Below you find the course descriptions of Religious Studies. The programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, an internship and a Master's thesis. Read more about the curriculum and our teaching and research environment, including our teaching staff.

Compulsory

Core Themes in the Study of Religion (compulsory)

This course addresses a core theme of Religious Studies such as Ritual and Sacrifice; Sacred Space and Sacred Time, or Politics and Law. The course investigates the chosen core theme by closely studying seminal and classic contributions to the field and by exploring various (sub-)disciplinary perspectives from anthropology, cultural history, literary studies, and philosophy. This allows students to get an overview of the different domains within the Research Master's programme Religious Studies at Utrecht University, and to identify their personal area of specialisation.

Doing Research in Religious Studies (compulsory)

This course consists of three parts: (a) students participate in research colloquia and discussions about work in progress of PhD candidates and senior staff, (b) they attend guest lectures of international scholars and engage in conversations about the work of these scholars, (c) in seminars covering academic skills students get acquainted with important tools and techniques such as working with databases, writing small academic contributions such as abstracts of conference presentations or book reviews, developing and presenting their academic CV, presenting their own work in front of an audience of peers, developing and refining a proposal for a larger research project, and giving and receiving feedback. The course also contains a module concerning academic integrity. Modules on digital humanities are optional. 

Career orientation:
Students acquire and practice skills that are essential for work in an academic setting: research, discussion, oral presentations, writing, scholarly integrity and building a network.   

Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (compulsory)

The aim of this course is twofold. Firstly, through close reading and discussion of seminal contributions to the academic study of religions, students arrive at a better understanding of the specific problems and debates of this discipline. Secondly, it is a platform for students to practice and train their skills of presentation, performance, and discussion. The reading material will have a special focus on contemporary critical theory and new approaches to the study of religion. These approaches will be discussed in relation to the students’ ongoing research.

Humanities Today (compulsory)

In Humanities Today, students from the different ICON research master programs are invited to discuss, with one another, the key concepts and turns that are at stake in their particular field of interest; from 'otherness', to 'the power of language/image/sound', from 'the digital turn' to the coming of the 'posthuman', from 'material culture' to 'ecocriticism' to 'activism in the arts'. In interdisciplinary groups a series of influential texts that work with these ideas are being read and discussed. Also, professors from the various fields of our interest are being invited to join the discussion and to elaborate on how and why these themes matter today in the arts and in society.

Career orientation:
Students are familiarized with very contemporary research, which is helpful for shaping their future research profile on the academic job market and beyond.

Religious Texts and Interpretive Practices (compulsory)

This course is structured in four parts. The first part provides an overview of the scriptural canons of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, while also examining issues of power and authority in the construction, past and present, of these canons. The second part deals with interpretive techniques in the three Abrahamic traditions, from premodern types of scriptural exegesis to modern and contemporary ones, including a reflection on 20th-century philosophical hermeneutics. The third part addresses the ‘crisis’ of textual scholarship in the 20th and 21st centuries: it reviews the nexus between philology and Orientalism in the work of the early scholar of religion, F. M. Müller, but also studies the emergence in the 21st century of new paradigms (“future philology”, and distant reading) in the textual study of religion. The fourth part explores a number of other recent trends in the study of religious texts, namely, the various proposals to study religious texts and interpretive practices in terms of their performative, ritual and material dimensions.

Materiality and Corporeality of Lived Religion (compulsory)

The structure of the course has four parts. In the first part, we will address the complex relation of "Religion and Materiality" in a historical perspective. This involves studying literature about a) materialism as the basis for a critique of religion (from 18th/19th century approaches to the new atheists), b) the implications of a de-materialized, "Protestant" understanding of religion (e.g. Talal Asad, Webb Keane), and c) a first encounter with new approaches to religion as a material and corporeal phenomenon (e.g. David Chidester, David Morgan, Birgit Meyer, Manuel Vásquez, Hent de Vries). The second part is titled "Corporeality: body and senses" and looks at the phenomenology of religion (from Rudolf Otto to Thomas Csordas), the new aesthetics of religion and insights from the neuro-sciences and cognitive biology for grasping the  cultivation of religious sensations. Part three, "Religious Material Culture" investigates recent research on religious matters such as religious topographies, sites and buildings; sacred objects; new and old media; food; dress; and sound and music. In the fourth and last part, titled "Lived Religion in Diverse Societies", the insights gained so far will be related to current conflicts triggered by clashes about the material and bodily manifestations of religion in diverse societies in Europe and elsewhere, involving debates about religious pluralism, legal implications of the freedom of religion, and ethics of diversity. The overall idea which the course seeks to convey is that a material and corporeal approach to religion brings into the picture aspects of religion that are often overlooked if a conventional take on religion as belief is taken as a starting point. 
 
Career orientation:
Training in high level of academic thinking, speaking, and writing.  

Rst-Internship Religious Studies (compulsory)

An internship can be a valuable addition to a student’s training as professional researcher. Internships allow students to experience working as an embedded researcher, ether within academia, within a research institute or a research project. During internships students have the opportunity to develop research skills in a professional (research) environment, and to reflect upon their role as researcher in relation to the wider professional field. Ideally, internships give students the opportunity to collect/produce material for the thesis project. Students arrange internships themselves, supported by staff members.
Specific contents are defined in an individual internship contract.

Rst-Research School (compulsory)

National interuniversity research schools offer a variety menu of courses, (e.g., summer and winter) schools, and workshops in the filed of Religious Studies (NOSTER) and Islamic Studies (NISIS). Students can choose waht fits in their individual needs and research aims.

Electives

Contemporary Cultural Theory

In this course, the newest developments in cultural theory (used here as an umbrella term for the fields of feminist, queer, postcolonial, critical race, posthuman(ist) and (new) materialist perspectives) are explored by reading key texts that are crucial to what can be called inspiration to the 'new humanities'. New materialism, critical and queer (post)humanisms, non-philosophy, and affect theory are just some of those currents at the forefront of this re-inscription of the humanities today that may be studied in this class each year. The course will select its text corpus in attunement with emerging theoretico-discursive developments, thereby providing a focused engagement with the subject of the 'new humanities' that speaks to a broad audience of cultural studies students. Without giving overviews or summaries, students in this class are asked to be part of cutting-edge scholarship by reading texts that matter 'today'. They are invited to 'do' the theory proposed in them by exposing themselves to the task of what Foucault once called a 'critical ontology of ourselves'. 

Career orientation:
The course provides students with cutting-edge intellectual debates in the broad field of Cultural Studies, with specific focus on Gender Studies discussions. Students are thereby  familiarized with very contemporary research, which is helpful for shaping their future research profile on the academic job market and beyond.

This course is for students in the RMA Gender Studies and GEMMA; students from other M.A. programmes should check with the course coordinator before enrolling. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.

Thinking Literature: Creative Forms of Knowledge

This seminar focuses on the comparative study of literature as a site for the production of knowledge and ways of being in the world. How does literature relate to other discourses (e.g. politics, philosophy, law) and other forms of knowledge (e.g. in the social and natural sciences)? And what are the tools and concepts available for studying this relationship? Furthermore, this seminar will reflect on literature and literary studies as distinct yet interrelated forms of knowledge production.

Starting from the Foucauldian notion of "discursive formations", this seminar offers an introduction in different discourse-analytical and sociocritical approaches to the study of literature and culture. These theories start from the presupposition that every discourse is constitutively related to other discourses. Thus, “inter-discursivity” is to discourse as “intertextuality” is to text. In addition to an overview of the critical theory of (inter-)discursivity, the seminar also introduces students to current trends with literary studies that exemplify its interdiscursive nature (e.g., new materialism, posthumanism, animal studies).

This seminar is a compulsory part of the Research MA Comparative Literary Studies; and is an elective for students in the following Research master programmes: Gender Studies; Media and Performance; Religious Studies . 

Career orientation
This course serves as preparation for a PhD program in the Humanities, as well as non-academic careers, by training students in the following transferable skills: critical thinking and writing, discourse analysis, communication and presentation skills, peer-review and advanced language skills.

 

Tutorial Religious Studies I

Tutorials are organized on a range of specialised topics, tailored to research activities of staff members and research interests of students. Tutorials are held in small groups, and students and supervisor agree on the particular aims of the module, the topic, and a plan of study. As specific form of tutorial fieldwork provides students the opportunity to gather material they will need for their thesis. Please contact the coordinator of the programme.   

Tutorial Religious Studies II

Tutorials are organized on a range of specialised topics, tailored to research activities of staff members and research interests of students. Tutorials are held in small groups, and students and supervisor agree on the particular aims of the module, the topic, and a plan of study. As specific form of tutorial fieldwork provides students the opportunity to gather material they will need for their thesis. Please contact the coordinator of the programme.   

Cultural Memory and Citizenship

The interdisciplinaryfield of cultural memory studies brings together researchers with a scholarly interest in the cultural production of memory and its role in shaping collective identities and values. In this seminar, we survey the most recent theoretical literature on these issues and examine the changing memory cultures of the modern period against the background of war and societal change.
 
How do cultural memory and collective identity work together?  How does commemoration shape notions of citizenship, of who 'belongs' and who doesn't? How do remembering and forgetting shape ideas about the future? How do new counter-memory narratives emerge in society?  What role do the arts play in these processes? Our seminar will provide an introduction to theoretical debates and current research in the interdisciplinary field of cultural memory studies. Our approach will be comparative and multimedial. While paying special attention to literature, we will look at creative writing alongside and in interaction with the other media and artistic practices through which the past is publicly remembered (monuments, movies, rituals, museums, family albums). 

Career orientation:
This course contributes to the students preparation for a PhD training; it also offers training in transferable skills that are valuable in non-academic careers (critical writing, comparative analysis of a broad range of cultural media; data collection and management).
 

Issues in Postcoloniality

This course will survey postcolonial theories relevant to understandings of our contemporary global world. The seminar aims to broaden understandings of mediated cultures within a transnational framework by highlighting how questions of gender, ethnicity, and diaspora are represented and conveyed in the face of colonial history, conflicts, postcolonial issues, and political transitions. In engaging with novels, films, theoretical work, and current events from the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries, we will be concerned with issues related to postcolonial critique, transnational feminist theories, peace and conflict studies, visual culture, and cultural theory, amongst other fields. In engaging with a range of themes and topics, (e.g., transitional justice, ecocriticism, transnational migrations, terrorism, neo-orientalism, cultural exoticism, social networks, democratic changes), we will be especially attentive to how race, ethnicity, nationality, and physical ability further structure and inform understandings of colonialism, postcolonialism, sex, and gender.

Career orientation:
This course directly engages with political, social, cultural, and theoretical issues relevant to a wide array of professional fields. Students learn to apply concrete case studies that effectively bridge academia, activism, and current events, thereby developing skills that can be applied to future professional endeavors, such as work in NGOs, governmental bodies, or academic/research institutions.

This course is for students in the RMA GS, CLS, MAP, RS and GEMMA. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.

Media Materialities

Concepts such as materiality, mediality and intermediality are widely circulated, and the critical energy which propels them can be attributed to an increasing consciousness of the degree to which modern culture has been embedded in a range of different technologies; and specifically in the form of those media forms through which the specifically human has materialised over the last century or so.
 
This course aims to provide a basic knowledge of the fundamental connections between literature and the technologies that have framed and disseminated it, from the Enlightenment onwards. Examining a variety of media, ancient and modern, in relation to texuality, the module explores those moments of transition when technologies were not yet defined in relation to institutions of literature.
 
Travelling beyond the mere history of cultural and technological innovations, the course considers how the devices and desires of communication can frame a collective idea of public and private; examines the proposition that human interaction and identity formation thus cannot be thought independently of surrounding media and technology. and suggests how such conceptions inform our understanding of the materialisations of the 'Real' .

This seminar is a compulsory part of the Research MA Comparative Literary Studies; and is an elective for students in the following Research master programmes: Gender Studies; Media and Performance; Religious Studies.

Career orientation
Specifically: students are made aware of the professionalisation of culture, both in theory and practice. Generally: this course serves as preparation for a PhD program in the Humanities as well as for non-academic careers, by training the following transferable skills: critical thinking and writing, discourse analysis, peer-review and advanced language skills.

Piety and Violence

This course focuses on the relation between piety and violence or, more specifically, on the connection between these two concepts in Islam. Violence, in the sense of causing physical harm to others through deliberate and conscious acts, can take numerous forms and, more importantly for this course, can be directed at numerous targets: violence against the outside ‘unbelievers’, inside ‘unbelievers’ (apostates), combatants, civilians, women and children, abject subjects (such as homosexuals), as well as material objects (iconoclasm). This course focuses on the concept of “jihad” in Islam: what does it mean, when is it justified and against whom may it be used? As such, this course gives us insight into the question to what extent religious (Islamic) piety causes, inspires, aids or, conversely, limits and hampers violence.
 

Religion and Secularism: Postsecular Perspectives

Central in the course is the idea that the Western secularization thesis - which considers the privatization and decline of religion an inevitable consequence of ‘modernization’ - fails to explain important social developments such as the resurgence and diversification of religious traditions and new forms of religiosities in Western societies. To investigate the role of religion and secularism in current Western societies, we will read different interpretations of the secular and secularism and discuss the changing scenery of religion (including practices, affiliations, faith-based activities and organizations, and new spiritual movements) in contemporary societies. In this context we will also discuss public perceptions of religion in modern, so-called secular, societies. Students will learn about the notion of the postsecular as an alternative way of grasping the relationship between religion and secularism. We will read various interpretations of the postsecular and will discuss critiques of this concept. The course explores these issues related to the relationship between religion and secularism and the so-called postsecular through multidisciplinary reading, including postcolonial and gender critical approaches.

Career orientation:
This course brings together cutting edge critical theory with public debates about religion and secularism in current Western societies. Students will thus get familiar with the most recent literature about these topics and learn to apply this literature to current debates in the public sphere. They will develop skills to critically analyse and reflect on current discourses about religion and secularism, which they can directly apply in their professional life.

This course is for students in the RMA GS, CLS, MAP, RS and GEMMA. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.

The Classical Tradition

How is it possible that the ancient world of classical Greece and Rome became such a dominant force in Western cultural history? This course examines how the classical legacy was contested and admired, rejected and appropriated in strikingly varied ways. The course consists of two parts: the first will pursue a diachronic perspective to investigate the survival of classical culture (including literature, art and material culture) in a Christian age from late antiquity to the modern age. The second part will analyse the various mechanisms of selection and appropriation that have shaped the classical tradition, paying particular attention to the cultural significance of the classical heritage in diverse cultural-historical contexts. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by the International Office and the Programme coordinator. Acceptance is not self-evident.

 

Religion and Popular Culture

The course will discuss theoretical approaches to the study of religion and popular culture and will explore their applicability through the examination of various case studies drawn from film, consumer culture and different religious practice settings. Pop-cultural forms of expressions can be found in religious contexts (e.g. religious comics, religious movies, etc.), and religious themes are referenced in popular culture ranging form TV shows to fashion trends and advertisement. Both categories of cultural products are commoditized, i.e. produced, and distributed through the channels of contemporary consumer capitalism. Both, popular culture and religion mutually influence and shape each other. In addition, the consumption of pop-cultural products and events can be experienced in religious terms and are used in practices of religious world-making. The analysis of different intersections of popular culture and religion will allow a critical reconsideration of binary oppositions that often inform (normative) discussions about religion and popular culture such as religious/secular, sacred/profane, high culture/low culture or authentic/fake.

Aesthetics of the Posthuman

The posthumanist turn in the Humanities encompasses a variety of fields and approaches, all of which are concerned with decentering the human as the default unmarked subject position within the Humanities. This has profound implications for the study of literature and other forms of artistic expression. What are the challenges and opportunities that posthumanist theories present for the study of literature, aesthetics, and poetics? Who is the subject and who or what is the object of knowledge and representation? The precise focus will vary from year to year, but will include one or more of the following: eco-criticism, animal studies, disability studies.

This module is offered as an elective by Comparative Literary Studies. It may be followed by RMA students in the following programmes: Comparative Literary Studies, Gender; Media and Performance, Religious Studies.

Career orientation
This course serves as preparation for a PhD program in the humanities, as well as non-academic careers by training students in the following transferrable skills: conducting and planning research, critical thinking and writing, discourse analysis, communication and presentation skills, peer-review and advanced language skills.

Corporeal Literacy

In this course, we will focus on movement and gesture as aspects of how we are corporeally literate that have for a long time been neglected in accounts of embodied meaning making but are currently gaining more prominence as the result of technological developments (movement becoming more and more part of what can be detected and shared by media as well as of ways of using media and interacting with them) and also the emergence of embodied, embedded and enactive understandings of perception and cognition. During the meetings we will discuss a panorama of historical and contemporary approaches to movement and gesture in relation to questions of (among others) affect, emotion, experience, spatiality, and memory. Students are invited to explore the potential of these readings for the analysis of encounters with objects, events and situations of different kinds.
 
Career orientation:
The course trains skills in critical reading and analysis of media, art and performance objects and allows students to develop rhetorical argumentation, which can be applied to a variety of professional fields (cultural institutions, academia, education, etc.)

This course is for students in the RMA programmes in the Humanities and the EFMS programme; students from other M.A. programmes should check with the course coordinator before enrolling. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.

The Body in Feminist Theory and Practice

This course familiarizes students with conceptual and theoretical approaches to analyzing the body, embodiment, and the embodied subject through its focus on the place of the corporeal in various interdisciplinary contexts (e.g., queer theory, visual studies, poststructuralist theory, affect theory, postcolonial studies). In approaching these thematics, the course will engage with a variety of different media, including literature, film, performance, and art. Throughout the course, emphasis will be placed on considerations of the body as a surface of inscription, as an object of representation, as the location of perception, as a site of affect, as a performative agent, and as a site of resistance. With a particular focus on queer and trans sexualities and genders, the course will be especially attuned to problematizing and destabilizing concepts of normality and abnormality. In addition, methodological concerns of doing research on the body from a feminist and queer critical perspective will be outlined through discussions and interrogations of the ways in which our own embodiment as researchers impinges on the work we do.

Career orientation:
This course allows students to develop important skills in critical analysis and rhetorical argumentation, which can then be applied to a variety of professional fields (e.g., media, politics, policy, academia, NGOs, etc.).

This course is for students in the RMA GS, CLS, MAP, RS and GEMMA. The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. You do not have to contact the Programme coordinator by yourself.