Migrations, Medieval and Modern: European Religions, Peoples, Nations, and Identities


June 20 - July 1, 2022
Salzburg, Austria 


Christopher Ocker, Phd 
Assistant Provost , Interim Dean, and Professor of the History of Christianity
Graduate School of Theology

Wolfgang Schmutz, PhD
Faculty, University of Redlands Salzburg Semester



What is European? In America, Europe is often thought of as a racially and culturally uniform block: racially white, politically secular, culturally Christian or post-Christian, scientifically advanced, economically privileged and domineering. This Salzburg-based course offers a different view, afforded by the medieval and modern experiences of migration. The histories of migrations in Europe highlight the continent’s dynamic political and cultural pluralism. The course examines human movement and the cultural and social identities this produced in Europe’s dominant religion (Christianity, in its Roman Catholicism and Protestant forms), in the cultures of its past and present minorities (Jewish communities figure prominently here), in relation to the development and crises of nation states, and as a factor in European unification. The course views Europe from its Austrian center, historically the home of what was, for almost four hundred years, an “empire” organized as a federation of independent principalities beneath a limited monarch and a borderland between east and west. We will approach migrations and identities through the study of several historical locations in Central and Eastern Europe (e.g. Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Transylvania). The two-week course will include site visits in Salzburg, Vienna, Berchtesgaden, Enns, and Melk. Through the study of these localities, approached through seminal moments in their histories, students will be introduced to medieval and modern European population movements; the basic social and political structures of premodern Europe; the role of prejudice, war, and pandemic in migration; and the histories of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim religious identities, culture-based national identities, European racism, movements of European unity, and the new migration crisis (2015-2019).

The course is proposed as a GST graduate elective, a CAS undergraduate elective (also eligible for credit to a GST MA pathway, should it be in place), and for SCS credit. Class design and activities will be multi-dimensional. They will involve separate tasks and activities calibrated to each group of students, but also combined activities that take advantage of the variety of student interests, goals, and background experiences.


Through readings, class discussion, written (or alternative) assignments, and experiential excursions, students will:

  • develop an appreciation for the cultures and societies of Central Europe, their parallels to and differences from America.
  • through examining historical and modern migrations, learn to analyze how religious identities are connected to other aspects of culture, politics, and society.
  • learn to recognize and critique the ways in which contemporary political conflicts, racism, and debates around ethnic and religious identity assume, adapt, and distort knowledge about historical migrations and conflicts in the past.
  • cultivate the ability to lead and engage productively in conversations about migration, prejudice, and contested concepts like national identities, “European identity,” “Western civilization,” “Christianity,” and “secularism.”

CAS students 3 credits (300 or 400 level elective), GST students 4 credits (extra assignments, leadership roles), SCS 2 credit (reduced assignments).

Instructors will develop an online Reader. Pre-course readings for GST graduate students are indicated below.

Lectures, discussion groups, tasks and activities in break-out sessions, local and regional site visits on most days