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State, faith and power


Admission requirements

No requirements.


  1. In this class you will learn about the interaction between state and religion in theory, history, and modern practice. You will be introduced to the Christian and Islamic concepts of the relationship between religion and state, to the development from God-given power to people’s sovereignty, to the ideas of Augustine and Luther, Al-Farabi, Locke and Hobbes, Khomeini and the American Founding Fathers, and to the views of political systems like secularism, communism and liberalism. You will learn how certain countries have developed their own special arrangement between state and religion, like China and Pakistan, America and France, Egypt and Malaysia.

  2. In this seminar you will have to put theory to practice. In a world where religion is rapidly gaining in importance, you will asked to form your opinion on a variety of issues, such as: Is there a limit to the freedom of religion? Can a state do without religion? Is secularism the only way for sharia to work? Should religion have a say in legislation?

  3. These questions will be addressed in cases studies that will be played out by means of role models. Based on the role attributed to you, you will have to prepare for a debate session with your fellow students.

Course objectives

In this course the students become acquainted with academic literature and research questions, and will learn how to apply that to case studies. To prepare for these case studies, that are based on topical issues that are set in a global context, students must develop interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives, and the skills to conduct academic research and to present their findings.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral presentation skills: the students will engage in debate sessions.

Collaboration skills: the students work in groups that represent certain positions, and in that capacity must collaborate in academic research and in presenting their arguments.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills: the students develop the skill to
collect and select academic literature relevant to their specific case and argument, and to
analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability in such a way that they can produce substantiated arguments and conclusions.

Written presentation skills: the students must process the literature in such a way that they produce clear and concise memos, handouts and presentations that are to be used during the sessions.

Mode of instruction

Seminars (“werkgroep”) whereby the students are coached and instructed in preparing for four case study sessions [see also under ‘remarks’].

Four case-study sessions, each 3 lecture-periods:
1. Preparation of session (students must have read some basic, material, will be provided with comments and additional material by lecturers)
2. Session
3. Evaluation of session (lecturers will evaluate the comments made, and provide additional mini-lecture if needed)

Assessment method

Each of the four case study sessions is 25% of the final grade
Each session is evaluated on the basis of:

  • research (40%),

  • group participation (30%),

  • session participation, in particular oral and argumentative skills (30%)


Thu 13-15


Blackboard is used for notifications, reading assignments, weekly schedule, uploading assignments.

Reading list

to be made available on blackboard


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, to gain access to the programme, literature and additonal information


Attendance is compulsory. More than 2 absences will automatically exclude the student from further attendance and finalizing the course. Absences during the case study sessions will affect the final grade.