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Robin Buller, instructor for IDST 290, recently invited nine representatives of faith-based groups on campus, including UNC Hillel and UNC Chabad, to join her class for an open discussion. Her course, “Cults & Contagion: Religion and Disease from the Middle Ages to Modern Times” looks at how humans have often turned to religion for comfort, or condemnation, during times of plague and disease. In the roundtable discussion, the representatives shared how they have adapted their services because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they still to try to build community and a safe space for students to talk about their beliefs and concerns. All faith groups are now offering socially-distanced opportunities, such as online hang-outs, services held at open parking lots, digital mentorship, online movie watch parties, and more, in an effort to continue their programs and services on campus.

This class is part of the Carolina Away program, which created a series of courses to connect first-year and transfer students with each other and the campus at large to build a sense of community. More information on the program can be found online. Buller is a PhD candidate in the department of history.


Course description:

IDST290 Cults & Contagion: Religion and Disease from the Middle Ages to Modern Times: During trying times throughout history, humans have often looked to religion for comfort, condemnation, and solutions to the diseases that have plagued them. From anti-Jewish accusations during the Black Death to Christianity and colonial conquests, and from science fiction to present-day race relations, this course will examine the intersections of religion and disease in history and literature. Through lectures from an array of UNC faculty, students will learn the different ways people and societies have confronted plagues in the past, as well as how religion has influenced their responses.


By Tine Rassalle, graduate assistant for the Center

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