Bridging the Great Divide: Integrating Experiential Learning into the Academic Study of Religion, Culture, and Society




Nesbitt-Bottoms, Ash

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Victoria


Utilizing spiritual health resources located in the University of Victoria’s Multifaith Centre, this project will explore how to better integrate experiential learning into an interdisciplinary, religious studies academic unit. My goal is to bridge the divide that some regard as separating “secular” scholars of “religion” from people engaging in religious practice. The project aims to bolster a decolonized and experiential pedagogy counterbalancing modern, Western ways of knowing tending toward reductive and objectifying depictions of religion and spirituality. By drawing on UVic’s Multifaith resources, which provide a supportive environment for a diverse body of students through various religious and spiritual programs such as yoga, meditation, and call-and-response singing, I wish to illustrate how religious studies students can benefit from engaging with activities that are analogous to, but not identical with religious practice. I will foreground a variety of textual, material, and embodied religious studies methodologies to foster richer learning practices. By underscoring community-centered and participatory approaches to religious studies research, resulting curricular innovations can help shift the pedagogical focus from colonially-framed, delimited conceptualizations of religion, to a more capacious and inclusive approach.



religion, spirituality, experiential learning, secularism, multifaith