Department of the Study of Religions
Religious studies has been a major part of teaching and research at SOAS since the School was founded in 1917.
At SOAS we study religions because they have been powerful, dynamic, and enduring forces in all societies at all times. They have exercised an enormous influence on the formation and development of global political, economic, cultural, moral, and philosophical systems. It is impossible to understand any culture without studying its religious traditions and practices. A culture’s religion encapsulates its people’s values and ideas, sets forward their role models and is integrally related to a sense of identity for many. So in studying religions one is studying how people reflect on and react to what they consider to be of ultimate significance and value.
Our Department is uniquely able to offer a comprehensive insight into the dynamic interactions behind religious thought and practices of the regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It is formed around academics who draw inspiration from the lived realities of the religious traditions they specialise in and who have a passion for their subject which is the consequence of long exposure to these traditions in the regions of the world where they have developed and flourish. Staff work from a deeply empathetic, non-confessional understanding that comes from their deep familiarity with, and experience of, the lived and historical aspects of all of the world’s major religious traditions.
Our teaching is research driven and interdisciplinary. This means that whether at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, our courses offer:
- Study of a wider range of religious traditions and in more depth than any other programme in the field, anywhere in the world: Buddhism in nearly all its doctrinal and regional varieties, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Christianities, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism, Zoroastrianism as well as the local religious cultures of Asia and Africa.
- Strongly interdisciplinary, methodologically diverse, and intellectually rigorous approaches, ensuring advanced and comprehensive learning in theoretical approaches to religion as well as in historical, anthropological, philosophical, sociological and textual approaches to the study of particular religious traditions.
- A unique opportunity to access cutting-edge academic expertise and unrivalled resources on Asian and African religions as part of a spirited, cosmopolitan student community and within the vibrant religious and cultural scene of London. Visits to centres of worship form an integral part of many of our courses.
Students may either take a BA degree dedicated to religious studies, with options in the individual religious traditions, thematic explorations of key topics, and method and theory, or combine the study of religions component with a vast array other subjects taught at SOAS, including languages.
Today, the department has an undergraduate cohort of 120 students, exploring a wide range of religious traditions from Africa and Asia. The MA programme attracts an average of 30 to 40 new Masters students per year, while MPhil/PhD enrollment ranks amongst the strongest in the country, with a research community close to 50 doctoral students.
Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Telephone +44 (0)20 7637 2388
Fax +44 (0)20 7898 4699