Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Religion and Secularism in International Relations

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION This study-unit is based on the recognition, by an increasing number of scholars, of the significant role of organized religion, as a major factor in contemporary international conflicts, which makes it necessary to seek to provide an in-depth analysis of the nature of religion’s role in conflict, and of the ways in which religion has played an important function in human patterns of reconciliation in these same conflicts.

This study-unit is structured to address a growing academic concern: that the rise of religion has confronted IR theory with a theoretical challenge comparable to that of the end of the Cold War, or the emergence of globalization. It is based on heightened interest in the study of the relevance of religion in international politics, in view of a few important developments, including the difficult time the U.S. is having in imposing secular democracy around the world; the advent of a U.S. foreign policy model that is officially secular yet inspired by a kind of Christianity, and the emergence of a variety of religious movements and organizations with broad bases of national and transnational influence that have become prominent in world affairs.

Study-unit Aims

This study-unit aims at taking a step forward along a neglected path by examining the role of religion and secularism in current world politics and economics, and exploring their impact on international relations. It looks at relevant differences across various countries and regions, and Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis, as well as particular cases like the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This study-unit, in broader terms, seeks to review complicated questions of ideology and legitimacy, and the ongoing debates about conflicts of religion, identity and nationalism, and their implications for international relations.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to identify in international relations the impact of religious and secular forces; appreciate the differences in the way different societies look at education, human rights and population control; analyze the extension across geography of local religious conflicts, and identify the religious and secular elements in decisions and policies of state managers and policy-makers.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to evaluate the international dimension of religion and secularism; have better understanding of the developments in international relations in relation to the role of religious ideology and religious movements; and make informed interpretation of decisions and policies of politicians in terms of religious and secular underpinnings.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

- Fox, Jonathan and Sandler, Shmuel (2006): Bringing Religion into International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Pettman, Ralf (2004): Reason, Culture, Religion The Metaphysics of World Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Scott, M. Thomas (2005): The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Shakman Elizabeth (2008): The politics of secularism in international relations. Princeton University Press.
- Huntington, S. (1997): The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. Simon&Schster.
- Huntington, S. (1984): Will More Countries Become Democratic? Political Science Quarterly [Summer].
- Lustick Ian S. (1994): Religion, Culture, and Psychology in Arab-Israeli Relations. Routledge
- Relevant Articles in Journals, Magazines and Newspapers.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 50%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 50%


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.