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Unit information: Religion and Politics in the West in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Religion and Politics in the West
Unit code SOCI30074
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Katya Braginskaia
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


What is and ought to be the relationship between religion and politics? In the late twentieth century most political theorists and most West European and North American publics thought these were uncontentious subjects. Yet these topics have emerged as important across the social sciences with some challenging ‘secularism’ as discriminatory and unjust to religious citizens. In Western Europe, Muslim political assertiveness, following a logic of minority rights seem to have unsettled status quo institutional arrangements and provoked counter-assertions on the part of those who want to ‘privatise’ religion, or alternatively to ‘nationalise’ it or ‘Europeanise’ it. This course will identify the various Church-State compromises or antagonisms to be found in the West and assess the claims that today we are witnessing a ‘crisis of secularism’ and are transitioning into a ‘post-secularism’.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completing the unit, students will:

  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the arguments for and against varied forms of political secularisms and why political secularism is becoming contested in a number of countries
  2. Critically engage with and evaluate what secularism means in specific political terms in a number of policy areas in different countries
  3. Make detailed and appropriate use of these insights in developing an informed perspective on multiculturalism that contributes meaningfully to contemporary debates.

Teaching details

1 hour lecture and 2 hours of seminars.

The following methods will be outlined and used in the seminars:

  • Listening and speaking in discussion
  • Note taking
  • Essay writing
  • In- seminar debate
  • Independent research
  • Seminar presentation

Assessment Details

Over the course of the unit, students will:

prepare and deliver a group seminar presentation (formative assessment);

plan and draft a 3,000 word assessed essay (100% summative assessment)

Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 3 will be assessed through both essays.

Reading and References

Core readings are likely to include the following:

  • Berger, P., G. Davie, et al. (2008). Religious America, secular Europe?: a theme and variation. Aldershot, Ashgate.
  • Dinham, A. et al (eds) Faith in the Public Realm, Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Habermas, J. (2006). "Religion in the public sphere." European Journal of Philosophy 14(1): 1-25.
  • Laborde, C. Critical Republicanism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Levey, G. and T. Modood (eds) Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Scott, J. The Politics of the Veil: Princeton: Princeton University Press