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Program Requirements
for a
Master of Arts Degree in International Studies: Comparative Religion

Language Requirement:

Students must complete the third year of a language appropriate for utilizing primary sources in their major concentration, and develop first-year reading knowledge of a secondary foreign language necessary for reviewing published research in the chosen area (e.g. German, French). The graduate program coordinator must approve language selections.

Basic Competency Certification:

Students must achieve a basic competency in the history of world religions. If done prior to entry, students can take a written certifying examination. Or, based on course work at another institution, have this requirement waived with written approval from the graduate program coordinator. Otherwise, students should take JSIS B 201 and 202.

Required Core Courses

  • JSIS C 501/The Study of Religion
  • Examines major theoretical questions in the comparative study of religion. Provides a theoretical foundation on which students begin to develop their own approaches to research and a clear self-consciousness as to the significance of various methodological choices. (5 credits)

  • JSIS C 502/Religion in Comparative Perspective
    Provides intensive study of similarities and differences across a plurality of religious traditions, with respect to single themes, symbols, or constellation of symbols, and other characteristics. Students learn the value and the limitations of this type of comparison, the difference between superficial equations that ignore language, culture, and history, and genuinely instructive parallels across traditions, allowing “feedback” insights that can advance the historical study of given individual religious traditions. (5 credits)
  • JSIS C 598/Colloquium in Comparative Religion
    Required colloquium for graduate students in comparative religion program. Introduction to faculty research and to major methods and disciplines in the study of religion, required each quarter. (1 credit; graded on a Credit/No Credit basis only)
  • Historical Relations Between Religious Traditions – Elective
    With the approval of the graduate program coordinator, students select a course dealing with the history of regions in which two of more religious traditions come into contact with one another. Examples of such courses are those that investigate the spread of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, or Islam from their cultures of origin to other regions. One of the following courses would fulfill this requirement:
ANTH 447/JSIS A 404/Relig. in China HSTAM 403/Alex the Great & Hellenistic Age
HIST 561/Islamic History HSTAM 532/Med. European History
HIST 563/Modern Near East JSIS C 358/Modern Jewish Thought
HSTAS 402/Hist. of Med. and Mughal India JSIS C 502/Religion in Comp Perspective
HSTAS 501/Indian History JSIS B 468/The Jews in Spanish History
HSTAS 452/Chin. Hist. 221 BC - AD 906 JSIS B 463/Modern Jewish Hist. 1780-1949

Some other courses, with the approval of the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC), Professor James Wellman, may be substituted.

Other Course Work:

Students must complete both a major and minor concentration. Selection of all courses is done in consultation with the graduate program coordinator, but detailed information on each of the major concentrations can be found in the handbook or the Comparative Religion Concentrations handout. 

  • Major Concentration
  • Students complete 4-5 courses in a chosen major. Options are Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Religion, or Religion and Culture.

  • Minor Concentration
  • Students complete 2 or more courses in a chosen minor. Options include the five concentrations listed for the major or any other culturally specific traditions such as Greco-Roman Religions, East Asian Indigenous Religious Traditions, African Religious Traditions, and Native American Traditions.

Between these courses and the Historical Relations course, students must complete 26 credits. Generally these courses should be at the 400 level or above, but at least 8 credits must be at the 500 level or above. 300 level courses can only be counted here with written approval from the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Final Paper(s) and Exams:

Students submit either 1 or 2 research paper(s) to a Supervisory Committee and take both a written and oral exam. With the approval of the graduate program coordinator, students select three members of the Comparative Religion faculty to serve on their Supervisory Committee. Both the major and minor concentrations should be represented on this committee, as well as the Theory.

  • Final Paper(s)
  • If a student chooses to write two papers, then one should come from the major concentration, while the other should come from the minor. If a student chooses to write one paper, it should be a longer paper and the topic in most cases will address an issue that involves a comparison between the major and minor concentrations.

  • Written Exam
  • This exam covers course work in the theory of religion as well as both the major and minor concentrations. Students develop possible questions in consultation with each member of the committee. The written exam will be drawn from these questions by the chair of the student's committee. This is a one-week take-home exam.

  • Oral Exam
  • This exam usually is taken 7-10 days after the written and offers an opportunity to discuss the written exam as well as the research paper(s) submitted to the committee.


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African Studies Program
University of Washington
326 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195

Joel Ngugi / Chair
Associate Professor, School of Law

Mary Kay Gugerty/Adjunct Director
Associate Professor, Evans School of Public Affairs

Erin Murphy/Program Assistant
Autumn Quarter Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 9-12, or by appt.
206.616.0998 office
206.685.0668 fax

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