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Religion in World Politics




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Globalisation and Transnational Politics


Religion has become an increasingly important issue in international relations over the past thirty years. Against the expectations of secularisation theorists, religion has not only remained socially strong in many parts of the world, but has become increasingly politically assertive. But in what ways does religion intersect with world politics? What are the strengths and weaknesses of analyzing religious politics in terms of civilizations, religio-political movements, or the religiosity of political leaders? What are the implications of the contemporary resurgence of religion for international order? And how is the intersection of world politics and religion best managed in the twenty-first century?

This course will provide an introduction to religion in world politics. The course will begin by exploring methodological and conceptual problems in the study of religion and politics, and the historical background to the new visibility of religion in political life. It will then move on to examining some of the most prominent examples of contemporary religious politics at three ‘levels of analysis’: the level of civilizations and religious traditions; the organized group level; and the individual level. At each level, we will discuss case study examples (cases tbc), asking not only what kind of political projects are being pursued by religious actors, but also what is made visible at each level of analysis, and what is obscured. The course will conclude by examining responses to the resurgence of religion: how contemporary politics and government are affecting what forms of religion and religious political engagement are possible and permissible.

What are the implications of the contemporary resurgence of religion for global order?
In this course, we will examine the diverse ways in which religion is reshaping world politics. The first half of the course explores the theories being developed to understand how religion relates to important contemporary political phenomena: secularism, nationalism, globalization and transnationalism, violence, democratization, and electoral politics. We will ask how religion shapes these realities, and how they in turn structure the context in which religious politics takes place, shaping what forms of religion and religious political engagement are possible in the twenty-first century.

Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to critically reflect on whether theories and categories in the academic literature provide adequate tools for understanding the religious dimension of world politics. How far can we generalize about religious politics? And can we maintain consistent distinctions between religious and secular politics? This course is recommended as a preparation for Political Islam in the Middle East at 300-level.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to the place and role of religion in world politics. By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of competing theoretical approaches to the study of religion in world politics.

  • Show knowledge of the historical trajectory of religion in world politics.

  • Demonstrate understanding of the complexity and diversity of religious politics around the world.

  • Apply conceptual and theoretical tools to analyse the role religion plays in world politics.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills; develop the capacity to learn independently, criticise major texts and approaches, and lead class discussions.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for shaping its direction. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing.


  • Seminar participation: 15% (ongoing, weeks 1-7)

  • Group presentations: 15% (weeks 3-7)

  • Book review: 30% (1000 words, week 5)

  • Individual final research essay: 40% (2500 words, week 8)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

There is no core text. Recommended texts indicative of the course content include:

  • Ted G. Jelen and Clyde Wilcox (eds.), Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective¬ (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002).

  • Timothy Samuel Shah, Alfred Stepan and Monica Duffy Toft (eds.), ¬Rethinking Religion and World Affairs (Oxford: OUP, 2012).

  • Monica Toft, Daniel Philpott, and Timothy Shah, God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (New York: Norton, 2011).

  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007).


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Edmund Frettingham: