The International Politics of Religion

Module titleThe International Politics of Religion
Module codePOL3080
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Gregorio Bettiza (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The ‘death of god’ was proclaimed by Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century and modernization theorists in the twentieth. Yet the twenty-first century opened with the 2001, September 11, attacks on American soil by a group of fanatics claiming to be guided by religious principles. One does not have to look exclusively at these extreme cases to see that religions have not only survived, but their social and political salience is growing in the contemporary world. All across the globe, religious actors, beliefs, identities, communities, symbols, practices and places of worship have become ever more entangled with domestic and international politics. These developments raise a number of questions that this module addresses: Why has this happened? What tools do we have, as social scientists and students of international relations, to understand religion and its apparent resurgence? How does religion influence, and is itself influenced by, world politics?

There are no pre-requisite or co-requisite modules required to take this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will introduce you to the complex role of religion in international relations. In the first part of the module you will explore how the social sciences in general and the discipline of international relations in particular have conceptualized and theorized religion and its resurgence in world politics. In the second part you will examine how religion interacts with key international challenges and issues such nationalism, the state, transnational politics and identities, violence, peace and democracy. In the third part you will investigate and assess the emerging trend towards ‘operationalizing’ religion in international policymaking.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a critical perspective on a variety of theoretical approaches and debates on the study of religion in the social sciences;
  • 2. Evaluate the multiple and complex ways in which religion and international politics influence each other in historical and contemporary contexts;
  • 3. Assess the social, political, policy and normative tensions raised by the growing trend towards the operationalization of religion in foreign and international policy;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Understand a variety of theoretical arguments in the field of religion in international relations;
  • 5. Analyse empirical research and cases on religion in world politics;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Engage in respectful and critical dialogue within a group setting;
  • 7. Conduct research independently and as part of a team, and present ideas clearly and persuasively in both written and oral form; and
  • 8. Exercise critical judgment when analysing complex conceptual, empirical, policy and normative issues.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Part I: Concepts and Theories

  • Introduction
  • Understanding Religion and Secularism
  • Religious Resurgence, Post-secularism and Multiple Modernities
  • Religion in IR: Realism and Liberalism
  • Religion in IR: Constructivism
  • Religion in IR: Critical Approaches
  • Debate

Part II: Issues and Challenges

  • Religion, Sovereignty, State and Nation
  • Transnational Religious Actors, Networks and Identities
  • Religion, Violence and Security
  • Clash of Civilizations: Myth or Reality?
  • Religion, Peace, Justice and Conflict-resolution
  • Religion, Liberalism and Democracy
  • Debate

Part III:  Policies and Practices

  • Religion and Foreign Policy
  • Religious Engagement
  • International Religious Freedom
  • Faith-Based Humanitarianism and Development
  • The War on Terror and Countering Violent Extremism
  • Revision and Reflection
  • Debate

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study80Seminar preparation: complete assigned reading and other possible tasks
Guided Independent Study140Essay preparation: reading, conducting research, and writing the finished product
Guided Independent Study36Presentation preparation: reading, conducting research, and written and oral preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar exercises and discussion22 x 1 hours1-8Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1403,500 words1-5, 7-8Written
Essay 2403,500 words1-5, 7-8Written
Group Presentation2020 minutes1-8Oral and written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (40%)3,500 word essay1-5, 7-8August/September reassessment period
Essay 2 (40%)3,500 word essay1-5, 7-8August/September reassessment period
Presentation (20%)Individual written assignment, 1,500 words1-8August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Calhoun, Craig J., Juergensmeyer, Mark, and VanAntwerpen, Jonathan (eds.) (2011), Rethinking Secularism (Oxford, N.Y.: Oxford University Press)

Haynes, Jeffrey (ed.), (2016), Routledge handbook of religion and politics (2nd edn., Abingdon: Routledge).

Hurd, Elizabeth Shakman (2008), The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)

Sandal, Nukhet A. and Fox, Jonathan (2013), Religion in International Relations Theory: Interactions and Possibilities (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge)

Shah, Timoty Samuel, Stepan, Alfred, and Toft, Monica Duffy (eds.) (2012), Rethinking Religion and World Affairs (New York: Oxford University Press).

Snyder, Jack (ed.), (2011), Religion and International Relations Theory (New York, NY: Columbia University Press).

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

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Georgetown University Berkley Centre For Religion Peace and World Affairs:

Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative:

LSE Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion:

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life:

The Immanent Frame:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Religion, Secularism, Postsecularism, Civilizations, International Politics, International Relations

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date