ASIAN 303: War Machines: Religious Military Orders of the World

Course Level: Undergraduate 

Course Description: This course looks at the representation in film and literature of some of the more well known militant religious orders, movements and ideas that have combined religion and violence in unique ways. These include movements and orders inspired by Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Daoism and Buddhism . Students will be introduced to the historical, cultural and ethnic contexts in which these movements arose and the influence they exerted in shaping the societies around them. The focus of the course will be to examine: (i)  how each of these movements was able to justify violence in the name of spirituality, and the idea of religious wars; (ii) whether their legacies have managed to survive in the modern world; (iii) the relationship between meditation and the martial arts in Christian asceticism, Japanese aikido, Hindu yoga, Sikh gatka, Zen Buddhism, and Islamic jihad. The course will be taught as a discussion seminar with a very minimal lecture component. The course will involve an analysis of how these traditions have been presented in modern film and cinema. The last two weeks of the course we shall expand our analysis to look at the relationship between war, politics and the modern ‘superhero’. To what extent does the figure of the ‘superhero’ address some of the themes discussed earlier in the semester. As well as regular readings, students will be expected to watch and analyse relevant films and documentaries, and to carry out group projects. Courses assessment will be mainly on the basis of weekly forum posts.


Click here for more information


Arvind-Pal S. Mandair
Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures 

Tara Singh & Balwant Kaur Chattha, Gurbax Singh & Kirpal Kaur Brar Professor of Sikh Studies

Philosophy/Religion/Postcolonial Theory/Sikh Studies/South Asian Studies

Office: 202 South Thayer Street
Office 6016
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608

Linkedin Button