REDI4150 – Religion, the body and sexuality

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Course content

How does religion relate to bodies and sexualities? Many people would answer simply, “through repression”. But the relationship is much more complicated than that. While many religions draw boundaries between what they consider to be appropriate and inappropriate use of the human body, especially within the realm of sexuality, within the boundaries of what is deemed appropriate the same religions often celebrate human sexuality and even expect sexual partners to provide each other with sexual pleasure. Celibacy, too, is more than sexual repression, and sometimes it is even seen as providing the practitioner with great spiritual power; in other settings, the sex act itself is understood to provide this power.

Religion, the Body and Sexuality is the title of a book authored by Melissa Wilcox (University of California, Riverside), Liz Wilson (Miami University, Ohio) and Nina Hoel (University of Oslo), to be published by Routledge in 2020. The course, which is given the same name as the title of the book, introduces students to the intersections and interactions between religions, bodies and sexualities and pilots the book as our primary text. The course offers a rich exploration of the connections between religion, the body and sexuality through case studies in seven thematic sections, corresponding to the chapters of the book. The course employs a deeply comparative approach to religious studies, which enables a keen focus on the rich and varied connections, across human history and around the globe, between religions, bodies and sexualities. The seven primary thematic sections that the course engages are:

  1. Celibacy
  2. Regulation
  3. Controversy
  4. Violence
  5. Experimentation
  6. Instrumentalization
  7. Ecstasy

Each thematic section is introduced through a number of case studies that illustrate varied and complex relationships between religions, bodies and sexualities. The thematic sections and their subthemes (outlined in each chapter) are ideal types, and not exhaustive. The seminar focusses on engaging each of the seven thematic sections in-depth by employing application and reflection exercises in relation to each theme.

Learning outcome

  • A deeper understanding of studying religion as a human phenomenon (including applying empathetic understanding and epoché)
  • A deeper understanding of the connections between religion, the body and sexuality
  • Ability to critically engage the various ways in which religion deeply intersect with human bodies and sexualities
  • Competence in applying a comparative religion approach to the study of religion, the body and sexuality


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.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

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



The classes are seminars and active participation is expected. The seminar consists of a total of twenty-eight hours. These are divided into seven seminar sessions of four hours each during the course of the semester. During the four hour seminar there will be given short lectures to introduce new themes/subthemes and short student presentations of relevant texts. Priority is given to discussion, application and reflection exercises in relation to each primary theme and participatory engagement with selected curricula from the suggested readings (from our grounding text, Religion, the body and Sexuality). We will also discuss and work with the portfolio throughout the semester.


Mandatory requirements:

  • Each student will submit an overview of their selected curricula of 750 pages i Canvas. The selected curricula require approval from course convenor. The curricula is to be selected from the “Resources for further study”, found at the end of each chapter in the book. Of the 750 pages, two needs to be monographs (books) from two different chapter themes.    
  • For each seminar, each student is to prepare a 1 page reflection note engaging the primary theme for the seminar. A total of six reflection notes during the course of the semester (these are to be uploaded to Canvas).
  • Presentation of research paper outline



The portfolio should contain the following:

  1. Book review of one of the monographs chosen as elective curricula (800-1000 Words).
  2. Reflection essay: Select one of the primary themes we have engaged with in our seminars and write a reflection essay informed by the questions. found in the “application and reflection” section at the end of each chapter (2000-2500 words). 
  3. Research paper employing a comparative religion approach to the study of religion, the body and sexuality (3000-4000 Words).

Language of examination

You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English. If you would prefer to have the exam text in English, you may apply to the course administrators.

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.

Facts about this course






Spring 2019


Spring 2019

Teaching language