Course description


This course aims to introduce students to issues that arise in discussions pertaining to state and religion, their connections, intersections, concordances and distinctions, following a discussion of why the issue of religion-state relations arises, and under what circumstances. The approach adopted is intended to involve questions and concepts that occur in the disciplines of history, comparative religion, political anthropology and political sociology. Philosophical and other discussions associated with political theory will be broached only tangentially.


The course will start with contemporary issues that set many of the terms of debate relating to the connection of state and religion. These issues arise from growing salience and self-confidence of political movements with explicitly and often predominantly religious declared agendas. It will discuss issues relating to secularism and secularization, as well as to claims for the religious and eschatological character of certain twentieth-century ideologies that have sustained mass movements.


The course will adopt a conceptual and a historical turn. It will take up notions and practices of religion and of state, and different types of relationships that have existed between them historically, highlighted with reference to specific examples. The course will look into redefining both state and religion in the early modern and modern world, and of their possible range of relationships. Reference will be made to the consequences of the Protestant reformation and to the crucial redefining of the relationship between state and religion as expressed unsentimentally by Thomas Hobbes.


Class sessions will consist of introductory remarks by the instructor and the TA, followed by a summary of the previous session by one of the students. This will be followed by a class discussion of the specific theme of each session based upon the mandatory readings.