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Religion and Politics


Admission requirements

In addition to the general rules set for admission to the master program Religious Studies, students are expected to have some basic knowledge of Anthropology and/or Sociology of Religion.


The beginning of the 21th century has been marked by both globalization and religious politics. The idea of the nation state has been weakened and confidence in the western idea of secular nationalism eroded. Under feudalism religion provided the symbolic medium by which the dominant class conceptualized its political relationships. The transition to capitalism separated the sovereignty of the state from the person of the king and made the state subordinate to the market, legitimated by utilitarian theories of individual ownership. Social continuity no longer depends on religion but is secured by other means. In this course we will examine the changing relationship between religion and politics, focusing on globalization, secularism, and religious violence.

Course objectives

Students are capable of discussing complex theoretical issues related to the study of religion and religious phenomena. They can analyse these issues, present their arguments orally and in writing in a sound scientific way. They have a profound and thourough knowledge of the most important theoretical orientations regarding the study of religion, and can relate them with empirical research.


See Time table

Meetings: 10 × 2 hours = 20 hours Reading assignments: 60 hours Presentation: 20 hours End term paper: 40 hours Total: 140 hrs. (= 5 ects).

Mode of instruction

Class attendance is mandatory and class participation consists in 10% of the grade. Each student is expected to come to class having done the assigned readings and prepared to discuss them with others. Bring the book or handouts we are working on to each class. If an emergency requires you to miss a class, notify the instructor in time, and be prepared to have another student report on what you missed; you are responsible for class information and announcements whether present or not. This is a personal presence and participative class.

Assessment method

Presentation, end-term paper, and participation in class.



Reading list

B.S. Turner, Religion and Social Theory. 2nd ed. (London 1991).
J. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago 1994).
P. Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London 2000).
S. Bruce, Religion and Politics (London 2003).
T. Fitzgerald (ed.), Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formations (London 2007).
P. Beyer & L. Beaman (eds.), Religion, Globalization, and Culture (Leiden 2007).
M. Juergensmeyer, Global Rebellion. Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Qaeda (Berkeley 2008).
I. Strenski, Why Politics Can’t Be Freed From Religion (Oxford 2010).


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr W. Hofstee


Prospective students of this course are advised to sign up on Blackboard at least two weeks before the program will start!

Language of instruction: English (or Dutch, in case of no non-Dutch speaking participants).