Religion and Conflict (distance learning)

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.

Suggested key readings:

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.