IDST 327

Mapping Western Religions

4 Undergraduate credits
Effective December 17, 2018 – December 16, 2019

Graduation requirements this course fulfills

This course investigates the global geography of the world's three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each tradition will be covered in both historic and contemporary contexts, including interactions between traditions and with other non-Abrahamic traditions. This course will cover how each tradition emerged from origins in southwest Asia to have a global geographic presence. Topics addressed in this course include: ¿ Different patterns of global geographic dispersion ¿ Global variations in religious practices within traditions across different regions ¿ The role of regional politics in religious beliefs and practices, historically and today, using case studies from across the globe. ¿ Interplay between religious traditions and the natural environment ¿ Concepts of sacred place and space ¿ Geographic trends in secularization in different regions Students will also gain hands-on experience using a web-based geographic information system (GIS) as a tool both for researching traditions and presenting knowledge to others.

Learning outcomes


  • Students will gain a working knowledge of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, including their historic global dispersion, regional differences, and the current geography of adherents
  • Students will gain a critical understanding of contested terms like religion and the politics of labeling some forms of religious traditions as legitimate or illegitimate
  • Students will learn to apply their knowledge to contemporary situations
  • Students will learn to think spatially about religion, and imagining the life of a given religious community at multiple geographic scales, from the local to the global
  • Students will obtain a basic understanding of how to use a web-based GIS to research religious traditions and to present their findings to others.