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Religion and the immigrant experience


Admission requirements

Ability to take part in an English course


How can we explain that Islamic immigrants from Turkey used to adopt a more negative attitude towards Dutch society than Christians from the same country, and even the same region? How come they were less successful? It seems natural to sug-gest that this has something to do with the most conspicuous difference between the two groups: their religion. But if this is the case, how does one explain that the same group of Christian immigrants from Turkey has had much more success in settling in Sweden than in Germany or the Netherlands? Should we not also look at factors such as the government policy towards immigrants and the attitude of the receptor society? And what is the role of religious institutions in all this? Do they facilitate or constrain immigrant adaptation?

This course discusses the scholarly debate on these matters (mainly in the United States), and introduces the student to our own fieldwork in this area, based on the experience of members of Christian minorities who left the Middle East and are now living in Europe and the Americas.

Course objectives

  • Developing an awareness of the possible roles of religion as part of the immigrant experience, and its limitations

  • Determining one’s own position in this debate Developing an awareness of the role of religious institutions and faith communities in facilitating and constraining immigrant adaptation

  • Getting acquainted with Leiden fieldwork in Diaspora communities of Eastern Christians such as the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox (Assyrians)

  • Developing presentation and writing skills


Wednesday Wo. 9.15 – 11.00 hr; Vrieshof 4/004A
November 3 – December 8, 2010

Mode of instruction

Working group

Assessment method

  • take home exam (2/3 of the mark)

  • oral presentation in class and contribution to discussions (1/3 of the mark)


A Blackboard site will be available for this course. It will give the PowerPoint presentations, additional literature, assignments for the presentations in class, and the possibility to start online discussions or ask questions.

Reading list

  • Michael W. Foley and Dean R. Hoge, Religion and the New Immigrants: How Faith Communities Form Our Newest Citizens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

  • Additional articles to be handed out or placed on Blackboard.


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Contact information


This course is part of the interdisciplinary Minor Multicultural Society, organized in cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities by the Faculty of Social Sciences.
See here