This summer, I worked with Dr. Steven Weitzman of the Penn Religious Studies Department in preparing a course reader and syllabus for an upcoming course in Spring 2018, called Religion and the Global Future. The course aims to provide insight into how religion will shape the future of the world by putting the academic study of religion into conversation with international relations and public policy. Each week focused on a different aspect of the global future, from human rights to technology to climate change. I was responsible for compiling and organizing relevant readings as well as finding guest speakers for each topic from various universities and organizations.
From my experience, I learned valuable research methods, such as how to approach a large topic by breaking it down into small parts. Doing this made the entire project seem more approachable, and I was able to tackle each topic one step at a time. Because my research consisted of a lot of reading, I learned how to quickly discern whether or not a paper or publication was relevant to my research by skimming, looking for key words and phrases. I also realized the importance of bibliographies at the end of a paper to “citation chase” and find other papers that were related to the topic I was researching. By looking for papers that were frequently mentioned in bibliographies, I was also able to find important seminal works in each field.
As for the content of my research itself, I was pleasantly surprised to discover many intersections between my two majors, religious studies and international relations. The influence of religion shaping international relations theory throughout history makes the study of religion all the more important when approaching foreign policy. Recently, religion has also become a hot topic in international relations conversations due to the rise of fundamentalism all over the world and a prevalent belief in a “clash of civilizations” between different religious groups. These two areas of overlap, among many others, motivate me to continue to research the ways in which religion and international relations intersect and interact.
I was thankful and honored to be given the opportunity to study a topic I am very interested in under a knowledgeable and helpful professor. I look forward to see how my contributions have helped the course in the spring, and I hope to use my research from this summer as a starting point into more in-depth and specific research in the fields of religion and international relations.