RESA4219 – Religion and Politics in Global Perspective

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Course content

Religion and politics are often thought of as two fields of human activity which are best kept separate in modern, liberal societies. Yet at the same time – for better or worse, to a greater or lesser extent – religion and politics interact extensively in the modern world. This course aims to explore those interactions on a global scale.

We will begin on a conceptual level: What is religion? What is politics? How can these things be defined? It will be suggested that “religion” and “politics” are historically and socially contingent concepts: what we categorize as a religious tradition as opposed to a political one is to some extent a matter of convention.

Students will be encouraged to keep the limitations of the concepts “politics” and “religion” in mind, but we will nonetheless use them as we proceed to explore traditions and political systems the world over: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Secularism, and Shinto; East Asia, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East, the Nordic Countries, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the United States.

Well into the twentieth-century, politics and religion were male-dominated, and even today many political and religious institutions are partially or fully closed to female participation. Therefore, we will pay special attention to the gendered nature of political and religious activities and discourses.

Learning outcome


  • An overview of problems in defining and delimiting "religion" and "politics."
  • A working knowledge of the world's religious traditions, political ideologies, and political institutions.
  • An overview of major trends and themes in the interrelationship between religion and politics: human rights, violence, peace and reconciliation, globalization, etc.
  • Familiarity with the most important political actors that shape religious policy, and conversely, the most important religious actors that influence politics.
  • An overview of the religious and political diversity of the modern world and the methods adopted to manage these diversities.


  • Ability to think and discuss in a nuanced way changes and contestations in and between religious and political traditions, to understand where these processes come from and to discuss where they may be headed.
  • Ability to examine and assess policies on religion in different parts of the world, and to discuss their influence on religious practice.

General Competence

  • Ability to read, systematize and summarize academic books and research articles from a broad variety of different disciplines.
  • Ability to formulate independent research questions on the interrelationship between politics and religion.

This course is offered at both the bachelor's and master's level, depending on the study program it is part of. It is expected a higher degree of knowledge and skills to the exam on the master’s level than on the bachelor’s level. There is also a difference in scope/level of mandatory activities and syllabus.


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.


Mandatory activities

Students should submit a paper that consist of 2000-2500 words about religion and politics in one of the regions listed in the syllabus.

You may write your paper in Norwegian.


A three day home examination, 3000-4000 Words.

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.

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

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language