17.522 | Fall 2006 | Graduate

Politics and Religion


Course Meeting Times

Discussions: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Overview

This course surveys recent social science literature on politics and religion. The first objective of the course is to familiarize students with the existing theoretical literature and empirical research. The second objective to evaluate recent research on the role of religious actors, institutions, and ideologies in policymaking, state-building, democratic politics, regime change, conflict, war, and other political processes.


Because this course is primarily a reading seminar, class attendance and participation are crucial. Everyone is expected to complete the reading before class every week and to contribute actively to class discussions. “Cold calls” may sometimes be used, although comments contributed will only help, and not hurt, one’s grade.

Participants will write five short response papers (750 - 1000 words) that critically discuss a given week’s readings. You may also write more than five papers and drop the least successful one from your grade. To ensure unbiased grading, please put your name on a separate page at the end of the paper.

Each seminar participant is also expected to serve as discussion leader for a class session in a week for which they have not written a response paper.


Response Papers 50%
Class Participation 40%
Leading Discussion 10%


WEEK # Topics
1 Course Overview
2 Social Scientific Approaches I
3 Social Scientific Approaches II
4 Modernization and Secularization
5 Political Behavior and Democratic Politics
6 Nationalism and State-Building I
7 Nationalism and State-Building II
8 Church-State Relations and Political Legitimacy
9 Civil Society and Social Movements
10 Clash of Civilizations?
11 Terrorism
12 Terrorism - Suicide Attacks

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2006
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples