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Pilgrimage and Holy Places


Admission requirements

This course is open to students of the MA Religious Studies, the (Research) MA Asian Studies, the (Research) MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA International Relations, and to Exchange and Study Abroad students as an individual course of Exchange Humanities.

Preferably, students have some basic knowledge of and interest in the anthropology of religion. Students who lack this knowledge are advised to read D. L. Pals, Eight Theories of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) before the start of the course.


This course offers an overview of the study of pilgrimage as a ritual practice and as a journey. We will study examples of pilgrimage and religious landscape in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe, and specifically examine the theoretical orientations being used to interpret them. The course consists of two parts. In the first part, a series of lectures will offer an interpretative and theoretical framework in addition to regional perspectives; in the second, the student will present their own research in preparation of the written term paper. 

Course objectives

After successfully completing the course, the student is able:

  • to provide an in-depth overview of the ritual practice of pilgrimage and holy places discussed in class;

  • to recognize the various theoretical perspectives informing the study of these pilgrimages and holy places;

  • to conduct a critical literature review of a particular pilgrimage or holy place;

  • to report about it orally and in writing.

Career Skills Development

During the course, students

  • improve their command of English;

  • develop their analytical and interpretative skills by means of assignments, discussion, and literature analysis;

  • develop their writing skills by means of assignments;

  • develop their skills at oral discussion;

  • develop their ability to conduct independent research on a topic related to the theme of the course, and present their findings in a well-structured and well-substantiated paper.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the following:

  • Participation and reading assignments: 20% of final grade

  • Oral presentation of the final paper: 20% of final grade

  • Final paper (5,000 words): 60% of final grade

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed.


Students who submitted their assignments on time but scored an overall insufficient grade are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given the chance to hand in a second version of the final paper.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Please read the following article before the first meeting: Simon Coleman, “Do You Believe in Pilgrimage? Communitas, Contestation and Beyond”, Anthropological Theory 2/3 (2002), 355–368 (full text available via the University Library catalogue).

Further reading assignments will be posted on Brightspace as the course proceeds.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory. General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Exchange students having questions regarding registration, may contact the Humanities International Office.