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10 cp of 100-level units in Politics and International Relations

Unit rationale, description and aim

For a large part of the twentieth century, secularisation was assumed to be the inevitable destiny of the modern world. It was widely believed that the world would eventually abandon belief in religion, based on the simplistic assumption that a causal relationship existed between modernisation and secularisation. Like urbanisation, industrialisation and rationalisation, secularisation was supposedly an integral part of modernisation. Leading sociologists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim claimed that religion would eventually disappear from public life. Exploring theoretical and empirical challenges to the secularisation thesis, this unit surveys alternative normative and descriptive conceptualisations of religion in world politics. What does the resurgence of religion mean? What is the nature of the tensions and conflicts that have arisen from the conflation of religion and state? Is there a way to accommodate religion alongside modern notions such as human rights, democracy, pluralism and women's rights? The unit aims to scrutinise these questions to reveal the complicated and varying conceptual articulations of religion-politics relations in contemporary world politics. The examination of these conceptualisations will be accompanied by detailed discussion of the lived reality of religion-politics relations drawn from various parts of the world.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the nature and significance of religion in politics and the contexts in which religion and religion interact (GA5) 

LO2 - Critically discuss diverse perspectives on religion-politics relations, particularly with respect to marginalised, disadvantaged, and vulnerable communities (GA1) 

LO3 - Apply concepts, theories and methods used in the study of political science to the analysis of interests, ideas, institutions and behaviors of religious groups (GA5,GA6) 

LO4 - Demonstrate the capacity to gather, analyse and advocate ethical solutions to problems relating to religion and politics relations, through evidence-based argument and evaluation of secondary and primary sources (GA 3,GA4, GA8). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

  • Religion and politics: an historical survey  
  • Religion and Politics: Types of relationship 
  • Enlightenment and religion  
  • Secularisation Paradigm  
  • Critics of secularisation Paradigm  
  • Religion and democratic norms 
  • Religion and human rights 
  • Critical theories 
  • Progressive vs. conservative voices 
  • Fundamentalism and religious extremism 
  • Religion in international relations 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit offers two formal ways of learning and teaching. Lectures are organised based on case-based learning, a format that involves deep learning. Students explore real world challenges and problems, a process that requires them to demonstrate their investigative, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Case-based learning requires learning specific theories and concepts that will complement the conceptual tools and theoretical knowledge critical to analysing divergent approaches to religion-politics relationships. In addition to conceptual and theoretical discussions, a specific religious tradition will be closely investigated to demonstrate the complexities of religion and politics relationships in the modern age. 

Tutorials for this unit provide opportunities for active learning. Students will engage in activities including reading, writing, interrogating ideas, exploring case studies and making presentations. These activities, as well as promoting analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of lecture content, are designed to build skills appropriate to third year study in Politics and International Relations. Furthermore, readings will deepen students’ knowledge of the various conceptualisations of religion and politics relationships. 

This 10-credit point unit has been for 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are specifically designed to enable students to demonstrate their clear understanding of the complexities of religion-politics relationships in the contemporary world. There is no “right” answer to enquiry in the field of political science: one can approach a question or topic in several legitimate ways. Students are required to provide a coherent, substantiated, structured and persuasive answer to the specific question asked in each assignment. This unit is assessed based on two take-home essays (the first an opinion editorial) that build skills in reading, research, critical analysis and clear written communication and tutorials assessment that builds skills in oral communication, reading, analysis, debate or discussion. Students are required to prepare an oral presentation that will trigger further discussion and debate by fellow students they must also respond to the debate and discussion of another presentation. The purpose of this assessment is for students to apply their understanding of various conceptualisations of religion-politics relations to an empirical case. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Opinion editorial : requires students to write an 800 word opinion editorial to develop a position on an ongoing issue related to religion and politics 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA5, GA8 

Final essay: requires students to demonstrate thorough understanding of the subject matter, critical analysis of the relevant literature, and to incorporate and synthesise relevant conceptual/theoretical ideas.   


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA3, GA4, GA5,GA8 

Tutorial presentation and participation in debate following another presentation.


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA4, GA5GA8 

Representative texts and references

Asad, Talal. 2010. Formations of the secular: Christianity, Islam, modernism. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Berger, Peter L. 1969. The sacred canopy: elements of a sociological theory of religion. Garden City: Anchor Books. 

Cady, Linell Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd. 2010. Comparative secularisms in a global age. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Calhoun, Craig J., Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen. 2011. Rethinking secularism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Ghobadzadeh, Naser. 2015. Religious Secularity: A theological challenge to the Islamic State. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Huntington, Samuel P. 1996. The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster. 

Jelen, Ted G., and Clyde Wilcox. 2002. Religion and politics in comparative perspective : the one, the few, and the many. New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Mahmood, Saba. 2012. Politics of piety: the Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 

Rosati, Massimo, and Kristina Stoeckl. 2015. Multiple modernities and postsecular societies. Farnham: Ashgate. 

Sayyid, Bobby S. 1997. A fundamental fear: eurocentrism and the emergence of Islamism. London: Zed Books. 

Taylor, Charles. 2007. A secular age. New York: Belknap Press. 

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