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.

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 reviews the nexus between philology and Orientalism in the work of 19th- and 20th-century scholars of religion such as F. M. Müller, but also studies the emergence in the 21st century of new paradigms (“future philology”, distant reading) in the textual study of religion. The second 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 third part deals with interpretive techniques in the three Abrahamic traditions, from premodern types of scriptural exegesis to modern and contemporary ones. The fourth part explores religious reading techniques and interpretive practices in terms of their performative, ritual and material dimensions.

Materiality and Corporeality of Lived Religion

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 a) religious topographies, sites and buildings, b) sacred objects, c) new and old media, d) religion at home, e) food, f) dress, and g) 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 socities 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.   

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.
 

Transgressive Religion: Charisma, Antinomianism and Ecstasy

Recent theorizing in Religous Studies has stressed the boundary-crossing, transgressive aspects of religious beliefs and practices (Taussig; Tweed). This connects with the persistent concern in the sociology and anthropology of religion with the foundational notion of shamanism and of charismatic authority: how it comes about, is constructed and perpetuated, and ultimately, routinized. This course will examine how ecstatic religion is induced and celebrated, but also, how ecstatic practices are challenged, sometimes violently combated, by the representatives of quietist spirituality and sober religion. Case studies examined in this course include (antinomian) Sufism; pentecostalism; and Hasidism

Rst-Tutorial Religious Studies I

Variable.

Rst-Tutorial Religious Studies II

Variable.

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.

Rules of Play

In contemporary media and culture, play is no longer an activity limited to games. Rather, it has become a key characteristic of the use of social media, apps, mobile technology, educational software and so on. Through their design, these media technologies invite, even urge, users to participate playfully. The process of play, however, also involves deviant practices which break, transgress or in other ways defy the rules. This results not just in new media practices but also in new forms of contention between users, and between users and producers. To understand play and in particular deviant play as essential aspects of contemporary media culture, in this course we aim to examine how these practices challenge the rules in playful participatory media like games but also serious/applied games, pervasive games and gamified media.  We will study theory and methods from the interdisciplinary field of game studies to study and conceptualize play and deviant play in order to better understand the playful nature of our increasingly ludic media and contemporary cultural practices. On the basis of this, we will examine and discuss counterproductive, a-social, ineffective, unethical and other forms of “unruly” play behaviour, which shows the complex nature of play in participatory media and culture. We will analyse deviant play’s critical potential to deconstruct and defy the rules of play in playful participatory media, practices which expose underlying assumptions and ideologies and provide more control and agency over these media.

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.

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).

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: critical thinking and writing, discourse analysis, communication and presentation skills, peer-review, advanced language skills.
 

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).
 

Ecologies of Curation

Ecologies of curation entails the trans- and interdisciplinary study of the interaction between spectators, artworks/performances and the spatial, social and media environments wherein the objects and acts are staged, produced, situated. Taking the etymological roots of curating as ‘care-taking’ into account, we will explore how curators can and should respond to transformational practices that increasingly cross and bend institutional borders. How does curating produce the type of ecologies in which media, contemporary art and performance projects can actually perform their potential, and where acts of mediation, interfacing or staging function as accelerators of the perceptual and performative strategies that are embedded in these works? Next to investigating current trends in discourse in relation to their historical context, we will jointly visit and critically analyse several curatorial projects, addressing media, contemporary art and performance works but with a focus on trans- and cross-disciplinary approaches. Based on these various strands of research, students write a critical evaluation of a curatorial project of their own choosing, hereby actively addressing the relation between curation and art ecologies.

Career orientation:
Knowledge of curation in the field of media, art and performance. Knowledge of the curatorial profession and ways of working as well as curatorial strategies, approaches and methodologies. Knowledge of curatorial networks and institutional ways of working within several ecologies of curation.
 

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.
 

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' .
 
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 [list]
 

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.

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, advanced language skills.

Urban Interfaces

This course actively teams up with ongoing research of MCW's research groep [urban interfaces]. [urban interfaces] investigates urban transformations and the role of mobile and locational art, media and performance in urban contexts.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, cultural researchers have been concerned with how transport and communication technologies, rapid urbanization and massive social upheavals impact social mobility, civic engagement and modes of belonging. Today, globalization, the spread of information technologies in the urban domain, and the debate on participatory culture and civic engagement spur a further mobilization of urban culture, identity and publics. Both scholars as well as artists and designers enquire into how urban spaces invite collaborative and playful practices of resistance, appropriation and/or engagement. By productively exploring mutual similarities and differences in concerns, methods, concepts, and skills, [urban interfaces] seeks to investigate urban transformations in a methodologically innovative manner.
 
Students will develop their own research in relation to current urban media, art and/or performance projects. In the course the potentials of collaborative research and of crossdisciplinary methodologies will be explored.

Career orientation:
The course actively engages students in ongoing research projects of the [urban interfaces] research group and current urban media, art and performance projects; students get acquainted with interdisciplinary approaches and crossdisciplinary collaborations with researchers, artists and designers relevant to the professional field of media, art and performance, and current cultural (urban) dynamics.

 

Corporeal Literacy

Literacy often gets associated with words, with verbal language and books, but can also describe other reading skills, as, for example, in visual literacy. Corporeal literacy is a strategic term meant to make space for a further expansion of the notion of literacy to include our bodily engagement with what we find ourselves confronted with. New technological developments as well as increased insight in the performative, material, embodied, and enactive aspects of perception and cognition foreground the corporeal dimensions of how humans handle information and make sense of what they encounter. These developments require a reconsideration of our conceptions of (among others) perception, agency, and what it means to know, beyond the disembodied mind. Furthermore, our current situation in which technology plays an ever more prominent and active role in how things can be perceived and come to be known requires a rethinking the embodiment of cognition and intelligence beyond the human. This course explores the potential of new materialist, media archeological, posthuman performative, enactive and embodied approaches for the analysis and interpretation of encounters with media and performances 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.)

Religion, Violence, and Refugees in the Age of Shakespeare

This course introduces the student to the phenomenon of religious violence during the early modern period, and to the various ways in which this impacted European culture and society. It begins by introducing the student to the ways in which the literature and culture of Shakespeare’s England experienced the situation and fashioned a response to the Reformation across Europe. In the process, the student is introduced to the international dimension of the problem, and becomes aware of research opportunities in a broader European context (England, France, the Netherlands).
 
I. As its point of departure, the course takes the St Bartholomew Massacre of 1572, and studies this violent encounter between the Catholic and Huguenot factions of France in an international context. Attention will be devoted to the drama of Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe, with a special focus on 'The Massacre at Paris' (1592).
II. It continues to study the social unrest created by the Reformation, with special attention devoted to the refugee problem. It does so with reference to 'The Play of Sir Thomas More' (1595), of which Shakespeare was one of the authors.
III. The course also looks at the beneficial effects of the refugee problem. It does so by studying the impact in England of Huguenot refugee John Florio, who translated Michel de Montaigne's 'Essays' (1603) from French into English.
IV. Finally, the course looks at the image of Islam in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. It does so by taking as its starting point the literary image of the Turk in Shakespeare’s 'Henry V' (1599).
 
Examples will be offered enabling students to explore each of these 4 themes in greater detail: Religion as a theme in the drama of Christoper Marlowe ('The Jew of Malta' and 'Doctor Faustus'). The St Bartholomew Massacre in Dutch drama, including Lambert van den Bosch’s 'Carel de negende anders Parysche Bruyloft' and Reyer Anslo’s 'De parysche bloed-bruiloff' (1649). Queen Elizabeth and the refugee problem. Montaigne’s religion. The Turk in European literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
 
The course attempts to understand the early modern phenomenon of religion, violence and refugees in its contemporary contexts, but it also considers how our perception of these events may have been shaped by our own present day encounters with religious fanaticism, armed conflict and forced migration.

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.).

Rst-Internship Religious Studies

According to contract.