This page presents the syllabus for the most recent version of the course. For archived version, please visit here.

RELI 213 Refugees & Exiles: Religion in the Diaspora (Fall 2019)

Mon. Wed., 14:50-16:10, BOGH115

Instructor: Yaniv Feller (yfeller@wesleyan.eduOffice Hours: Mon. 10-11, Tue. 15-16  or by appointment (171 Church Street, Rm. 207)

Teaching Assistant: Stephanie Dukich (


Course Description:

Recent years have seen on-going tragic refugee crises, with millions of people being displaced due to war and ecological disasters. That these crises also have religious overtones is evident by the so-called “Muslim Ban,” Trump’s statements about dual-loyalties, and the slogans of right wing leaders across Europe.

This course deals with the meaning of refuge, exile and diaspora through three perspectives: literary, philosophical, and historical. A variety of case studies—including the contemporary refugee crises in the Middle East, the Mexico-US border, the black transatlantic, and the destruction of the temple in the Hebrew Bible—will raise for us the question about the theological presuppositions underpinning our understanding of diaspora and exile. What does it mean to be violently forced to leave one’s home? How is it possible to make sense of such a tragedy? What ethical responsibility do we have toward refugees?

This is a Service Learning course and your final projects will contribute to the broader community’s understanding of the contemporary moment through the production of a radio program, “Roots & Routes: Conversations on Displacement and Belonging” in cooperation with WESU 88.1FM Middletown radio station. It will be curated and hosted by the class. You will have the chance not only to learn the theoretical foundation, but also to disseminate knowledge in an accessible form. We will work on this throughout the semester, with each student exploring the consequences of different answers to the above questions by focusing on a case study of their choice.

I assess the workload of the service component to be around extra two hours a week. By taking this class, you are committing to completing your section of the radio program, which will air in the Spring semester.

 Course Outcomes: By the end of this course, you will acquire,

  • A better understanding of a few of the refugees’ crises that shaped our world
  • A recognition of religious themes in the discussion of a “refugee crisis”
  • Philosophical and analytical tools to discuss the relation between exile, refuge, and diaspora
  • The ability to orally communicate complex information in an accessible form
  • The practical knowledge of how to produce and broadcast a radio show or podcast


  • M. Cotezee, Waiting for the Barbarians
  • Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political
  • All other readings will be provided on Moodle and are available as a course pack.
  • You will need some kind of podcast listening app and a computer audio editing program. There are numerous available for free, see at the end of this document.


Methods of Evaluation:

Active Participation (10%): This class is a seminar based on your active participation. You are expected to come to class prepared, having read the texts and thought of at least one or two questions you wish to discuss.

Each student is allowed one unexcused absence, no questions asked. In case you are unable to attend, please let me know as soon as possible. Religious holidays constitute of course a valid reason, but I ask that you notify me at the first week of the semester.

Audio Blogging (20%): Speaking on complex topics is often more challenging than writing about them. It also allows for a lot of creativity! For the numbered sections (I-VI), you are required to upload a short audio file of about 1 minute (less than 300 words) in which you briefly achieve the following: a) explain part of the argument, quoting no more than two sentences from it; b) raise a question; and\or c) creatively present it through recordings. You are required to submit FIVE audio files. For those who submit all six, the highest five will count. Due: Files are to be uploaded to Moodle by 8am the day of class, so I’ll be able to hear them in advance.

Topic Pitch (5%): Which contemporary issue relating to refugees and diaspora would you like to explore throughout this course? It does not have to be a topic we discuss directly in this course as long it is contemporary. Imagine you are pitching your subject to an editor at a radio station. What is exciting, interesting, or new about this subject? What perspective can you bring? For this assignment, you are required to give the main contours of the event, the reasons why it interests you and three to five newspaper articles that are relevant.  The most important thing is that you are passionate on this topic and want to dedicate the semester to it. Due: Sep. 30

Public Service Announcement (15%): You will prepare a 29 or 59 seconds PSA that will air on WESU in compliance with federal standards. Ideally, you will choose an announcement that is relevant to your topic, but the exact content is open. It is a low-stake, great opportunity to experience the first stages of recording, editing, and thinking about timeframes in a non-academic oral form. Due: Oct. 23

Short Reporting (20%): You will prepare a 3-minute report on a contemporary topic. We will discuss at length how to write it in class. Again, this can be part of your final project, including interviews you have already conducted, but it does not have to be. You will have at least two opportunities to record materials: In the Meriden Church (Oct. 2) and when discussing Dorit Rabinyan’s work (Oct. 24) Due: Nov. 14

Final Show Segment (30%): Show time! This is the culmination of all the work you have done throughout the semester. You will record your portion of the show and accompany it with a short theoretical reflection about the topic and why you made the choices you did. You will also work with your co-host and decide who goes first, what PSA you will use etc. Due: During exam week

Late Submission Policy: No late submissions will be accepted for the audio-blogging; there is enough flexibility built into the assignment. For all other assignments, a penalty of a third letter grade will be assigned for each day past the deadline, including weekends. If you have a valid, documented reason for late submission, please let me know as soon as possible.


Course Policies

A Note on Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is essential to the scholarly pursuit and the success of the learning process. Ensuring the proper academic conduct also guarantees that a degree from Wesleyan University is reflective of each individual student’s achievements. Please review the Honor Code carefully ( If you have any doubts or uncertainties in this regard, do not hesitate to contact me.

Accessibility and Accommodations: Students with diverse learning needs are welcome in this course. Wesleyan University is committed to ensuring that all qualified students with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from its programs and services.  Please note that in order to receive accommodations, you must have a recognized and documented disability. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible. You can find more information here: Do not hesitate to talk to me in person and I will do my best to assist.

Office Hours and E-Mail: Please feel free to come by my office and talk to me during office hours. If you cannot make it to the office hours, but would like to meet – gladly! Schedule here: Talking in person is easier and much quicker than email exchange. If you absolutely cannot make it in person, however, you can also contact me by email. In this case, please use your university email account (other accounts may land in the spam folder) and include a topic-line, your name, and the question(s) you have. Please do not email questions for which the answers can easily be found by reading the syllabus (“When is the essay due?”, “What is the reading for next week?” etc.) or talking to classmates. I try to respond quickly, but please note that emails will receive a reply within two working days. This means that if you send me an email on the weekend, or if you send a request for extension in the last minute, they might be answered only later, and the penalty incurred will be implemented.

Electronic Free Zone: Please bring the readings in a printed form for every class. Electronic devices are great, but they are also a distraction. There is now evidence that students who use electronic devices in class, as well as people who sit next to them, tend on average to receive lower grades. I therefore ask you not to use laptops, phones or other disturbing electronic devices during class. If there are any accommodation concerns, do contact me and we will find a solution. At times, we will use our phones, computers, and other recording devices, but I will give you a notice in advance when this is going to happen.

Writing Advice

Writing, academically and for the ear, can be a challenge. Luckily, Wesleyan has some great resources to help you become a better writer! I encourage you to check the workshops and tutoring offered at the Shapiro Center for Writing for more information.







Sep. 2: Slavoy Žižek, “The Non-Existence of Norway,” LRB Sep. 9, 2015.

Sep. 4: 1. Edward Said, “Reflections on Exile,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, 173-186; 2. Jean Améry, “How Much Home Does a Person Need?,” At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities , 41-61

  1. The Contemporary Moment (audio-blogging)

Sep. 9: 1. Erin K Wilson and Luca Mavelli, “The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Beyond Conceptual and Physical Boundaries,” in Religion and the Refugee Crisis, eds. Luca Mavelli and Erin K. Wilson, 1-14; Lori Beaman et. al, “No Mosque, Nor Refugees: Some Reflections on Syrian Refugees and the Construction of Religion in Canada,” Religion and the Refugee Crisis, 77-96.

Sep. 11: Michel Foucault, “Heterotopia or On Other Spaces”; Manuel Herz (ed.), From Camp to City: Refugee Camps in Western Sahara, 7-19, 486-508.

Sep. 16: Film discussion: Ai Weiwei, Human Flow; Gianfranco Rosi, Fire at Sea; Pooja Rangan, Immeditation (Duke University Press, 2017), 1-17.

Sep. 18: Jason de Leon, Land of Open Graves, 15, 22-42, 62-85; Listen: Radiolab, Border Trilogy Part II

Radio Days

Sep. 23: How to write for the ear. Listen: 1. Kelly McEvers, “Experiencing A Syrian Activist’s Fear”; 2. Robert Smith, “After the Blizzard

Sep. 25: How to write a Public Service Announcement (listen examples on Moodle)

Sep. 30:  (Jewish New Year) Radio editing 101: visit to WESU studio with Stephanie Dukich

Topic Pitch Deadline

Oct. 2: Visit to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden. *Watch online course on human subjects. Listen: Christianity and Refuge Places (Sophia’s part)

Oct. 2 – 5pm: Alternative Radio editing 101: visit to WESU studio with Stephanie Dukich

  1. Paradigms of Exile and Return (audio-blogging)

Oct. 7: Hebrew Bible: Lamentation; Robin Cohen, “Classical Notions of Diaspora: Transcending the Jewish Tradition,” in Global Diasporas: An Introduction, 21-39

Oct. 9: Yom Kippur – No class

Oct. 14: Leonard Rutgers, “Next Year in Sardis: Reflections on Whether the Jewish Diaspora of the Roman Era Was Diasporic at All,” Festschrift for Günter Stemberger, 167-195; Daniel Boyarin, A Traveling Homeland, 9-32

Oct. 16: Talmud Bavli Gittin 55-56

Oct. 21: Fall Break

Oct. 23: Yael Zerubavel, Recovered Roots, 13-36; Zali Gurevitch and Gideon Aran, “The Land of Israel: Myth and Phenomenon,” Studies in Contemporary Judaism 10 (1994): 195-210.

PSA Deadline

III. Inner Migration (audio-blogging)

THURSDAY Oct. 24, 8pm DFC (make-up class): Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan on Politics, Censorship, and Israeli Literature.

Oct. 28: Vine Deloria, God Is Red: A Native View of Religion, 61-75, 271-286; Film: In Light of Reverence (class screening available by demand) 

  1. The State and the Empire (audio-blogging)

Oct. 30: Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 19-53, 58-61, 69-79

Nov. 4: Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789); Hannah Arendt, “The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man” The Origins of Totalitarianism, 267-302;

Nov. 6: J.M. Cotezee, Waiting for the Barbarians, chp. 1-2

Nov. 11: Cotezee, Waiting for the Barbarians, chp. 3 (until the return of the soldiers)

Nov. 13: Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, Finish

  1. The Black Atlantic (audio-blogging)

THURSDAY Nov. 14, 8pm (make-up class): Attend Marc Dollinger’s lecture on Black-Jewish relations

Quick Take Assignment Deadline

Nov. 18: Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, 1-29, 205-217.

  1. Representation and Reparation (audio-blogging)

Nov. 20: Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, “Ellis Island” in Destination Culture (University of California Press, 1998); Joachim Schlör, “Suitcases and Other Containers for the Memory of Migration and Displacement,” Jewish Culture and History 15, no. 1-2 (2014): 76-92.

Nov. 25: Tutorial: In-class workshopping of the shows (Optional)

Nov. 27: Thanksgiving recess

Dec. 2: Nazi Looted Art: Website of the exhibition “Looting and Restitution” ( – choose at least one case study and play at least one scenario in the multiple choice game; James Clifford, “Second Life: The Return of the Masks,” Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century, 261-314.

Dec. 4: In class final peer-editing of Final Projects



All Things Radio The place to go for all things radio! From how to interview, to editing, to notes on workshops and internships. Includes interviews and sound clips from leading radio journalists.

NPR Training: Along with Transom, this is your go to website for tips and hacks on how to record effectively and hone your storytelling skills.

Radio Atlas: Great place to listen to a curated selection of audio from different stations worldwide (with English translation on screen) in case you need inspiration.

Sally Hership: Director of the radio program in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Great resource for various articles on how to get stories and interviews.


Audio Editing Programs

Adobe Audition (Available to use at WESU’s studios)

GarageBand (iOS only)


Hindenburg (technically not free, but you can get a trial version for at least a month)


Free Podcast Listening Apps (Android, iOS)