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The department's strengths in comparative study, textual and social analysis, philosophy, theory, and cultural history allow students to balance close study in one area with a broad investigation of the field we name "religion." Working closely with an advisor in the department, majors construct a cluster of five courses that relate to one another in a coherent fashion (#1 below) and support the senior thesis. To complement this depth, they select four courses that lend breadth to their studies in religion (#2). Students considering Religion as a major should contact the chair or a member of the department in their sophomore year to begin planning their programs.

The Religion major requires twelve courses, as follows:

  1. Major cluster: five intermediate or advanced courses, including one seminar. As many as two of these courses may come from other departments, and individually supervised research (V 3901-02: Guided Readings) may also be included. This cluster of courses may be organized around a particular tradition or geographic area: Hinduism, Islam, religion in America, etc. Alternatively, students may design clusters that focus on a set of related subjects and concerns, such as religion in New York; religion in theory and practice; religion and culture; religious texts and histories; religion, women, gender; or religion, race, nation, ethnicity. Yet these are only exemplary. Students are urged to design their own clusters, supplementing departmental listings with religion-related courses posted on the Barnard Religion Department's web site as "Religion Related courses" and on the Columbia Religion Department's web site as "Related Courses." Several sample majors are posted on the Barnard Religion Department's website.
  2. Breadth: four Religion courses-either lecture or seminar-that lend geographical, historical, and/or disciplinary range to a student's program.
  3. One semester of the Juniors' Colloquium (V 3799), engaging major theoretical issues in the field. This course is customarily offered in both Fall and Spring semesters.
  4. The  two-semester Senior Research Seminar (BC 3997-98), which must be taken in sequence, beginning in autumn and continuing through the spring, and which structures the experience of preparing a senior thesis. Students work together in this seminar to develop, critique, and execute their research projects, submitting a formal proposal and partial draft in the fall and completing the research and writing in the spring.

The department encourages study abroad, particularly in summers or in one semester of the junior year, and is eager to help facilitate internships and funded research. These possibilities often contribute very meaningfully to the senior essay project.


A Religion minor comprises five Religion courses at any level, one of which must be Religion V 3799, Juniors Colloquium. In addition, students are encouraged to include among the remaining four courses at least one seminar. Students intending to minor in Religion should contact the department chair. Combined majors are offered with the programs in Human Rights and in Jewish Studies.