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Comparative Religion


Admission requirements


Comparative religion has often been used as synonymous with the academic study of religion, even though most scholars in that field do not actively “compare” religious traditions, but restrict their attention to a particular religion, in a particular place and a particular period. At the same time, scholars are well aware of two facts: first, that comparing is a basic human cognitive strategy; it is, in fact, our chief way of learning. And second, that comparing is difficult, dangerous, and controversial, because there is no overarching theory, there is no consensus on method, and there is a clearly traceable, unavoidable, impact of power relations on each step in the whole process of comparison. This course focuses explicitly on the role of “comparison” in the study of religion and on current insights regarding the limitations and possibilities of the “comparative approach” in the study of religion. It is designed to develop a historical understanding of comparative religion. The first half of the course will be devoted to theoretically and methodologically informed discussion about inter-religious comparison(s) through their emergence as a modern academic discipline. After the midterm, we will consider a series of case studies exemplifying different comparative modes and categories.

Course objectives

Students will introduce themselves with some foundational terms and concepts in the subject. They will learn about current debates on comparison in the study of religion from a historical and empirical perspective. They will learn to critically engage with the major scholarly works in the area. They will understand the explicit and implicit workings of comparison and will be able to apply these insights to specific case studies. They will, finally, be able to think and write about the role of history in the study of religion.

Transferable skills

After successfully completing this course:

  • Students will have participated in a common effort to think through radically distinct contemporary theoretical perspectives on religion and culture and to report on those in a nuanced way;

  • Students will have advanced experience in negotiating cultural and religious difference and have built up experience in writing about these fields in an academic way.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Mid-term Exam: 40%
Classroom interaction and web-posting: 10%
Final paper: 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Resit will be for the Mid-term exam and the Final paper. The assignments in the Resit would be the same type as of first opportunity. No Resit opportunity for classroom interaction and web-posting.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required readings will be posted on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory. General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.



Academic Integrity
Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).

Students with disabilities
The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.