Hi everyone – here is Synthesis Question No. 2. You can also see the text below on the Course Materials by Region section to the left on the main course page on Learn@UW.

Religion and Identity in Three World Regions (Russia/Central Asia/Transcaucasus, Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa)


Due Monday, March 14th by 10pm CDT. For those of you who are not in the Central Time Zone, make sure you accurately know the time difference!

Questions and Guidelines

There are three parts (A-C) to this synthesis assignment. You may want to write roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of a page (single-spaced) for each part.

This week’s assignment concerns identity and religion, with particular attention to Islam (in parts A and C). While Islam is also very prevalent outside of this week’s study regions (especially in South Asia and Southeast Asia—Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country), please think exclusively about this week’s three regions when answering these questions (see map on page 159 of textbook). Many of you will have acquired a wealth of background knowledge prior to the course because of your personal experiences or coursework. It is wonderful to integrate this, but please make sure to ALSO fit your prior knowledge in with the new information you’ve learned from the course materials.

Before responding, please complete all the assigned readings, lectures, podcasts and viewing for the relevant regional units.

Part A: Think about two types of diversity that you saw in these three weeks: a) the religious diversity of all three regions as a whole, and b) general diversity (economic, linguistic, cultural, social, political, environmental…) across the regions’ Muslim communities.

First, what are at least two things you learned related to either type of diversity that surprised you or contradicted your previous conceptions? Please use specific examples from the text, articles (e.g. Diener), lectures (e.g. Harris, Turner, Kaiser), podcasts (e.g. Brottem, Fleming, Alatout).

Second, explain why you think you previously had these conceptions.

Part B: Religious identity may unite certain groups, or individuals of the same religion may feel completely distinct for political, ethnic, linguistic, economic, or other reasons. What are some specific examples from the course materials that show how religion is an important component of group identity? What are examples that show how religion can be secondary to other types of identity?

Part C:
Sometimes people to refer to all Muslim-majority countries as “the Muslim World.” Based on your readings (especially from the textbook) and the information you gleaned from the interviews and lectures, do you think this is a useful and meaningful way to group these countries, or is this a misleading categorization? Or is it only useful sometimes? When? Using course materials, explain and defend your opinion.


Please clearly label your answers to Parts A, B, and C. Use 12-point font, and please single-space your document to make it easier for us to read online. Your final assignment should be 750-1000 words. You will likely find it difficult to fit all of your thoughts in just 1000 words. Write succinctly, and make sure you are sticking to the specific questions!

Make sure to proofread: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and good writing DO count.

Please save the file using your last name and “Synth2” (for example Olds_Synth2.docx) and submit the file into the correct Dropbox.

If you look at the grading rubric on the blog post about synthesis questions, you will see that you will be graded primarily on how carefully and critically you considered course material in constructing your response. This is even more true for this assignment than it was for Synthesis #1. That said, we want to know your personal views, too, as we are speaking about representational issues and preconceptions. So be opinionated, express your views, insert your personality, and engage…just don’t only speak from the heart; also speak on the basis of the content you’ve been engaging with in this course. It should go without saying that all submissions must be respectful.

Kris Olds & Rachel Boothby