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Religion and Modernity in Global Context


This course can be followed as part of the BA specialisation “Global Connections”.
(onderdeel BA Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingssociologie)

Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

Please see the registration procedure below.


How do religion and modernity relate? Until a couple of decades ago, the general assumption was that the emergence of ‘modernity’ would result in a gradual decline of religion. In parts of Western Europe (such as the Netherlands and Britain), over the past century, institutionalised religion has indeed lost a lot of ground, but elsewhere this has not been the case. But even there where institutionalised religion went into decline, this has not resulted in the disappearance of religion from the public domain. What it did result in, however, was the relationship between religion and the state being questioned even stronger than before. The global claims inherent in most religions result in people defining themselves at once in a local and a trans-national sphere. Consequently, globalisation and modernity provide contexts in which religion, and the religious, attain new shapes. How is modernity transforming religious traditions? In what ways is religion being redefined, as globalization changes people’s orientation, and the networks through which they maintain social, economic and political relationships? In what ways can an ideology such as nationalism be understood to substitute religion? The exploration of religion and modernity in a global context can provide new and challenging perspectives on processes of modernization.

Course objectives

The course intends to familiarize students with the major anthropological and sociological debates on religion, secularism and global modernity; to get acquainted with methodological approaches to the study of religion; and to equip students to pursue further studies in the field of religious practices.

Time table

Tuesdays 11-13 h, between February 8 to May 24 2011, room 5B04, Pieter de la Court Building

Mode of instruction

  • lectures 12 × 1 h (18 sbu)

  • tutorial 12 × 1 h (24 sbu)

  • literature 996 pages (166 sbu)

  • written assignments 5500 words = 9 pages (72 sbu)

Assesment method

Out of a total of 11 assignments, one assignment can be omitted. The assignment to be omitted has either not been submitted, or it is the assignment for which the lowest mark has been obtained. Assignments that have been submitted, but failed, can be retried. Assignments that have not been submitted at the time/date that they are due cannot be resubmitted. All re-submissions are due the class following the one in which they were returned to the student.


Blackboard module will be active from mid January 2011. Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.
The course programme and a list of additional literature will be made available on Blackboard at least one week preceding the start of the course.

Reading list

  • Susan Harding (2000), The book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press.

  • Additional readings to be announced.


  • Studenten CA-OS: inschrijving mogelijk via het secretariaat CA-OS, kamer 3A19, tel. 5273469, e-mail:, tussen 1 december 2010 en 15 januari 2011.

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme


Secretariat of the Institue of Anthropology/ Development Sociology +31715273451.
(visiting address: Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden, room 3A19).