Justin Doran
Office
Munroe Hall 216
Tel
(802) 443-5405
Email
jmdoran@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Spring Term: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9:00am-10:00am and Thursdays 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Professor Doran joined the department in 2018. He teaches courses on religion in the Americas as well as thematic courses on violence, capitalism, and theory in the study of religion. A specialist in modern Pentecostalism, his current research focuses on capitalism, demonology, and Christian prosperity movements in Brazil, Canada, and the southwestern United States. He received his PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Courses Taught

Course Description

American Kitsch
Kitsch is trash. Kitsch is the opposite of art. Kitsch is the mass-produced, cheap substitute for objects made in good taste. To study kitsch is to study the unspoken social boundaries created by a modern world transformed by industrial production. In this seminar we will explore the formation of taste through focused studies of kitschy things paired with readings from social theorists. Our studies will range from popular culture to politics and religion across several national contexts. Drawing on major comparisons between popular culture and religion in Brazil and the United States, we will develop tools to critically assess how judgements of taste are embedded in the intersecting systems of race, class, and gender. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

Requirements

CMP, CW, SOC

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Course Description

Independent Study
Approval Required

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

American Religion
In this course we will explore religion in the Americas with a focus on the United States. Relying on a metaphor from linguistics, we will trace how an American religious “grammar” emerged from colonial contact zones and then assess how capitalism, denominationalism, and secularism shaped that grammar during the ensuing centuries. Extending the metaphor, we will seek to understand how different actors “spoke” American religion to shape society, make sense of the world, and harness natural and supernatural power. We will cover American variations on the traditions of Buddhism, indigenous religion, Christianity, African diasporic religion, folk spirituality, and Islam. 3 hrs lect, 1 hr. disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Religion and Violence
“Religion and violence” exists at the knotty intersection between politics, identity, and culture. A critical understanding of how and why religion has been employed to explain or justify violence is essential to becoming a responsible citizen of the world. In this course we will explore the complex relationship between religion, political economy, and violence from a global perspective. Our goal will be to deconstruct popular preconceptions of religion and violence, locate the variety of social structures that induce violence, and to develop a critical apparatus for understanding what is at stake when religion and violence intersect. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, CMP, PHL, SOC

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Course Description

Death in Latin America
The refrain of colonialism in the Americas was death. In its wake, encounters with dying and the dead shaped national cultures and popular religiosities across the hemisphere. In this course we will explore the diversity of rituals, stories, and devotions surrounding death in Latin America. Through a careful reading of Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America, we will critically examine the geopolitical entity of Latin America in its historical context while learning how to write powerfully about its social and economic realities. We will cover death across secular and religious formations in Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, Guatemala, and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. 3 hrs. lect/3 hrs. lab.*This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.*

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, AMR, CMP, CW, PHL, SOC

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Course Description

Religion and Capitalism
Joseph Schumpeter described capitalism as animated by a perennial gale of creative destruction. While he was referring to its capacity to create and destroy industries, capitalism has had the same effect on social worlds. From those tumultuous worlds, a diverse array of religious practices, beliefs, and sentiments have likewise flourished and decayed. This course explores the relationship between global capitalism and religion in the modern period. Anchored in a comparison between Brazil and the United States, we will explore how religious traditions have encountered the world transformed by capitalism as well as the religious dimensions of capitalism itself. 3 hours lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

Requirements

AAL, AMR, CMP, PHL

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Course Description

Theories of American Religion
Since the modern academy’s inception, the Americas have been a laboratory for theorists of the human condition. This is particularly true in the field of religion, where Americans have played both scientist and specimen in the process of understanding homo religiosus. In this course we will study theories of religion as a series of dialogues between theorist and subject. We will begin by reading primary theoretical texts and proceed into experiencing the theorist’s human “evidence” in the fullness of their context. Sections will include theorists that range from Emile Durkheim and William James to Roger Bastide, Fernando Ortiz, and Thomas Tweed. 3 hrs lect/dsc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AMR, CMP, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Possessions: Theories of Power in American Religion
Upon reading Faust, Karl Marx concluded that Goethe’s wisdom was simple: “the extent of the power of money is the extent of my power.” Or, in other words: money represents the power to possess a thing and, in possessing it, to wield that thing’s power. Despite this connection made at the roots of Western theories of power, we do not typically regard our possession of private property as akin to the Devil’s possession of human bodies. In this seminar we will explore the rich and troubling overlaps between private property, demonic possessions, mediumship, and power in the Americas. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Crossroads: Religion and Race in the Americas
White rock musicians have traced the origins of their musical style to the Delta blues, fixating on a myth that a young, Black musician sold his soul at a southern crossroads to learn to play the guitar. This myth portrays the success of rock as having supernatural origins, while obscuring how the recording industry appropriated and commodified the art of Black Americans. In this seminar we explore the polysemous image of the “crossroads” as an entrée into the intersecting fields of comparative religion, humanistic economics, and critical race. We will rely on works by authors such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Toni Morrison to interrogate these fields while comparing the histories of the U.S. and Brazil. 3 hrs. sem

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, AMR, CMP, PHL

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Course Description

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

#blessed: American Prosperity Religion
tfw the vending machine gives you two snacks instead of one #cookies #blessed. Critics allege that thinking God cares about your personal prosperity exposes the rotting core of American late capitalism. But American nationalism is also rooted in God’s providence. How should we grapple with this American ambivalence toward prosperity and religion? In this class, we will use critical media theory to understand how capitalism cultivates a diversity of religious attitudes toward prosperity. While our focus will be contemporary media from the anglophone United States, we will explore comparable instances from Brazil and other Latin American countries in translation.

Terms Taught

Winter 2020, Winter 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL, SOC, WTR

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