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Religion & Identity




Admissions requirements

Recommended: Paradoxes of Citizenship or Approaches to Diversity: Anthropology.


The freedom of religion has traditionally been seen as the cornerstone of western liberal democracies, but it is precisely in this context that it has become the subject of intense and often bitter social debates. These debates are fueled by uncertainty about the nature of a religious identity. Increasingly, religious identities are framed as elective and contrasted in this way with other foundations of human identities that are seen as inborn. This interpretation is not one that is shared by most religious people. This course will unpack these debates on the basis of actual case studies. After an in-depth look at the ways in which identity discourses in general vacillate between ‘biological’ and ‘cultural’ interpretations (and valuations), we will zoom in on legal and social debates on religious freedom, culminating in an exploration of violent state interference in religious communities.

Course objectives

Students will not only learn about religion, and religious identity, but also about the construction of identity discourses in general. They will learn to understand how differences in world-view (normative cognition) impact understandings of reality. By taking a look at actual cases of conflict between religious communities and state actors, they will learn to deal with diversity on the basis of religion. From a series of ‘outlier’ cases, they will acquire a more generalized view of the nature of religious identities.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Seminar-style teaching, with weekly assessments, smaller essays, presentations, and a final research paper.




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

  • R. Brubaker, “Grounds for Difference”, Cambridge MA 2015

  • W. Fallers Sullivan, “The Impossibility of Religious Freedom”, Princeton 2005

  • S.A. Wright & S.J. Palmer, “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities”, Oxford 2016


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