Our MA in Religion provides core training for students wanting to pursue further postgraduate research or research in other contexts.
The programme offers an overview of key theoretical debates in the study of religion, as well as methodological issues and approaches for conducting fieldwork. You also study two modules of your choice, suited to your own specific interests.
You have the opportunity to refine ideas for a research project through your taught modules and dissertation, and you also receive guidance on writing research proposals and seeking funding.
The Department of Religious Studies
Collectively, the staff at Kent cover all the current methodologies and theoretical approaches (from empirical research to psychology of religion to continental philosophy and history of ideas). As well as offering expertise in all the major ‘world religions’, we are widely recognised for groundbreaking work at the edges of the category of religion as well as for work on the invention of the category of ‘religion’.
Among the many combined subject areas covered in the department are religion and media, religion and politics, religion and comparative literatures, religion and society. For futher details, see staff research interests.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, theology and religious studies was ranked 3rd for research impact in the UK. We were also ranked 7th for research quality and in the top 20 for research intensity and research output.
An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
The Department of Religious Studies strongly supports cross-disciplinary work and students are encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of postgraduate classes and seminars available both within the School of European Culture and Languages (SECL) and across the University as a whole.
You study four (30 credit) modules over two terms, as well as writing a dissertation.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
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TH832 - The Study of Religion: Genealogies, Inventions and Interventions
The category of religion is hardwired into histories of Enlightenment, modernity, and post-modernity to the point that it is now difficult to discuss any of these periods without negotiating religion as a problem of central importance. This course develops a multidisciplinary mapping of religion as an object of academic research in order to better understand the polemics, politics, assumptions and everyday practices which continue to determine the status of religion. Working with various subfields within the study of religion, this comparative and collaborative course develops new maps of mutual influence, borrowing, translation and struggle between subfields, all of which produced the dominant images of religion within university and popular cultural contexts alike.
Indicative topics include: how and why did the study of religion emerge as a ‘human science’ opposed to earlier research on theology? What cultural and political projects shaped the category of “world religion”? How did scholars of biblical and European traditions react to nineteenth-century developments in the study of Buddhist and Hindu traditions? What were the political tendencies behind modern European and North American denigrations of ritualized practice in favour of religion as the study of “belief”? What were universities roles in establishing the limits and value of the concept of the “secular”, and why are so many academic discussions of religion currently so keen to dislodge the same concept?
Students will learn to engage in sophisticated ways with classic primary texts by those who lastingly shaped the modern invention of the academic study of religion, figures like G. W. F. Hegel, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Max Müller, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Mauss.Read more
TH833 - Contemporary Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion
The focus of this module is on major contemporary developments in the study of religion. Topics to be dealt with include (without being confined to): gender/sexuality; postcolonialism; poststructuralism and critical theory; media; economy; the construction of ‘the secular’; and the contestation of religion as a category of analysis.
Students will focus on key thinkers and debates and key terms and key words (for example, ‘What controversies have developed around terms like “culture” and “belief”?’) The course will also examine the latest developments and controversies in methodologies and theories of religion. These include (without being confined to) textual studies; anthropology; sociology; comparative religion; psychology of religion; media theory; philosophy of religion.Read more
TH876 - Religion, Media and Culture
There is an increasing recognition within the study of religion that understanding social and cultural forms of religion necessarily involves paying attention to the media through which people engage with religion or perform their religious lives. Growing out of early work on religion and film, and new forms of religious media (e.g. televangelism), academic work in this field have broadened out from studying the representation of religion in media texts to thinking more broadly about the significance of media in relation to religion. This has opened up discussions about the ways in which religion is always mediated as well as the implications of different media forms for this process. Whilst still maintaining an interest in the context of media 'texts', this work is therefore opening up questions about the role of practice, aesthetics and the senses in media use as well as broadening what we might think of as 'media' in religious contexts.Read more
TH831 - Spirituality and Therapy
The module will develop an understanding of what in ancient, non-Western, and modern European contexts are the historical and conceptual relationships between therapy, spiritual exercise, medical discourse, the search for wisdom or insight, and the critique of cultural life.
How do the different ancient, non-Western and modern or contemporary traditions imagine happiness, enjoyment, or bliss, and what is the imagined relationship between these states and the goal of therapeutic practice? Might something like a general theory of therapeutics, spiritual exercise, or “anthropotechnics” constitute an overarching category that unites what we normally imagine to be distinct areas of philosophy, psychology, religion, and clinical practice?
This comparative module explores how modern psychological and psychoanalytic therapies have more to do with religious traditions of spiritual exercise than tends to be indicated by academic disciplines, acknowledged by professional therapeutic societies, or actively explored in the development of new therapeutic models.Read more
TH998 - Dissertation:Theology & Religious Studies
In conversation with a dissertation supervisor and other dissertation students, individual students will also work independently to develop an original agenda of research leading to a significant contribution to the contemporary study of religion.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment is by coursework on the taught modules and dissertation.
The programme aims to:
- provide students with a strong grounding in the histories of the modern discipline of Religious Studies and associated disciplines
- provide students with a critical understanding of the modern construct of ‘religion’ as it connects to broader conceptual and contextual questions (for example ‘media’, ‘globalisation’, ‘security’, ‘therapy’, the ‘secular’)
- provide students with a strong grounding in current theoretical and methodological debates in the study of religion provide opportunities for specializing in the study of a particular religious tradition or methodological approach within the subject area.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain a knowledge and understanding of:
- histories of the modern discipline of religion
- the modern category of ‘religion’ as it connects to broader conceptual and contextual questions (for example ‘media’, ‘globalisation’, ‘security’, ‘therapy’, the ‘secular’)
- current theoretical and methodological debates in the study of contemporary religion
- in-depth knowledge of a particular area of specialization, which may be a sub-discipline, a methodology, a particular religious tradition, or a particular interdisciplinary topic (e.g. ‘religion and media’).
You gain the following intellectual skills:
- ability to understand, analyse and evaluate relevant theoretical and methodological literature appropriate to study at Masters level
- articulate clearly verbally and in writing one’s position in the context of broader theoretical and methodological debates
- ability to develop self-set research topics for module essays and Masters’ level dissertation (MA only)
- ability to take responsibility for personal and professional learning and development and to manage their time effectively.
- ability to develop their academic performance from the feedback and advice given by tutors and other students in essays and presentations.
- improved ability to deploy a range of IT skills effectively
You gain the following subject-specific skills:
- ability to demonstrate an advanced and systematic understanding of key terms and concepts
- ability to give a critical, systematic and original analysis
- ability to critically evaluate specific cases or issues
- ability to make effective use of electronic databases and other relevant resources to conduct effective literature searches.
You gain the following transferable skills:
- ability to manage time and to produce work of a high standard to fixed deadlines
- ability to engage in independent study and research, supported by appropriate resources
- ability to articulate ideas and arguments clearly in writing and verbally.
The University’s aim that students are able to acquire discipline-specific and transferable skills through the curriculum is at the heart of this new MA programme. Its interdisciplinary nature allows you to specialise as well as prepare for the modern university employment market, where versatility and interdisciplinary is increasingly expected.
The Templeman Library has strong electronic and print collections in religious studies, and a wide range of related disciplines including anthropology, cultural and critical theory, history, literature, philosophy, politics and sociology. Doctoral students are offered research support funds to enable them to attend academic conferences or to meet other costs associated with their research.
Postgraduate students in Religious Studies are expected to play an active role in the training and research culture of the Department as a whole. This includes the Department’s regular research seminar, the advanced theory reading group and other training workshops offered through the year involving internationally recognised researchers.
Postgraduate students have the opportunity to take the Department’s week-long training course in methodological approaches to the study of religion in the spring term, which is also taken by doctoral students from around the UK. Doctoral students are supported with undertaking wider professional development activities, including teaching and writing for publication, that would prepare them for future academic work.
Broader training support is also available through the University’s Graduate School.
Dynamic publishing culture
All staff are involved in writing research monographs and articles, as well as a range of research networking and editing activities. Where appropriate, postgraduate students are helped to publish their own work, either as sole-authored pieces with feedback and guidance from staff, or as co-authored projects written with a staff member.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A first or upper-second class honours degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant humanities or social science subject.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Research areas undertaken in the Department of Religious Studies include:
Religion, the sacred and contemporary society
This includes the study of the role of religious NGOs in global civil society, the cultural sociological study of the sacred (including humanitarianism and nationalism), the relationship between religion and late capitalism, and religious engagements with pluralist, secular societies
Religion, media and culture
The Department has particular expertise in the study of religion and film, including the religious significance of film as a medium and the critical theological analysis of film texts. Other work explores different forms of the mediation of religion, the material and aesthetic dimensions of religious life, and the significance of news media for the circulation of sacred meanings.
Theory and method in the study of religion
In addition to engaging with current debates about the nature of religious experience and the broader understanding of religion and the sacred, the Department has expertise in a range of theoretical writers and debates within continental philosophy, cultural, critical and social theory, and psychological theory. Research supported within the Department utilises a range of approaches including theoretical research, textual analysis, analysis of visual and material culture, historical research and ethnography.
Understanding Unbelief is a major new research programme aiming to advance the scientific understanding of atheism and other forms of so-called ‘unbelief’ around the world. Its central research questions concern the nature and diversity of ‘unbelief’.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Ward Blanton: Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought
St Paul; the New Testament; continental and European thought.View Profile
Professor Jeremy Carrette: Professor of Religion and Culture
Michel Foucault; William James; critical psychology and religion; globalisation, social theory and religion; politics of spirituality; capitalism and religion; theology and economics; Christian ethics; gender, sexuality and theology.View Profile
Dr Chris Deacy: Reader in Applied Theology
Theology, religious studies and film; theological/religious perspectives on life after death.View Profile
Professor Richard King: Professor of Buddhist and Asian Studies
Buddhism and Asian traditions, theory and method; politics and spirituality; the comparative study of apophatic mysticism (Christian, Vedantic, Buddhist); Eastern-inspired New Age spiritualities.View Profile
Professor Gordon Lynch: Michael Ramsey Chair of Modern Theology
The sacred within contemporary culture; religion, media and culture; lived religion; religion and the secular; conservative and progressive religious movements in the West; religion, arts and public cultural spaces.View Profile
Professor Yvonne Sherwood: Professor of Biblical Cultures and Politics
Biblical studies (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible); religion and continental philosophy; genealogies of the religious and the secular.View Profile
Dr Lois Lee: Research Fellow
Understanding unbelief; nonreligious belief and identities, both contemporary and 19th century.View Profile
Dr Leslie de Vries: Lecturer in East Asian Studies
East Asian medicine, particular interactions with Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, Chinese medical history.View Profile
The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|Religion - MA at Canterbury:|
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
General additional costs
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