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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

Religion is part of culture, and shares many of its most fundamental attributes. This course begins with an in depth re-examination of classical sociological theories of religion with a view to understanding religion as culture. We then examine the relationship between religion and other important social phenomena and experiences, including violence, rebellion, discipline, death, hope and advertising. Advertising makes a good example: modern advertising has religious roots in the 1920s as the ‘promise of redemption’. Now advertising dominates everything, and even education and religion are forced to speak in its terms.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Andrew McKinnon

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme
  • Sociology (SO)
  • Programme Level 4

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

In this class we will examine social theories of religion, beginning with a few important classics (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Nietzsche), and continuing on to more contemporary social theory. Unlike in classical theory, where the religion question looms large, in most contemporary theory, religion has become a somewhat more peripheral concern. Much of such recent theorizing, however, provides us with vital tools for a sociological comprehension of contemporary (as well as historical) religion. With the question of religion in mind, we will examine relevant writings such as those of the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, Charles Taylor, Pierre Bourdieu, Ulrich Beck, René Girard and Dorothy Smith. Our focus will be on thematics that bridge the sociological study of religion with topics relevant to other areas of research. These include power, sacrifice, the body, discipline, ritual, the social imaginary, consumption/commodification, globalization, risk, and rationality.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Seminar during University weeks 7 - 17
  • 1 Tutorial during University weeks 8 - 17

More Information about Week Numbers

In light of Covid-19 and the move to blended learning delivery the assessment information advertised for courses may be subject to change. All updates for first-half session courses will be actioned no later than 1700 (GMT) on 18 September 2020. All updates for second half-session courses will be actioned in advance of second half-session teaching starting. Please check back regularly for updates.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: Examination (60%), and continuous assessment (40%).

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.


Written feedback will be provided for continuous assessment work, where appropriate. This will normally be provided within three weeks of the submission date. Oral feedback on class presentations will also be provided where appropriate.

Course Learning Outcomes


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