and practices of contemporary Jews.

We will consider questions such as: why are there disagreements between different Jewish sects or movements, including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaisms? What is the Ultra-Orthodox movement, and are they 'fundamentalists'? What do Jews mean when they claim to be the Chosen People? What are Jewish beliefs about a coming Messiah in the end times? How does Judaism treat women? What is Jewish mysticism - Hasidism and Kabbalah? Why has antisemitism arisen in Europe and in Christianity, and how did it result in persecutions and the Holocaust? How did Zionism - the movement to establish a modern state of Israel - arise, and what are the religious dimensions of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? Can we say that Israel is a secular state, as it sometimes claims? This paper provides an introduction to the academic study of a social group that challenges the boundaries of religion, politics and culture. No background in religion is required.


Dr Deane Galbraith

Course Coordinator

Associate Professor Will Sweetman




Reading comprehension tests (2 x 5%)10%
Critical commentary essays (2 x 10%)20%
Critical response to news article10%
Final examination60%

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A woman-centered analysis of multiple religious traditions, including both world and indigenous religions. How women understand their role, how they work within these traditions in response to contemporary social contexts.

Historically, women have taken the backseat within many of the major religions of the world. This does not mean that women have not played important roles in the development of religious thought and practice. Traditionally, however, we have seldom heard the voices of women featured front and centre in discussions about worship, doctrine and leadership. This paper attempts to rectify this by offering a woman-centred analysis of multiple religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Using a variety of sources, we will consider how women understand their role in their own traditions and how they work within these traditions in response to contemporary social contexts. Ultimately, we will aim to comprehend how religious women live, understand, challenge and reconstruct their faiths..

Paper title Special Topic: Women in Religion
Paper code RELS330
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points 18 points
Teaching period(s) First Semester, First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $886.35
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,766.35

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18 200-level RELS or RELX points
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited together with RELS 230 when passed with the same content.

Keziah Wallis

Teaching staff

Lecturer: Keziah Wallis
Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Will Sweetman

A course reader has been developed for this paper and will be available in print and PDF form.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to demonstrate:

  • understanding of the issues of gender and power as they relate to a variety of religious traditions within the historical constructs of racism, sexism, colonialism and orientalism;
  • recognition and appreciation of the diversity of thought among female religious scholars;
  • an ability to describe the contemporary issues of women within the religious traditions of the world;
  • an ability to critically engage with the complexities involved in the roles of women in religion;
  • an ability to critically evaluate the impact of practices and beliefs of different religious expressions on male and female believers;
  • an ability to recognise and explain the patterns in women’s religious lives and how they respond to exclusion from central areas of tradition;
  • an ability to describe some of the more important theoretical and interdisciplinary debates on religion, sacred texts and the gender question; and
  • an ability to debate the key theories relating to the complexities of studying religion as part of the particular social, economic, and political contexts.

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system

First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 10:00-10:50 9-16, 18-22
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-16, 18-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 10:00-10:50 9-16, 18-22