Religion and International Politics - POLI6660

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22

Private study hours: 128

Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

* Essay, 3000 words, 50%
* Exam, 2 hours, 50%

Reassessment instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

* 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)

* Jeffrey Haynes, An Introduction to International Relations and Religion (Pearson, 2nd edition 2011)

* Luca Mavelli, Europe's Encounter with Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2012)

* Luca Mavelli and Fabio Petito (eds.) Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

* Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)

* Jack Snyder (ed.), Religion and International Relations Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)

* 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).

* Wilson, Erin K. (2011) After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics (New York: Palgrave)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1: understand the key debates surrounding the question of religion in international politics, from the 'clash of civilisations' to the ‘power of secular formations’

2: summarise and critically evaluate the dominant theoretical approaches to the study of religion in international politics

3: understand the role of religion and secularity in the processes of state formation, construction of security and production of political violence

4: assess the role that religion plays in contemporary practices of emancipation and resistance

5: identify key ethical and normative questions raised by religion in the public sphere

6: 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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