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Gender and Religion




Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 200/300-level courses or permission from the instructor.


This course will focus on how practitioners of organized religions around the world reproduce, or conversely, disrupt the prevailing gender dynamics of their respective societies. We will treat the sexed, sexualized and gendered body as a site and a tool of investigation, exploring its roles as a medium, a sacred space, and/or a problem in religious life. The topics of our case studies will range from the role of spirituality in coping with addictions and revising formulations of masculinity in Mexico and the changing perceptions of in vitro among religious Egyptians to rhetorical analyses of the sanctioning of gay and lesbian religious leaders in American mainline Protestant denominations and Brazilian Candomblé.

Our analysis of the manifold ways in which people engage in religious and spiritual acts will be informed by theories on gender, sex, sexuality, and embodiment. Calling upon (and ultimately conducting our own) research framed by discourse analysis and ethnographic methods, we will consider the handling of gender and sexuality in both mainstream and subcultural religious movements. In our discussions, we will strive towards a better understanding of how people’s embodied socio-spiritual engagements interact with the political and cultural contexts in which they are embedded.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students can expect to have acquired

  • a strong familiarity with current gender, sexuality and embodiment theories;

  • a better understanding of the diversity of religious movements and their internal power dynamics;

  • an awareness of how religious practices refract and interact with the political and cultural contexts in which they are engaged;

  • an ethical appreciation of the difficulty of studying personal subject matters and a sensitivity to the religious, gendered and otherwise lived experiences that make our learning possible

By the end of this course, students will have developed skills

  • in collaborative analysis and oral presentation;

  • in conducting original research and situating findings within the appropriate fields;

  • in critical reflection of popular and scholarly texts;

  • in forming and articulating informed, nuanced opinions;

  • in academic writing, by arguing theses that both incorporate material from several disciplines and reflect the students’ own perspectives on complex topics


All articles and other materials will be listed in blackboard and provided via Leiden University Libraries.