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RELS414 Religion and Identity (Advanced)

What is religious identity? How is it linked to law, politics, economics and violence? These questions are explored in reference to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, atheists, neo-spiritualities and others.

Discussions of religious identity appear everywhere in the media. Yet, what is religious identity, and how does it differ from other types of identity? How does it influence politics and society? Under what circumstances might religious identities contribute to war and violence? How ought we to think about and approach religious identity in the contemporary world? This paper explores these questions using case studies from Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.

The paper follows two directions of inquiry. After examining the concept of identity, the first half of the paper explores how particular 'technologies' of religion (e.g. ritual, myth, symbols, bodily practices) influence the formation of identity. The second half of the paper examines the links between religious identity and politics, law, society, economics and war. Classes will combine lecture and discussion and will link together theory with a variety of important, real-world case studies.

Paper title Religion and Identity (Advanced)
Paper code RELS414
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2019
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,120.06
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,439.89

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One 300-level RELS or RELX paper
RELS 314
Dr Benjamin Schonthal:
Teaching staff
Lecturer: Dr Ben Schonthal
Paper Structure
This paper covers the following topics:
  • Theories of religious identity
  • Links between myth, ritual, belief, and piety and identity
  • Religious conflict and religion-based 'othering'
  • Religious 'rationalisation'
  • Multiculturalism
  • Religious syncretism, hybridity and 'new' spiritualities
  • Commodification and commercialisation of religion
  • Written reflection 10%
  • Debate assignment 20%
  • 3000-word essay 30%
  • Final exam 40%
Teaching Arrangements
Campus: Weekly videoconferenced lectures.
Distance students are also invited to join weekly videoconferences. However, recordings will be available on Blackboard for students who cannot attend live.
No textbook required. A coursebook has been developed for this paper.
Course outline
View the course outline for RELS 414
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students completing the paper at 400-level should also be able to
  • Demonstrate a strong familiarity with the history of theorists and theories on religious identity
  • Show knowledge of the ways in which theorists and theories have critiqued and/or built upon each other
  • Demonstrate awareness of the gaps and shortcomings in existing academic knowledge on religious identity and the important questions to be addressed in future work
  • Formulate and present in class a short oral presentation based on readings that
    1. Identify an author's (or set of authors') central argument(s)
    2. Identify key questions for further discussion by the class

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Not offered in 2019

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system