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SP30264: Religion and social politics in the contemporary world

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2013/4
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Further information on credits Credits: 6
Further information on unit levels Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Further information on teaching periods Period: Semester 2
Further information on unit assessment Assessment: ES 60%, PR 40%
Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment: Coursework reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites:
Further information on descriptions Description: Aims:
1. To give an introductory grounding into the sociology of religion
2. To give a historical overview of the implicit and explicit ways in which religion has shaped public policy and state development in both OECD and non-OECD countries
3. To give an up-to-date understanding of the main theoretical currents surrounding the study of religion in public policy
4. To situate these debates within current global events and engage students with the real life implications of the role of religion in public life and more importantly in public policy interventions.

Learning Outcomes:
As a result of this unit students will be better able to:
1. Distinguish the key approaches that inform key debates in the sociology of religion and the debates surrounding its public and private role.
2. Understand the historical role of religion in shaping public policy, social policy and welfare state development in an international comparative perspective
3. Assess key policy challenges in relation to the role of religion in contemporary society around the world
4. Assess the extent to which religion has been a positive or negative force for human civilisation generally.

* To think creatively and analytically;
* To communicate an argument;
* To evaluate others' arguments and research;
* To learn independently and be able to assess own learning needs (i.e. identify strengths and improve weaknesses in methods of learning and studying);
* To critically evaluate and assess research and evidence as well as a variety of other information;
* To gather information, data, research and literature from a number of different sources (i.e. library, web-based, archives etc.);
* To select appropriate and relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge;
* To synthesise information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding;
* To utilise problem solving skills;
* To analyse and evaluate innovative practices in students' relevant degree discipline;
* To effectively and efficiently apply principles of sociological/social policy analysis within a variety of environments;
* To develop study & learning skills (note taking, avoiding plagiarism, using the library, gathering and using information, constructing a bibliography, referencing);
* To develop basic information and computing technology skills (word processing, email, using the web to search for information);
* To develop inter-personal and communication skills;
* To develop essay research, preparation and writing skills;
* To be able to construct a bibliography of varying complexity;
* To develop time-management and administrative skills;
* To develop team and group working skills;
* To reflect upon his/her own academic and professional performance and take responsibility for personal and professional learning and development;
* To solve problems in a variety of situations;
* To manage time effectively and respond to changing demands;
* To prioritise workloads, and utilise long- and short-term planning skills.

This unit offers students a challenging and dynamic introduction to the study of religion in relation to social politics and public policy around the world. It combines case studies from both OECD- and non-OECD countries and covers all major 9 religions as well as Humanist and New Age philosophies. The way in which religion has either acted as a basis for new value-systems or is in opposition to other worldviews will underpin the general approach to the teaching of this unit. Critical contemporary issues such as social welfare provision, international security and gender politics will thus be explored. The unit teachers are engaged in cutting edge research in these areas and students will benefit from exposure to rich contemporary research material. Thus, the unit will help stimulate students' critical awareness of the hot current affairs issues of our times within a theoreticallly-informed political sociological framework.
The unit is divided into two parts: the first gives students the necessary theoretical and historical grounding in order to engage with the practical policy implications of the role of religion in public life. The theoretical perspective introduces students to the main conceptual frameworks for defining religion and thinking about its role in social and political action. To this end, the unit introduces students to the key classical and modern theories in the study of religion and how debates about the public role of religion have developed. The argument that we are now entering a post-secular age whereby religion is enjoying a revival both in academic and political circles will be examined. This theoretical perspective also includes a look at the debates about the relegation of religion to the private sphere and the philosophical and practical implications of this division. The unit then offers students a historical perspective on how religious identity has shaped national identity and the development of the modern nation-state thereby challenging claims to the principle of state neutrality in the Liberal democratic tradition.
The second part of the unit examines the practical policy applications where the role of religion is shown to be a key determinant of or concern for policy. The specific policy areas which will be studied session by session are: health, education, poverty-reduction, international development and foreign aid, international security, social cohesion and multiculturalism. These will offer students a very broad appreciation of how religion continues to have important significance for the most important spheres of human society, posing not only very real challenges but also potential solutions at personal, local, national and global levels.
Myths will be exploded and received wisdom will be challenged in a context whereby students are equipped with solid social science skills to critically examine major social and political issues.
Lecture Topics
Lecture 1-3: Theoretical perspectives on the Sociology of Religion
Lectures 4-5: Historical perspectives on religion and state development/politics; The Private/Public Problematic
Lectures 6-11: each lecture would deal with a key policy area as follows, health, education, poverty-reduction, international development and foreign aid, international security, social cohesion and multiculturalism.
Suggested Reading
Dinham, A., Furbey, R. and Lowndes, V. (2009) (eds.) Faith in the Public Realm, The Policy Press Jawad, R. (2009) Social Welfare and Religion in the Middle East: A Lebanese Perspective, The Policy Press Jawad, R. (2012) Religion and Faith-based welfare in the UK: From Wellbeing to Ways of Being, The Policy Press
Beckford, J. and Demerath (2009) The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion, Sage Clarke, G. and Jennings, M. (2008) Development, Civil Society and Faith-Based Organisations, Palgrave Macmillan
Trigg, Roger (1998) Rationality and Religion: Does Faith Need Reason?, Blackwell, Oxford.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

SP30264 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB14 : BSc (hons) Applied Social Studies (Full-time) - Year 3
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc (hons) Social Policy (Full-time) - Year 3
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc (hons) Social Policy (Full-time with Thick Sandwich Placement) - Year 4
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc (hons) Social Sciences (Full-time) - Year 3
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc (hons) Social Sciences (Full-time with Thick Sandwich Placement) - Year 4
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc (hons) Sociology (Full-time) - Year 3
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc (hons) Sociology (Full-time with Thick Sandwich Placement) - Year 4
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc (hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Full-time) - Year 3
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc (hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Full-time with Thick Sandwich Placement) - Year 4

* This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2013/4 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2014/15 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2013/14.
* Programmes and units are subject to change at any time, in accordance with normal University procedures.
* Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.