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Course content

Although religion is associated with the sacred and spiritual values, religion is often the cause of political conflicts and war. In this course we try to make sense of this contradiction. Is there something special about conflicts where religion is involved? Are some religions peaceful while others are not?

During this course we look critically at 'religion' as a multi-faceted category that includes everything from martyrs to magic; shamans and sacred women. We will analyse a number of religio-political conflicts trying to identify underlying factors and understand what is at stake for the religious actors and the entire community involved in these conflicts.

Since religious activities – and sometimes religious beliefs – are regulated by the state, we take the state-religion nexus as a starting-point. In some countries religion has a place in the political structure (e.g. Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi Islam), while other states have maintained a strict divide between the political and the religious realm (France), or formally committed to treat all religions even-handedly (India). Yet others again keep religion under strict state control (Turkey) or allow a restricted number of religions (China).

The course is organised around 6 topical areas (examples in parenthesis):

1. Religion and state (how laws define the religion-state nexus differently)

2. Freedom of religion – whose freedom? (cases of blasphemy)

3. Secularisation (what happens when religion is subsumed under the secular state)

4. Violence (what is special about religious extremism)

5. Religious nationalism (identity politics)

6. Majority/minority religion (problems of religious and ethnic pluralism)

Learning outcome

Upon successful completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Identify and analyse religious aspects of political conflicts
  • Distinguish between local factors and global trends in religio-political relations
  • Compare religio-political cases from different socio-cultural and historical contexts
  • Use analytical concepts and theories
  • Team work practice in analysing current political debates


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

The course presupposes good knowledge of theories and methodology from both humanities and social science. Due to this, students are advised to have taken at least 60 ECTS prior to taking the course.



Overlapping courses


The teaching consists of:

  • Lectures: Twelve lectures throughout the semester
  • Seminars: Ten seminars throughout the semester

Compulsory activities:

  • Attendance to at least 8 out of 10 seminars
  • Conduct a small research project (team work during seminars)
  • Commenting on other students' papers and preparing group presentations

Students' activities and team-work are emphasized throughout the teaching.

Information about the papers and deadlines will be given in lectures and in Canvas. You need to submit the work within the deadlines, and are responsible for checking the requirements of the different papers. 

How to apply for valid absence from compulsory activities. 

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


3 days home exam.

You must complete all compulsory tuition activities in order to be allowed to sit for the final examination.

Previous exams and grading guidelines.


Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Periodiske emnerapporter

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Facts about this course






Spring 2020

This course is offered irregularly


This course is offered irregularly

Teaching language