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'Thresholding ancient religion': a trifold approach

Davies, JP; (2016) 'Thresholding ancient religion': a trifold approach. Presented at: 6th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference: Thresholds on the Edge, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Green open access

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Abstract

Learning about ancient religion has always required addressing many issues highlighted by the threshold concepts framework, particularly 'transforming understanding': the material is deeply unfamiliar and, to complicate matters, students usually arrive with strongly held, simplistic, misleading and anachronistic expectations about ancient religions (Saler 1993, Davies 2011). However it is not enough to teach about 'how different it was': students need to engage cogently with 'otherness', find a critical distance on secularism or their religious tradition (Asad 1993, 2003) and appreciate the past as 'different but not other' (d'Avray 2010) -- a difficult and typically messy process that frequently has profound implications for personal identity (Cousin 2006). Understanding ancient religion must also be bounded: students take a stand-alone 'religion module' late in their classics or ancient history degree, and have their recently-acquired familiarity with antiquity reconstituted -- but without displacing that understanding of mythology, the ancient city, literature (etc). Thus, even before Meyer & Land (2003), we actively cultivated a discursive, bounded, transformative and integrative approach (Beard et al 1998; Smith 2004, 2013). A prime example is 'belief', often assumed to be an essential and defining part of religion because of the West's Christian heritage. Ancient (and many non-Western) religions are more focussed on ritual practice: any discussion we encounter is more a 'commentary' than a 'creed'. This has far-reaching implications and is reliably troublesome. A 30-minute talk is requested for two reasons: firstly, to initiate the audience into 'ritual-not-belief' as an example of a threshold concept in ancient religion. Using that as a basis, I will outline how a September 2015 workshop in London grappled with identifying and choosing appropriate threshold concepts while considering a transferable, threshold concepts-centred curricular model to induce, frame and conclude a liminal learning experience. This model will also be the basis of future planned workshops.

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: 'Thresholding ancient religion': a trifold approach
Event: 6th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference: Thresholds on the Edge
Location: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Dates: 15-17 June 2016
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.dal.ca/news/today/2016/05/10/6th_bienn...
Language: English
Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, Curriculum Design, Ancient History, Religion, Teaching
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP Education > UCL Arena Centre
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10060015
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