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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

THEO1177 Religion, Politics and Society in the Modern World

20 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Stefan Skrimshire

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications


Module replaces

THEO1920 Religion, Society and Politics in the Modern World

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How does religion intersect with politics and society in the modern world? To what diverse ends are religious values and ideologies used by more or less powerful political actors, from governments to ordinary members of society? This module draws upon perspectives from anthropology, sociology, political science, theology and religious studies to introduce students to the contentious role of religion in public settings at different scales from the local to the national and the international. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the relationship between religion, individuals, communities and their governance, key questions about secularity, liberal democracy and human rights, as well as pressing concerns associated with globalisation, development, ecology and multiculturalism. They will also explore how relationships between religion, politics and society can play out quite differently across traditions such as Christianity, Islam and Indian religions, as well as in diverse regional contexts, including the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South / South East Asia.


This module introduces students to the key concepts, scales and actors associated with social scientific approaches to the study of religion, politics and society, as well as to selected themes and debates. The module does not aim to introduce specific religions as such but will use examples from a variety of religious traditions.

The specific objectives of the module are:

- To introduce students to key approaches, methods, theories and concepts in the study of religion/s, politics and society.
- To develop students’ critical skills in observing and interpreting the particular roles of religions in the modern world across a range of historical and geographical contexts.
- To develop students’ knowledge and understanding of critical issues and debates in the study of religion/s, such as gender, (post)colonialism, normativity and subjectivity.
- To enhance students’ undergraduate skills such as academic reading and writing, critical thinking and argument.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate:

1) Understanding of the inter-relationships between religion, politics and society, grounded in key approaches and concepts drawn from across political science, sociology, anthropology, and theology and religious studies.
2) Understanding of key themes and debates in the study of religion, politics and society, e.g. nationalism, democracy, human rights, development, fundamentalism, multiculturalism and secularism.
3) The ability to recognise the complex intersection of religion, politics and society across different traditions, in different regional contexts, at local, national and transnational scales, as well as among different types of actors (e.g. citizens, movements, governments).
4) The ability to critically identify and assess the role of religious identity, belief and practice in contemporary aspects of political and social life, via specific global contexts.
5) Academic skills of reading, listening, thinking and writing critically and effectively.


The first part of the module covers core theoretical concepts such as:

- Introduction to a social scientific approach to global religions/politics.
- Secularism and Secularity: cross-disciplinary approaches
- Religious belief and identity
- Religious legitimacy, political actors and mobilization.

The remainder of the module will address key regional contexts, traditions and themes in global comparative perspective. An indicative list of topics is:

- Protestant Christianity and Civil Rights in the USA
- Catholic Christianity and Social Liberation in Latin America
- Global Development and South Asian Religions
- Buddhism and Women’s Rights in East Asia.
- Islam and the Postcolonial nation-state in the Middle East
- Muslim Diasporas in the West.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

In addition to the timetabled 20 teaching hours, the hours of private study time should include:

5 hours a week preparing for seminars = 45 hours
5 hours a week background reading to lectures = 55 hours
80 hours preparation for assessment (approx. 20 hours for the short essay and 60 for the longer essay)

80 hours preparation for assessment (approx. 20 hours for the short essay and 60 for the longer essay)

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the opportunity to receive formative verbal feedback from seminar leaders and peers on the 750 word essay due in week 7: in 3 short verbal presentations students will explain 1) how / why they selected a single piece of print media covering a relevant, recent topic; 2) comment on its demonstration of 1-2 of the 4 conceptual lenses presented by the core text, and 3) identify a further academic source for relevant contextualisation. The second and third seminars will in part be dedicated to helping prepare for this task. Summative feedback on the 750-word essay will also be formative for students’ level of skill / understanding in preparation for the 2250-word essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2250 words75.00
Essay750 words25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:43


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