SOAS University of London

Department of Religions and Philosophies

Critical Theory and the Study of Religions

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year
Historically, the field of the academic study of religions has sought to understand the diverse cultures, beliefs and practices of the world by developing methodological approaches and orientations that emphasise neutrality and empathy. However, contemporary critiques have problematised these approaches from a variety of  theoretical and political perspectives. In spite of claims within the study of religions to apparent neutrality, its scholarly methods and assumptions can be shown to play a pivotal role in producing and maintaining a narrowly ethnocentric cultural hegemony that has increasingly ethical implications. The aim of the course will thus be to examine the ethics and politics of knowledge within the context of the study of religions as an academic field. It is an advanced level course which deals with three main bodies of critical theory (poststructuralist, postcolonial, and gender theory), plotting the intersections and points of departure between them and extending them to examine and assess the epistemological commitments of the study of religions.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Have gained an overview of the history of the study of religions in the western academy and the interface between critical theory and the field of religious studies.
  • Have acquired a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the relationship between a variety of critical theories.
  • Have acquired a comprehensive understanding of the variety of methodologies that these approaches offer the student of religion.
  • Have reflected on the relevance of these approaches to their areas of interest.
  • Be able to evaluate critically a variety of books, journals and other sources of information relevant to the topics studied on the course.
  • Have produced detailed written work on a number of approved topics relevant to the course.
  • Have recorded and reflected on his/her experience of the subject matter on the course, particularly with regard to its application in the study of religions.
  • Have developed core skills in evaluation, self-reflection, and team work.

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 3,000 word essays (60%), Research Journal (30%) and Oral Exam (10%)


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