Political Theologies in Secular States: Roman Empire to European Union - RSST6280

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This course considers important moments in the Western history of political theology in order to understand modern and contemporary discussions of secular politics. These moments will be considered in relation to comparable instances of politically imagined theology (or theologically imagined politics) from other religious traditions as well. Students will:

- Examine key topics in the modern formation of these discussions (e.g., distinctions between public and private; secular spheres; religion as extra-political ideal; fanaticism; politicised evaluations of Western religion as exceptional in relation to the 'others'; religion and political revolution);
- Map important similarities and differences between Western and non-Western modelling of the relationship between religion and politics;
- Critically evaluate recent presentations of the inherent violence of religions, the inevitability of the clash of civilisations, and the usefulness of religion in 'making globalisation work'.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (2,500 words) – 40%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) – 50%
Presentation (10 minutes) – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Agamben, G. (2011) The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Anidjar, G. (2003) The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (Cultural Memory in the Present). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Cavanaugh, W. (2009) The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Crockett, C. (2011) Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics After Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Derrida, J. (2001) Acts of Religion. London: Routledge.
Fagenblat, M. (2012) A Covenant of Creatures: Levinas' Philosophy of Judaism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to critically assess, approaches to the topic of political theology both inside and outside the Western tradition;
Demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to critically assess, historical trajectories within various traditions as these have shaped recent discussions of 'political religions';
Frame their own research interests and disciplinary questions in light of comparative, historical and theoretical approaches to the relationship between politics and religion;
Reflect critically on key concepts such as 'sovereignty', 'globalisation', 'democracy', 'terrorism', 'fanaticism';
Discern the influence of key classical thinkers and ideas in contemporary discussions of politics and religion.


  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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