Universiteit Leiden

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Religious Studies (MA)

About the Programme

Learn the newest insights from the researchers who uncover them.

This programme consists of compulsory courses, electives in a specialised pathway, a Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation course, and an MA thesis based on your own original research. There is also the possibility of taking an internship or conducting fieldwork in place of one of the elective courses.

Programme structure

Semester 1 Tools and Theories in the Study of Religion: Historical, Cognitive, and Social-Scientific Approaches (10 EC) Religion on the Move: From Local Origins to Global Networks (10 EC)

 

Elective (10 EC) 

Choose a Specialised Path

Semester 2

 

Elective (10 EC) 

Continue a Specialised Path

OR 

Internship/ Fieldwork (10 EC)

Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation (5 EC)

Thesis

(15 EC)

Detailed programme

Courses
Course EC
Tools and Theories in the Study of Religion: Historical, Cognitive, and Social-Scientific Approaches 10
Religion on the Move: From Local Origins to Global Networks 10
Filosofie van het internationaal recht: globalisering en democratie 10
Rethinking Secularism in International Relations 10
5
5
Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World 10
Coping with Versnel: debating ancient religions 10
Pilgrimage and Holy Places 10
Confucianism in Context 10
Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World 10
Economic Development and Social Change in Southeast Asia 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10
Pilgrimage and Holy Places 10
Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation (Religious Studies) 5
Ma Thesis Religious studies 15
Internship Religious Studies 10
Independent Project Religious Studies 10
China and Global Cyberspace 10
Christianity, Nationhood, and Citizenship: Historical Perspectives on the Dutch Case (16th Century-Present) 10
Democratizing Histories (10 EC) 10
Politics of Culture in Southeast Asia (10 EC) 10
The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage 10
Christianity, Nationhood, and Citizenship: Historical Perspectives on the Dutch Case (16th Century-Present) 10
Democratizing Histories (10 EC) 10
From Inkwell to Internet: Text and Transmission in the Muslim World 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC) 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants 10
Creativity and Culture in Contemporary China 10
Hands-on Museum Research Experience (10 EC) 10
Muslims in a Global Context: Anthropological Approaches 10
Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture 10
Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture: Reworking the Classics 10
`Ulamâ’ in the Modern Muslim World 10

For the detailed programme, see the Prospectus.

Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

About the Compulsory Courses

In this course, students are introduced to a range of contemporary tools for analysing religious narratives and discourses, religious thinking and belief, as well as religious traditions, identities, and fields. These tools are drawn from a wide range of humanistic and social-scientific disciplines, including literary studies, cognitive science, sociology, and history. The theoretical foundations of the analytical tools are discussed and students practice how to use these tools to analyse concrete empirical material.

At its heart, Religion on the Move is a study of how religion more generally has changed due to increasingly expanding global encounters. By combining research from religious studies, history, area studies, anthropology, sociology, and political science, this course shows that the complex processes of globalisation, modernisation, and migration have not only contributed to the movement and expansion of religions, but that religions have been crucial in constructing and confronting these processes. We will consider the success and/or failure of religions in relation to how they move and adapt, and how this relationship corresponds to the iterative process of moving between local origins and global networks. In this context, we will examine the various ways in which religions have adapted when up-rooted and re-rooted in new contexts.

The module Thesis Seminar supports the thesis writing process. It consists of five sessions in which we discuss how to formulate a good research question, how to manage the work process, and how to structure the argument of the thesis. The module also includes an advanced library workshop.

The module Job Market Orientation offers students an overview of the job and career prospects of religious studies alumni and stimulates students to reflect on their own skills and ambitions. It consists of four class sessions and three job market workshops organised by the students. In addition, over the course of the academic year, students are required to attend at least one academic or professional workshop or study day and report on it to the rest of the class.

Specialised Pathways

In addition to the compulsory courses, students are able to choose a specialised pathway. These pathways include:

This pathway emphasizes religion in historical context, from the ancient world to the present, and with special attention to the development of religion across time. Examples of electives in this pathway include:

  • Monotheism and Empire
  • ‘Everyone will fear you’: Powerful Objects in Ancient Religions
  • Modern Muslim Qur'an Interpretation
  • From Inkwell to Internet: Text and Transmission in the Muslim World
  • Psychology, Ethics, and Education from Antiquity to the Present
  • Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World
  • History of Migration and Diversity
  • Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum and the Enemies of Christianity

This pathway emphasises religion in relation to politics, law, political-legal systems, international relations, and education. Examples of electives in this pathway include:

  • Religion, Law, and Society: The Case of Sharia in the West
  • Rethinking Secularism in International Relations
  • Political History of the Middle East in the Twentieth Century
  • Diplomacy: History, Theory and Practice
  • Modern United States Foreign Policy
  • BRIC: Emerging Powers and Changing Global Relations
  • Internationalism, Empire and the Cold War: 20th Century International Relations
  • Contemporary Indian Politics

This pathway emphasizes religion in an area studies perspective, with special attention to the movement of ideas and peoples across places, spaces, and contexts. Examples of electives in this pathway include:

  • Sacred Journeys: Pilgrimage and Holy Places
  • Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration Along the Silk Roads in Central Asia
  • Connecting Dreams: Europe in Africa, Africa in Europe
  • Religious Themes in Asian Art
  • Anthropology of Muslim Societies
  • Creativity and Culture in Contemporary China
  • Confucianism, Idealism and Power in East Asia’s Past and Present
  • Economic Development and Social Change in Southeast Asia

Fieldwork and Internships

In place of one pathway elective, students can also choose to receive credit for a fieldwork project or take an internship. In additional to the standard internships offered by the Faculty of Humanities, the programme offers tailormade Research internships and is in the process of developing special internships  with some museums, international organisations, national political and educational organisations, NGOs, and research institutions here in The Netherlands.

Programme structure

  • compulsory courses
  • electives within the programme or, with Board of Examiners consent: internship, independent study
  • thesis seminar and job market orientation
  • a thesis based on your original research work
  • annual conference
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Self-study
  • Internship options
  • Papers
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays and reports
  • Oral presentations
  • Final Thesis

The aim of the master's in Religious Studies is to familiarise you with:

  • the most important current debates on method and theory in the academic study of religion – amongst others the literary, historical, cognitive, and social scientific approaches;
  • the repercussions of the Enlightenment and modernity for the religious field, and the subsequent development of new forms of religion;
  • the mutual impact of globalisation and religion, including the revision and transformation of (self-) understandings of religions and their practices, and the development of new religions due to global contacts, colonialism, and secularisation.

The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts, the analysis and solution of conceptual problems, the ability to conduct scientific research and the effective communication of ideas are other key goals of the programme. Opportunities are provided for students to gain professional experience by participating in an internship at an organisation.

Our emphasis is on preparing you to make a difference in your future career, which is why relevant outside issues are constantly shaping what you are studying. External speakers from all sectors regularly give lectures on topical issues. This strong connection to important events, people, and debates happening around us is what helps our students move seamlessly from their degrees into their careers.

Latest research

Content is regularly updated to reflect contemporary academic debates and the very latest insights – many from the research conducted by lecturers involved in the programme. The academically-rigorous design of the programme aims to develop in you essential skills in reasoning and critical thinking, as well as advanced abilities in independently conducting high-quality scientific research and developing this data into an academic dissertation.

Markus Davidsen

University Lecturer

Markus Davidsen

"Religion permeates the world – it remains highly influential in all domains of human society, including politics, culture and economics. The vast majority of people in the world are religious and that is not going to change. To understand the world, both past and present, one therefore has to understand religion. In pluralistic societies, such as the Dutch, moreover, there is a growing need for religion experts in education, municipalities, NGOs, and various ministries. The Religious Studies programme in Leiden aims to educate those religion experts. The programme combines an emphasis on theory and research skills with the opportunity to build up familiarity with the job market through workshops and internships."

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