Full time 12 Month(s), Part time 24 Month(s)
This is a broad MA programme for anyone interested in the academic discipline of Religious Studies. It is designed to introduce you to key theoretical and methodological issues in the study of religion from a range of disciplinary perspectives.
The programme explores key topics such as the social and cultural transformations of contemporary religion and spirituality; religion and conflict; religion and popular culture; modern religious thought and history; new religious movements; and religion and gender. In addition, the programme provides you with an opportunity to explore the history, texts and contemporary contexts of specific religious traditions.
The advanced research skills, developed through the programme, are relevant to a range of professions. Equally, it also provides a firm foundation for those looking to pursue academic careers.
You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.
The module involves the negotiation, design and delivery of a research project whose precise topic will be determined by the student and the project supervisor.
The dissertation will be 20,000 words in length and is designed to provide students with the opportunity to consolidate their existing knowledge and skills base while developing new knowledge and skills made possible by its project-orientated nature.
The module serves to consolidate postgraduate research and learning support by providing opportunity for students to engage theories, methods and skills of direct relevance to their studies. The module is core for all PPR PGT students and complements core subject and discipline-specific module provision. The first five sessions of the module treat generic theories, methods and skills relating to postgraduate study and research. The next three sessions are given over to subject-specific input which is delivered separately by disciplinary specialists. The contents of these three sessions will be determined relative to discipline-specific needs. The final two sessions are dedicated to workshop discussions and presentations in respect of student projects.
· The academic research process. · Project planning, design and process management. · Ethics in postgraduate research. · Resource identification and review processes. · Data acquisition techniques and issues. · Analytical and interpretative approaches. · Academic conventions (e.g. making an argument, writing, referencing). · Subject specific methods and skills. · Workshop discussions and project planning presentations.
Cooley, L. 2003. Dissertation Writing in Practice. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Creswell, J. 2003. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Grix, J. 2010. The Foundations of Research. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Locke, L. F., Silverman, S. J., and Wyrick Spirduso, W. 2004. Reading and Understanding Research. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage. McMillan, K. 2011. Study Skills for International Students. Harlow: Prentice Hall, 2011. Potter, S. (ed.) 2006. Doing Postgraduate Research. 2nd ed. London: Sage. Preece, R. A. 1994 Starting Research: an Introduction to Academic Research. London: Pinter Publishers. Thody, A. 2006. Writing and Presenting Research. London: Sage. Walliman, N. 2005. Your Research Project. 2nd ed. London: Sage. Welsh, J. 1979 The First Year of Postgraduate Research Study. Guildford: Society for Research into Higher Education. Wilkinson, D. 2005. The Essential Guide to Postgraduate Study. London: Sage. Wisker, G. 2008. The Postgraduate Research Handbook. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
This module aims to provide skills training for postgraduate students in religious studies from induction to completion of the master's dissertation. It supports existing taught modules by introducing a variety of research methods from other disciplines and theoretical issues within religious studies. It also introduces cross-cultural and cross-religious examination of research topics in religious studies. The module will provide students the opportunity for developing generic skills in library research, essay writing, and dissertation planning.
• Induction in the study of religions: resources, essay planning and writing, seminar preparation and presentations • Research methodologies: examples selected from philosophical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, and phenomenological approaches • Theoretical approaches to the study of religion: examples selected from the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences • Dissertation workshop: finding a topic and supervisor, completion plan, case studies Select Bibliography: Asad, T, Genealogies of Religion (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)Heelas & Woodhead, Spiritual Revolution (Blackwell, 2004)King, R, Orientalism and Religion (Routledge, 1999)King, U. (ed.) Gender, Religions, and Diversity (Blackwell, 1995)Reader, I. & G. Tanabe (eds.) Practically Religious (University of Hawaii Press, 1998)
Whether global, national, ethnic or ethical, conflicts frequently involve religion. Between themselves, in their relations with secular states and ideologies, and even at the level of sects or denominations, religions engage in conflict arising from deeply held beliefs and values, as well as in struggles for power, status and legitimacy. Understanding how and why religious groups contribute to global and regional conflicts and civil wars – from terrorist attacks, through historically embedded disputes in Israel/Gaza and Northern Ireland, to Christian/Muslim violence in Nigeria, Uganda and India – is vital for development, humanitarian intervention, international relations, diplomacy and conflict resolution.
This module provides the knowledge and skills to help students understand and analyse why conflict happens within and between religious groups, and to assess the positive and negative contributions that religions make to wider struggles – from local disputes through to global terrorism.
The module is designed to introduce students to key concepts and issues in scholarship on religion and conflict: e.g. on the relationship between conflict and violence, religion and ethnicity, the ‘clash of civilizations’, intra-religious as well as inter-religious conflict, jihad and martyrdom. Equal attention will be given to the importance of context – historical, social, geographical and political. Analysis and debate about religion and conflict will be situated in particular cases, from the UK and Europe, the US, the Indian sub-continent and sub-Saharan Africa. Lecture podcasts and online discussion activities will be complemented by online talks by experts and short films. There will be plenty of opportunities for online interaction with peers and tutors.
Cavanaugh, William T. (2009) The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haynes, Jeffrey. (2011) Religion, Politics and International Relations. New York: Routledge.
Kaplan, Benjamin J. (2007) Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.
Maréchal, Brigitte and Sami Zemni (eds). (2012) The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships: Doctrine, Transnationalism, Intellectuals and the Media. London: Hurst.
Murphy, Andrew (ed). (2011) The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
The concept of spirituality is a powerful analytic tool when it comes to the examination of various binaries in Western culture: the sacred and the secular, society and the individual, authority and the subject, the this-worldly and the other-worldly. In some instances, 'spirituality' as a form of life emphasizes the shift in importance from one to the other elements of binary sets (from institutional authority to the subject); in others, it even challenges the binary (between this- and other-worldly concerns). This module seeks to bring the insights and disciplines of Asian (and other) studies to bear on the theories that arose in Western contexts. In this way, a richer, global understanding of paradigms, trends and presuppositions can emerge in the study of spirituality and its relationship to religion, society, secularism, modernity and other conceptual categories. The module will look at experiences of Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Shinto (amongst other) traditions in order to query the binaries mentioned above in very different, complementary and sometimes incompatible ways relative to those familiar to the Western, (post-)Christian experience. The major topics will be: Situating the concepts of religion and spirituality in Asian traditions; Practical Spirituality: asking for this world; Practical Spirituality and Pilgrimage; Possession: healing beyond mind/body dualisms; Possession: class, religious and gender identities; The Goddess: What has She done for women?; Sexing spirituality: and Hindu women's rituals; Religion, Spirituality and the environment. There will be weeks given over to student presentations and discussions.
Upon successful completion of the module, the student will have gained knowledge of the relevance of the concept of 'spirituality' in Asian religious and cultural traditions; explored various theoretical and empirical strategies in the study of Asian spiritualities; and learnt to study spirituality in Asian traditions in terms suited to and derived from their native contexts.
Alter, Joseph. 2004. Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy. Princeton: PUP
Davdal, Sonal (ed.). 2006 Looking for directions: Towards an Asian spirituality, Sutton: South Asian Concern
Ghadially, R. (ed.) . 1988. Women in Indian Society: A Reader. New Delhi: Sage Publications
Gosling, D.L. 2001. Religion and ecology in India and South East Asian. London: Routledge
Obeyesekere, G. 1981. Medusa's Hair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The rise of the Goddess in the Hindu tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press
Ramaswamy, Vijaya. 1997. Walking naked: women, society, spirituality in South India. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Reader, I. and George Tanabe. 1998. Practically religious: worldly benefits and the common religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
This module allows students to study the nexus of religion, politics and society by way of some of the most controversial and pressing debates of today. Inspired by the national ‘Westminster Faith Debates’ which are organised out of PPR, the module makes use of the contributions of leading figures who have taken part, such as Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee, Tony Blair and Rowan Williams.
By way of these debates, students will be introduced to methods, approaches and theories from the range of relevant disciplines, including the sociology of religion, religious studies, politics, and philosophy. They will be equipped and encouraged to think about key themes for themselves, in dialogue with existing theories, interpretations and arguments.
The module will consider religion and secularity past and present, but will have a particular focus on the contemporary situation and ‘religious futures’. The approach will be multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. The teaching will be interactive, and assessment will be by essay, online interaction, and writing a blog entry.
Podcasts and videos on the ‘Westminster Faith Debates’ website, especially the series on ‘Religion and Public Life’ (2012), ‘Global Religious Trends’ (2014) and ‘Religion, Violence and Cohesion’ (2015)
Jeff Haynes, Religion, Politics and International Relations. Routledge: 2011.
Linda Woodhead and Rebecca Catto, Religion and Change in Modern Britain. Routledge: 2012.
This module examines the Buddhist scriptures in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions and offers an opportunity for students to understand some of the key concepts and ideas by reading select extracts of the Buddhist texts in English from both schools and traditions. It also allows them to understand the changes in doctrinal emphasis as well as variations in interpretation in the historical development of Buddhism. This module will be a stand-alone module for third year students but will also be accessible to students who are new to the subject.
The module examines the problems posed by human co-existence, specifically with regard to divergent understandings of how we should live and how we should see or describe ourselves. The module begins by examining the notion of cultural conflict and highlighting the cultural aspects of historical and contemporary disputes. This leads into a discussion of the history of toleration as a response to cultural conflict, highlighting historical sources of toleration and co-existence in a range of different areas and regions. Building on this notion of traditions of toleration, the module then examines and problematizes the shift in conceptions of toleration, away from the notion of toleration as inaction in the face of vehement objection towards the notion of toleration as acceptance or affirmation.
This theoretical work leads into the applied element of the module, in which five topical case studies are examined: i) groups, identities and states, with regard to labelling of places, such as Derry/Londonderry and Falklands/Las Malvinas; ii) health, ‘socialised’ healthcare and narcotics in the US; iii) public displays of sexuality, through the examples of the prosecution of Oscar Wilde and the practice of bacha bazi in Afghanistan; iv) bodily autonomy, through examination of the place of male and female genital cutting in Western public discourse and v) blasphemy, explored through the public debate on the Danish Mohammad cartoons and Jerry Springer the Opera.
Examination of these cases will lead into the final week of the course in which the limits of toleration will be discussed and possible policy instruments by which conflicts may be managed outlined.
Select bibliography There is no one single text for this module. However, there will be at least three key readings for each session. These will be made available on Moodle. One key reference text for the module is: Forst, R. (2012) ‘Toleration’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, E. N. Zalta (ed.), <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/toleration/>. Audio material: The Open University’s Multiculturalism Bites contains relevant contributions by Tariq Modood, Will Kymlicka, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser, Anne Phillips, and Susan Mendus: http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/multiculturalism-bites-audio/id449122394. These recordings are free to access, but require iTunes software, which is free to download. Video material: A number of videos will be used as stimuli throughout the course. These will include Cracks in the Mask, which is a documentary about contestation of cultural goods, and ‘It Gets Better’, a youtube video project attempting to curtail the number of suicides among gay teenagers.
The module will examine the cultural and political relationships and intersections between media, religion and politics in national and global contexts. Both old and new media will be considered, and consideration will be given to the transformative potential of the latter for participation and activism in religion and politics. The research methods used for analysing media content and discourse will be introduced and applied.
Topics may include:
There are those who claim that religion is little more than a perverse and irrational scar on the modern world, one that invariably causes violence, while others (at times driven by political motivations) claim that religion is good and that violence only occurs when religion has been hijacked by other forces. Others still claim that religious violence is a myth constructed for political purposes, and that one should not therefore speak of religion in such terms.
In disentangling such claims, this course examines the relationships between religion and violence, asking whether one can draw such associations between the two and whether one can develop any broader theoretical understandings about their relationship that enhances our understanding of religion in the modern world. It thus challenges students to think through and develop an understanding of these issues. While examining a variety of theories and perspectives on the topic, including close examination of the arguments outlined above, it continually will refer to empirical data and case studies in which religious movements and religious individuals have been involved in violent activities, as well as examining cases where acts of immense violence (including genocide) have occurred in what appear to be political contexts, but where religious rhetoric may have been used by the perpetrators of violence.
The cases range across time, space and traditions: Judaism and Israel; Christianity and the Spanish Empire; the development of Islam as well as global contemporary issues; and Buddhism in Imperial Japan and late-20th Sri Lanka. A concluding case, that of the Bosnian civil war, will examine a specific situation in which political, ethnic and religious justifications for violence were all entangled.
Through discussions and examination of both textual sources and political realities, the course will seek to encourage students to develop an understanding of the debates over the notion of religious violence, formulate their own understandings of the validity of the arguments made by those involved in such debates, and develop an awareness of the possible patterns and processes whereby religion and violence come to be associated in a diversity of ways.
The syllabus will cover the following:
1. The very idea of 'religious violence' and the many different contexts in which it is found.
2. Theories of violence and key concepts
3. 'Imperial Christianity': violence, expansion and legitimation in the Spanish Empire
4 The idea of a people and a nation: Violence, Judaism and Israel
5. Striving: fighting for Islam - text and history
6. Revenge of history or the dawn of a caliphate? - Contemporary issues
7. Holy War and Just War: the political theology of necessary violence
8. Buddhism, nation and state - Zen and imperial Japan; Theravada Buddhism, Sri Lanka and the civil war
9. Religion and other ideologies: the case-study of Bosnia
In addition to the lectures and seminars, there will be fortnightly seminars specifically for postgraduate students.
Psychology is an attempt to understand the meaning of human behaviour which focuses upon there being an influential unconscious as well as a conscious side to the personality. Directly and indirectly, it has come to play an influential role in modern life. Words like 'Oedipus complex', 'introverted', 'neurotic', 'obsessional', are in fairly common use, often with little clear understanding of their meaning. Psychoanalysts have had a major impact upon our ideas of what it is to be a person. They have also provided key elements in the criticism frequently levelled at religion that it is nothing but the comforting projection of personal and social problems into another and illusory world. We shall be examining these issues in detail. To this end, we shall study selected texts by Freud and other texts which may vary from year to year, but will be drawn from the work of such thinkers as Jung, Nietzsche, Bataille, Lacan, Kristeva, de Certeau and Foucault.
Freud, S., The Interpretation of Dreams Capps, D., Freud and Freudians on Religion DiCenso, J., The Other Freud: Religion, Culture and Psychoanalysis Taylor, Mark C., Altarity
Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research.
Duration: 12 months full-time, 24 months part-time.
Entry requirements: An upper second class honours degree, or its equivalent.
IELTS: 6.5 or equivalent.
Assessment: Coursework and dissertation.
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