Religion department growing

Religion Chair Norma Joseph looks forward to celebrating her faculty’s recent publications

photo by Kate Hutchinson

Norma Joseph is delighted with the remarkable popularity of the Department of Religion.

“The department has certainly grown,” she said in an interview. “We now have 193 students in the major, nearly double the number we had last year, and thousands of students are taking religion as an elective.

“Our graduate program has over 100 students in the two MAs and the PhD program, which makes us one of the largest if not the largest religion department in Canada. We have grown in scholarly achievement and reputation.”

East Asian studies benefits from the arrival of Marc des Jardins, well connected to scholars in his own field and throughout Quebec.
Des Jardins researches competing religions, including popular cults, particularly in Tibet and West China. Another welcome addition is Richard Foltz, who joins Lynda Clarke as a scholar of Islam.

Next term a new course will be given by Richard Menkis, of UBC, called Diasporic Culture in Theory and Practice: The Case of Canadian Jews. Joseph said the course would be useful for students to apply to any cultural community.

Indeed, the department seems to be a living model of diversity. “We have a wonderful faculty,” Joseph said. “All our decisions are made through discussion and consensus.”

The Department of Religion is essentially sociology-based. It is not to be confused with the Department of Theology, which recently moved from the Loyola Campus, which has Christian and specifically Catholic roots.

Joseph said there’s a strong and abiding interest in religion, “both for personal seekers as well as for those interested in the growing role religion plays in life and world events. Religion does not necessarily have the bad image many used to associate with it.”