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Religion and the immigrant experience


Admission requirements

Ability to take part in an English course and to give a presentation in English. There is a maximum of 24 participants.


Religion is often used in the political discourse to group large numbers of immigrants under one banner. A host of other factors (e.g., intra-religious variability, cultural and ethnic background, age and generational differences, government policies, economical resources) and the fluidity of identity in general are thereby swept under the carpet.
What role does religion play in the life of an immigrant? Within a strange and sometimes hostile host society it can function as a moral compass, a link to home, or a part of your identity. How do individuals navigate between religious and other identities? What happens beyond the individual level? Are religious institutions just the focus of homesickness or is there more to it? What is their function within a host society?
From the viewpoint of the host society, religion in relation to immigrants is mostly considered in terms of integration. Is religion an obstacle in this process? In secular Europe, religious morals are perceived to clash with secular ‘freedoms’, and religious communities are considered a threat to national unity (the national community). American studies, in contrast, show how religious communities can also facilitate integration.
This course critically examines the scientific discourse on religion and migrants (mainly in the US and Europe), relating it to the current public debate. Students will also be introduced to the Leiden fieldwork on Christian minorities, who have left the Middle East and are now living in Europe and the US. We will be exploring the possible roles of religion in the immigrant experience on different levels. Special attention is paid to the role of religious institutions and to religious identity (or identification) in different contexts and in relation to other identities.

Course objectives

  • Understanding (the difficulties with) the terminology, and knowing how to apply key terms – Getting to know some of the research being done in this subject area, and the wide variety in viewpoints (not just concerning European Muslims) – Developing an awareness of the possible roles of religion as part of the immigrant experience, and its limitations – Determining one’s own position in the debate on religion and migration – Getting acquainted with the Leiden fieldwork into diaspora communities of Eastern Christians such as the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox (Assyrians) – Enhancing presentation and discussion skills


Timetable Institute for Religious Studies
September 14 – October 19; Wednesday 09.00-11.00 hr, Lipsius 227

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Oral presentation in class (30%), see Blackboard – Participation in discussion (20%) – Written exam based on mandatory literature and the subjects discussed in class (50%


A Blackboard site will be available for this course.

Reading list

Michael W. Foley and Dean R. Hoge, Religion and the New Immigrants: How Faith Communities Form Our Newest Citizens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). Introduction and Chapters 1 and 7

Additional articles to be handed out or placed on Blackboard.


There is a maximum of 24 participants, for registration mail to Dr. E.P. den Boer

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

Contact information

Prof.dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny


There is a maximum of 24 participants.
This course is part of the interdisciplinary Minor ‘Multicultural Society’, organized in cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities by the Faculty of Social Sciences.