Religion and International Politics - PO666

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module introduces students to the complex set of questions surrounding religion in international politics. The module begins by exploring contending political and sociological understandings of religion at the turn of the 20th century. It looks, in particular, at the constructed nature of the categories of the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’, and at the limits of the secularization thesis, which anticipated the privatization, decline and ultimately disappearance of religion in modernity. The discussion then turns to the relation between religion and secularism in Europe – with a focus on the question of European identity, multiculturalism, the relation between Europe and Islam and the numerous controversies surrounding Islam in Europe – and in the United States – with a focus on the concept of civil religion and the role of religious rhetoric and thinking in US foreign policy, particularly in the so-called ‘war on terror’. The module then explores the relation between religion and violence by looking at the role of the 16th and 17th wars of religion in the process of modern state formation and by asking whether there is a genuine connection between religion and violence. The concluding part of the module focuses on the emerging concept of the ‘postsecular’, its contending meanings, understandings and possible applications by focusing on the case of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

150 hours including 22 hours lecture/seminar (1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar per week); 128 hours independent study.

Method of assessment

50% coursework (3000 essay), 50% exam.

Indicative reading

Scott Thomas, The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-first Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Jack Snyder (ed.), Religion and International Relations Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)
Luca Mavelli, Europe’s Encounter with Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012)
Judith Butler, Jurgën Habermas, Charles Taylor, Cornel West, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, (New York, Columbia University Press, 2011)
William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)
Jeffrey Haynes, An Introduction to International Relations and Religion (Pearson, 2nd edition 2011)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
- understand the key debates surrounding the question of religion in international politics, from the 'clash of civilisations' to the 'power of secular formations'.
- summarise and critically evaluate the dominant theoretical approaches to the study of religion in international politics
- understand the role of religion and secularity in the processes of state formation, construction of security and production of political violence
- assess the role that religion plays in contemporary practices of emancipation and resistance
- identify key ethical and normative questions raised by religion in the public sphere
- apply theoretical perspectives to case studies.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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