Introduction to the Study of Religion (10 credits and 10 credits)
These modules seek to introduce students to a range of questions, theories and methods in the inter-disciplinary study of religion, focusing especially on the social and cultural analysis of religion. A range of contemporary topics will be used to explore how different aspects of religion can be explored as forms of social and cultural experience and practice. Examples of this in module A might include debates about faith schools, women’s leadership in religious institutions, sectarian violence in football, belief in the supernatural. In module B, examples of this include the ways in which religion and media interact, the place of visual and material culture in religion, the relationship between religion and popular culture, and the nature of religious experience, ritual and sacred space as lived phenomena. An introduction is also offered to wider theories and debates in sociology, cultural studies and anthropology as a basis for the study of religion.
Optional modules may include:
Lived Religions in Birmingham and Beyond A and B (10 credits and 10 credits)
Students will explore the lived dimensions of religion in Birmingham and the wider region. They will examine the links between Birmingham’s complex vibrant, urban, religious and secular landscape and how this relates to the UK and world as a whole, by following growth and changes in the diverse range of religious communities of Birmingham. Through lectures, site visits, seminars, and workshops students will develop key skills for the study of lived religions.
Introduction to Islam (20 credits)
The module examines Islam both as a religious tradition and also as a political and social reality. In semester 1, the main topics surveyed include: Islamic history in the early and classical period, the Prophet Muhammad and the first Islamic community, the Qur’an, the Prophet’s Hadith, early religious and political developments, Sunni and Shi’i Islam. In semester 2, the main topics surveyed include: Islamic history in the early modern and modern period, women in Islam, Islam in the modern world, radical and militant Islam and particular issues associated with Muslims, such as apostasy and radicalisation.
Political Theologies: Wealth, Race and Gender (20 credits)
This new optional first year module provides students with an opportunity to explore the ways in which theologies have understood the character and meaning of political life, including pressing contemporary issues of wealth, race and gender. Students will gain an understanding of the various ways that politics and political community are conceived theologically, and the ways that critical commentators have identified and responded to concrete threats to community formation from contemporary ideologies. A key question which students will explore is “what builds or destroys communities?” and student learning will include addressing specific issues in order to explore underpinning theoretical concerns in theological political philosophy.
Life After Death: What Happens When We Die? (20 credits)
Life after death is a perennial interest but especially for religious communities. Who doesn’t want to know what happens when they die? And, for many, the whole point of being religious is in order to gain access to heaven. This class will look about the development of ideas about the afterlife in a variety of ancient and modern religions. It will look at how what people think about immortality is reflective of their social and cultural values, legislative and ethical systems, and social hierarchies. Examining what people say about life after death can tell us a great deal about how people respond to crisis and process grief; it reflects how various groups value (or not) gender, disability and race; and can tell us about our own anxieties about who we are and who we want to be.