TFF4281 – Extremism, Democracy, Religion
Schedule, syllabus and examination date
Why do we see the rise of a new European radical political right, with its ultra-nationalism, white supremacy ideals, attacks on liberal democracy and gender equality, climate-denial and dreams of returning to a gated homeland and natural, ethnic religions? Are aspirational fascism or culture wars adequate terms for this occurrence? The course provides a conceptual basis for reflection on the emergence of both radical (activist) and extremist (violent) movements on the political right today, and how certain religious ideologies and/or ritual imaginaries are used to mobilize individuals and groups. Democratic theories will be juxtaposed with religious thinking or ideologizing, including with representatives of Protestant theology, Christian nationalism, and neopagan Odinism. The political extremist Anders Behring Breivik's 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, and the massive counter-response to his atrocities in the streets of Oslo is the main case. The course will also explore the ritual imaginaries and competencies mobilized in these counter-responses.
Religion and democracy are historically ambivalent. While democracy includes a concept of people as 'demos' - a political and legal constitution of a people as citizens of a nation-state, traditional religion inherited a notion of people closer to 'ethnos' and the adjacent language of kinship, blood, and land. Ultranationalists draw inspiration from the past, from narratives of traditional religion and patriarchal culture, including from envisioned forms of historical Christianity. When they mobilize, ethnos is re-articulated. On the opposite end, we have global counter-movements, such as Occupy. Beginning in 2011, they tried to reformulate radically inclusive forms of demos. They critiqued violence from the principle of pre-figurative politics, which assumes that how people organize (and ritualize) will determine the outcome of the expected results. Yet, the mobilization in the streets of Oslo was not a political action but a spontaneous, ritualized form of collective protest, solidarity, and condolence. In this course, we will explore religion and politics in the contemporary West through these particular configurations.
Articles from the NFR funded research project REDO (Reassembling Democracy. Ritual as Cultural Resource 2013-2017), are included in the syllabus. They examine Breivik's anti-democratic ideology and killing acts, the ritual responses to his extreme violence, and how new social movements – such as Occupy – perform participatory democracy. http://www.tf.uio.no/english/research/projects/redo/
• To provide students with an in-depth understanding of the relationships and differences between democracy and religion, and the significance of ritual competence in democratic public space
• To develop students' critical understanding of what the return of nationalist ideologies in the contemporary West implies, and of the difference between extremist and radical right politics
• To provide students with theoretical and methodological frameworks for analyzing the relationship between extremism and religion, democracy and ritual
• To provide students with new knowledge by using Breivik's ideology and peoples' ritualized responses in the streets of Oslo as case
• To provide students with the skills to engage critically and constructively in normative political controversies from the perspectives of religious studies and theology
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.
Students studying at master’s level on the Theology Programme and Teacher Education Programme may apply to the course by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The classes are a combination of lectures, seminars, and excursions, and active participation is expected. There will be short lectures to introduce concepts, themes, and subthemes and short student presentations. Priority is given to discussion, application, excursion experience, and reflection in relation to primary themes.
Excursions to the July 22 center in Oslo and Utøya (Democratic learning center and Memorial site) are part of the seminar.
Three submissions in Canvas. One oral presentation in class.
- 1 reflection essay (1500-2000 words) based on a syllabus text (article or chapter). Short oral presentation in class of main findings.
- 1 argumentative, written response (max 300 words each) to another student's reflection essay.
- 1 full draft of a thematic paper on a topic from the syllabus literature (3000-3500 words when finished).
The portfolio should contain the following:
1 reflection essay
1 thematic paper (finished)
The texts chosen as assignments for the portfolio is based on the submissions in Canvas. The student has the opportunity to improve both documents right up to the examination deadline.
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You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.
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.
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