Sociology of Religion

Vakbeschrijving Sociology of Religion
Collegejaar: 2011-2012
Studiegidsnummer: 59645253H
  • Drs. M. Davidsen
Voertaal: Engels
Blackboard: Onbekend
EC: 5-10
Niveau: 500
Periode: Semester 1, Blok I, II
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Admission requirements

Students should have some basic knowledge of the sociology of religion.

Students who have not followed a BA introduction course on the sociology of religion are required to contact the lecturer. Depending on their educational background, they will be given some introductory material to read before course starts.


The aim of this course is to allow students to get acquainted with how “real” sociologists of religion do research. It will therefore contain both independent work and peer-group cooperation, and both written assignments and oral presentation. Students will work individually on a paper throughout the semester and discuss their ideas, progress and conclusions with their peers and the teacher at various stages of the work. The course is designed to facilitate the writing process. After two introductory sessions (on the philosophical and theoretical foundation and on the state of the art of the sociology of religion) students will choose topics for their papers. Topics can be chosen within any area of the sociology of religion, for instance secularisation/de-secularisation, non-institutional religion and spirituality, the impact of new media on religion, or religion and politics. For each subsequent class we will read a key article which is relevant for one or more of the papers-in-progress. A pair of students will present the article and we will together discuss its relevance and possible utilization for the student papers. Students will also be required to seek out additional literature for their papers, in co-operation with the teacher. The course will be concluded with a “mini-conference” with presentation and discussion of the papers. The course is normally worth 5 ects-points, but can be expanded to 10. Students who follow the expanded version of the course are required to read substantially more and write a longer paper (see the sections on assessment and literature below). Students following the master programme Religion, Culture and Society who plan to write their master’s thesis within the sociology of religion are encouraged to take the expanded course. For these students, expansion of the course must be included in students’ “individual programme” for the master and needs to be approved by the exam commission. It can also be advisable for students enrolled in other master programmes which work with 10-point courses to take the expanded course. Students who which to take the expanded course should contact the lecturer.

Course objectives

It is the aim of the course that, • students develop a vocabulary of theoretical notions (such as secularisation, subjectivisation, globalisation, mediatisation and spirituality) to discuss and reflect on religion in (post)modern society. • students develop a vocabulary of theoretical notions (such as paradigm, methodological agnosticism, and naturalism) to discuss and reflect on the philosophical foundations of the sociology of religion as an academic discipline. • students develop their skills at academic writing, peer feedback, and oral presentation and discussion. • students develop a sophisticated level of sociological questioning and reasoning about (post)modern religion, appropriate for writing their master thesis. ### Timetable

See timetable:

Wednesday 3-5 p.m. The course begins on 14 September. Note the required readings for the first class below.

There is no class on 21 September, 26 October and 7 December.
The mini-conference will take place on 20 December. The exact time and place will be announced later.

Meetings: 24h (~1 ects)
Reading assignments: c. 300p (~1,5 ects)
Small tasks: Article presentation, self-evaluation, preparation for conference (~1 ects)
Paper: review of book (c. 200p), 1000-1500 words (~1,5 ects)
(Students who do the course for 10 ects-points substitute the book review with a paper of 3200-4000 words based on 500 pages literature in addition to the reading assignments discussed in class)

Mode of instruction

The course will consist of a combination of lectures, tutorials and a final mini-conference. The course will take off with two introductory lectures on “The character of the sociology of religion as an academic discipline: Historical roots and philosophical foundations” and “The state of the art of the sociology of religion”.

The bulk of course (sessions 3-10) will consist of tutorials. In most sessions a pair of students will present and evaluate a key article. This will be followed by a discussion of how the article might be used in the various papers. Students will also report on the progress of their papers. The last two sessions will be lumped together as a concluding double session mini-conference. Before the conference, everybody will read the papers of their co-students. At the conference, we will discuss the papers in turn. Each student gets some time to introduce their paper before the discussion.

Assessment method

The final mark will be a weighed average of two marks: (1) Oral presentation and evaluation of article, self-evaluation of paper draft, contribution to the discussion in class and at the final mini-conference. 30%. (2) Final paper. 70%. Oral presentation and evaluation of article
At one point during the semester, students are required to present an article which is key to their chosen paper topic (or of a more general character and important to all). Depending on the number of students enrolled in the course, students will do this alone or in pairs. The teacher recommends which article to take and talks with the students beforehand about what is most relevant in the article and about how to link it to earlier discussions in class and the papers-in-progress. Students will get feedback on their presentation after class.

The main assignment in the course is an individually written paper which takes a different form depending on whether the course is done as a 5 or 10 ects course.

Book Review. Students who take the course in the 5 ects version are required to write a book review of a recent book on a topic within the sociology of religion. Students should choose a book of around 150-250 pages. See blackboard for a list of book examples. The review should be 1000-1500 words long, and written according to the style and format of a real journal (such as Journal of Contemporary Religion or Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion), and should connect the evaluation of the book to the discussions in class about the state of the art of the sociology of religion.

Paper. Students who take the course in the 10 ects version are required to write a paper on a self-chosen topic within the sociology of religion. The paper can take form of a longer review essay of a book or two books, of a literature review on a specific research topic, or of a research note based on a small empirical investigation of one’s own. The paper should be 3200-4000 words long and be based on about 500 pages of individually chosen literature (or less of the paper contains an empirical component). It should be written according to the style and format of a real journal, and should connect to the discussions in class about the state of the art of the sociology of religion.

Students who also do their master’s thesis on the sociology of religion are encouraged to write a book review or paper within the same field as their thesis.

We will discuss the progress on the papers throughout the course. There are a couple of important dates and deadlines related to the paper:
Wed 5 Oct. In class: Students present their topics and paper ideas
Fri 4 Nov. Deadline for approval of literature list for long papers.
Fri 11 Nov. Hand in paper draft and self-evaluation (using the lecturer’s evaluation scheme) via Blackboard.
Fri 9 Dec. Hand in final paper via Blackboard.

Students are required to begin reading for and writing on their reviews/papers early on. Friday 11 November all students will hand in a draft of their paper together with self-evaluation in form of a filled-in version of the lecturer’s evaluation form (which will also be used for marking the final papers). The same evaluation scheme will be used for peer-feedback in class.

The final paper should be handed in on Dec 9. The paper counts 70% towards the final mark. In addition to the mark, students will receive feedback on their work from peers and teacher at the concluding mini-conference. They will also get written feedback from the teacher after the conference.



Reading list

Master copies of the required readings can be found on the course plank in the university library.

First session [To be read before the first class, 14 September]

Theme: The character of the sociology of religion as an academic discipline

Zuckerman, Phil (2003), Invitation to the Sociology of Religion, Ch. 1, “Sociology and Religion”, 17-34.

Davidsen, Markus (2011), “What is Wrong with Pagan Studies.

Second session [28 September]

Theme: The state of the art of the sociology of religion

Possamai, Adam (2009), Sociology of Religion for Generation X and Y, London: Equinox. Ch. 2., “Religion and Popular Culture”; Ch. 5, “Religion and Postmodernity (Part A): Consumer Religions”, Ch. 6, “Religion and Postmodernity (Part B): Hyper-Reality and the Internet”, 25-38, 66-94.

Woodhead, Linda (2009), “Old, New, and Emerging Paradigms in the Sociological Study of Religion”, Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 22(2), 103-121.

Turner, Bryan S. (2010), “Introduction: Mapping the Sociology of Religion”, in Bryan S. Turner (ed.), The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1-29.

Further reading will be decided upon during the course. Reading guides can be found on Blackboard.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Contact information

Students who which to specialise in sociology of religion within the master track Religion, Culture and Society should contact M. Davidsen well in advance before the semester to discuss interests and competences and formally agree on an individual master programme.
Students who want to participate in the course as part of another master track or who choose another specialisation within the track Religion, Culture and Society are required to register in uSis and contact the lecturer, M. Davidsen.
Drs. M. Davidsen


The course will be taught in English.