SOAS University of London

Department of Religions and Philosophies

Religion in Global Politics: Themes and Theories

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of this course, a student should have acquired:

  • Expertise in the theoretical premises and critical paradigms underlying the interdisciplinary study of religion and politics.
  • Training in European and non-European critical theorisations and genealogies of secularism, postsecularism, and religion in the public sphere.
  • Familiarity with critical scholarship and ways of constructing theoretical frames in order to assess the complexity of historical and contemporary structurations of relations between religion and state.
  • An ability to extend theoretical frameworks to ‘real-world’ situations and contexts and to attend to regional specificities;
  • An ability to evaluate and position critically a variety of books, journals and other sources of information relevant to the topics studies on the course.


Two hours lecture; one hour seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

This course will offer a comprehensive overview of the various debates around the nature of the secularism and the role of religion in the public sphere, in order to attend to the central issue of how 'the secular' is constituted, understood, and instantiated in both domestic and international or transnational contexts. Other related themes will also be examined, taking a case-study approach, such as the relationship between religious discourses and political violence, the legislative difficulties presented by contradictions in liberalist political principles that underpin the political systems of the global North and models of multiculturalism, theocratic conceptions of the state, the role of religion in identity politics and transnational institutions, and state responses to religious identity claims and priorities.

  • Religion, modernity and postmodernity
  • Secularism and secularization: histories and regional differences
  • Postsecularism and political theology
  • Religion and transnational institutions
  • Religion and globalisation
  • Religion and nationalism
  • Religion, migration and diaspora
  • Multiculturalism, gender, and liberalism
  • Citizenship and religious identity
  • Public policy and the management of religious diversity
  • Human rights versus cultural rights
  • The status of religious law in Liberal Democracies
  • Inter-religious dialogue
  • Religion and violence
  • Fundamentalism and religious extremism
  • State persecution of religious communities
  • Religion and conflict resolution
  • Religion, development and faith-based NGOS

Method of assessment

Two 3 000 words essays (worth 30% each);one 4 000 words essay (worth 40%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules