There are no admission requirements, but students without any knowledge of Middle Eastern history andof the study of religion will be advised to read up on these subjects beforehand
Zoroastrianism is arguably one of the oldest living religions of the world. It came into being in the late second millennium BCE in Central Asia, and the majority of Zoroastrians currently live in the high-tech metropolises of Tehran, Mumbai, London, and Toronto. It was the religion of the most powerful empires in the ancient Near East, but when it lost imperial support with the rise of Islam, it did not disappear. It thus offers unique opportunities for anyone interested in following the historical development of an identifiable tradition/community through threethousand years of change. There are further challenges to be met: because of a fundamentally different approach to text, writing, art, and material culture, the evidence is extremely sparse and difficult.
In this course, we will start with an overview of core elements of Zoroastrian history, texts, beliefs, and practices, with particular attention to the way in which we have been able to reach this particular
reconstruction and interpretation. For this, we will use the text-book of Jenny Rose. In the second half of the course, students will contribute to the research carried out in Leiden through hands-on experience with the evidence for priests throughout Zoroastrian history, including the living communities. This part will be organized in close conjunction with the current Leiden PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. For this, a wide variety of primary and secondary study materials will be assembled.
Primary course objectives:
Knowledge of Zoroastrianism, its texts, beliefs, rituals, art, and social history
The ability to trace and connect evidence for a recognizable religious tradition over vast historical
and geographical (and cultural) dimensions
The ability to reconstruct past and current worlds of ideas and practices on a very limited
evidentiary basis – and the theoretical insights necessary to do so in a responsible way
Experience with research that is currently carried out
After successfully completing this course:
Students will have built up experience in reconstructing and understanding completely different
worlds of ideas, beliefs, stories, and practices, and in reporting on them in an academic way
Students will have gained insight in the actual practice of academic research in the humanities in general, and in religious studies in particular * Students will have built up experience in connecting multiple levels of organizing and representing the evidence for religion and culture: from a very big macro-level in surveying a threemillennial history to private worlds of meaning in the contemporary world
Mode of instruction
This course will use a combination of instruction through lectures (first half) with hands-on discussion of sources in a seminar style, including contributing to research that is currently carried out in Leiden
Participation (20 %)
Mid-term paper on general questions in the study of Zoroastrianism (30 %)
Final Essay on a concrete source (50 %)
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average
The resit will consist of the same tests as the first opportunity
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.
J. Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011. (students should acquire this book) Other literature and source material will be included in the course syllabus
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the
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