Will count towards SAS - Religion major and minor.
Modern law is often celebrated as the victory of secular politics over religion, the distinctive achievement of the Age of European Imperialism (or the "Enlightenment," as it is sometimes called). Yet the specter of religious law still haunts the imagination, authority, and rituals of purportedly secular legal regimes, and might even be understood as constitutive of them. This seminar addresses the questions: what, if anything, does "religious law" mean, and to what extent have modern legal institutions triumphed in exorcising it? Part I of the seminar entails the close reading and critical analysis of primary texts from historical legal traditions. We begin over four thousand years ago, with ancient Near Eastern source materials, the oldest surviving written laws of human civilization. We trace comparisons with these early "legal theologies," if that is the right phrase, in later Asian legal cultures—Islamic, Hindu, Chinese, Zoroastrian, Buddhist—interrogating how and why aspects of juridical ideology and practice are constructed as religious in different geographic, sociopolitical, and temporal domains. Part II turns to recent historical and ethnographic scholarship on the nature of religious law and examines the alleged severance of law from religion in early modern jurisprudence. Here we consider the rationales and effects of religious law discourse in imperial, colonial, and postcolonial contexts in Asia.
D. CHRISTIAN LAMMERTS’ scholarship investigates the cultural, literary, and intellectual histories of Buddhism in Southeast Asia, with a focus on law. His first book, Buddhist Law in Burma: Dhammasattha Texts and Jurisprudence, c. 1250–1850, is forthcoming from the University of Hawai'i Press. At Rutgers he teaches courses in Buddhist Studies, the history of religions in Asia, and law and religion.