The Sacred in Contemporary Society - TH611

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 30 (15) MS M Carpenedo







The primary aims of this module are to give students a critical grounding in current cultural theories of the sacred, to provide them with opportunities to explore how these concepts relate to contemporary social and cultural phenomena, and to reflect on how this process might help us to refine cultural theories of the sacred. The module will enable students to distinguish between ontological and cultural theories of the sacred, and will introduce them to key cultural theorists of the sacred such as Durkheim, Shils, Bellah, and Alexander. A range of cases will also be explored to provide students with opportunities to think about how relevant concepts might relate to specific social and cultural phenomena, and to provide a basis for the analytical work they undertake in their assessed work.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40

Method of assessment

Essay (5,000 words) – 50%
Examination (3 hours) – 50%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Aldridge, A. (2007). Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Alexander, J. (2005). The Meanings of Social Life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Durkheim, E. (1995). The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: Free Press.
Lynch, G. (2012). On the Sacred. London: Acumen.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 5 students will be able to:

- Demonstrate critical understanding of the differences between ontological and cultural theories of the sacred;
- Situate cultural theories of the sacred within broader forms of cultural theory (e.g. cultural sociology);
- Engage critically with key cultural theorists of the sacred, demonstrating a clear understanding of their work, an ability to articulate a balanced and well-informed critique of it, and an ability to use their concepts, where appropriate, to relevant social and cultural phenomena;
- Provide balanced and well-evidenced arguments on whether a particular contemporary cultural phenomenon can be appropriately understood in sacred terms, as well as what this suggests about the nature of the sacred as a cultural structure.

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