module specification

GI7076 - Religion and International Relations (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Religion and International Relations
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 200
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
164 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Essay -4500-5000 words
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

This module will provide you with an opportunity to engage with contemporary debates on the various different roles of religion in international relations. In particular, it will enable you to evaluate differing interpretations of the political importance of religious actors, groups and religious oriented ideologies in international relations.

It will consider how religion, once considered to be in decline in the second half of the Twentieth Century, has re-emerged as an influencing force in international relations since the end of the Cold War in the 1980s. Global events in recent years, not least the Al-Qaeda attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001, and subsequent attacks by other ‘religiously-motivated’ terrorist groups, have resulted in various religious ‘actors’ having a crucial role in shaping world politics. But these are not the only ones.

The challenges - both theoretical and practical – of integrating religion into international relations has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, with scholars looking to account for the ‘return’ or resurgence’ of religion. With this in mind, this module will explore the doctrines and organizational methods of many major religious ideas, values and actors, focusing on their abilities to influence local, regional and global affairs.

As a result, this course will seek to reach beyond the often quoted ‘Clash of Civilisation’ thesis proposed by Samuel Huntington, which has dominated so much of the discussion since 9/11, and will, instead, explore how many governments make issues linked to religion a focal point of their foreign policies, whilst also demonstrating how non-state actors and religious groups, often transnational in nature, are inspired by religious concerns to engage politically with governments.

Finally, it will consider the view that though some national and international conflicts have roots in religious, cultural and ethnic divisions, it is also the case that religion has played an increasing role in humanitarian/development work, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Prior learning requirements

MA International Relations (Option)
MA Peace Conflict and Diplomacy (Option)
MA Human Rights and International Conflict (Option)


The indicative syllabus is as follows:

1. Religion and politics before and after 9/11
2. Religion and international relations theory
3. Towards a clash of civilizations?
4. Transnational religious actors 1: The Roman Catholic Church 
5. Transnational religious actors 2: The Islamic Caliphate – aspiration and reality
6. Religion and state behaviour 1: Saudi Arabia and Iran since the Islamic revolution
7. Religion and state behaviour: Turkey and Jaiklik
8. Religion and state behaviour 2: India and the Modi government
9. Religion and international conflict 1: The Balkan Wars of the 1990s
10. Religion and international conflict 2: Zionism and anti-Zionism
11. The future of religion in global politics

Each area will include all learning outcomes.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The classes are divided into a lecture part and a discussion/seminar part.  Lectures and seminars are augmented by copious material on the Weblearn site, inviting students to reflect on what they are learning and to engage with each other interactively.

The module booklet, prepared before the start of the semester and available on Weblearn, sets out a weekly programme of general discussions supported by reading and links to ensure continuous involvement and learning by students.

Each person taking the module is required to deliver a seminar paper, whether on their own or in combination with a maximum of one other presenter, in class. Usually students will give their seminar paper on their chosen coursework essay topic. While there will be no formal credit for seminar papers, students will find it very useful to deliver a seminar paper in the course of research for their essay preparation.

The seminar part of the class will normally consist of two elements: (a) oral presentations by individual students on their chosen coursework essay topic and (b) general discussions centred around the “tasks” and/or “questions for discussion” indicated for each week.

Students taking the module are required to read and absorb the necessary information and to supplement lecture notes with further reading.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will:

1. Understand how religion is or is not dealt with by international relations theory.

2. Understand and analyse the main roles of religion in contemporary international relations.

3. Gain an understanding of the debates about the role of religion in international relations and the rationale of the arguments put forward. 

4. Gain a detailed knowledge and understanding of the role of religion in relation to specific problems and policy issues.

5. Develop critical abilities to analyse primary and secondary resources focused on religion and international relations, and be able to work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.