BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course description

Our BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology course explores how religion is inextricably bound up with ways of being human.

Religion is here to stay, and there is a critical need to understand how and why it forms a central part of human cultures.

You will explore themes such as ritual, myth, sacred space and iconography as critical features of human societies, both past and present.

You will study topics such as Judaism, the problem of evil, the Bible, social theory, power, and ethnography.

Your first year of study will cover research methods and key issues in Religion and Anthropology.

You will go on to focus on issues related to religion as culture, such as the role played by gender, politics and narrative representation, as well as the developing relationship between anthropology and religion.

In your final year, you will get the opportunity to focus further on specific themes and issues, including writing an independently researched dissertation on a topic of your own choice. 

This course produces graduates who have a clear capacity to analyse and understand the many complex roles played by religion in human societies. 

These are skills of high value in today's globalised world.


We aim to:
  • provide a multidisciplinary curriculum informed by the research and scholarly activities of the teaching staff;
  • stimulate curiosity about a variety of religious cultures, their histories and the present condition;
  • enable you to analyse and evaluate a range of political, social and cultural practices using methodologies drawn from the disciplines of Religious Studies and Social Anthropology;
  • develop your critical understanding of religion, theology and the various approaches to studying this discipline through a diverse range of learning, teaching and assessment methods;
  • equip you with the skills necessary to interpret primary and secondary sources related to an in-depth study of texts, religious practices and traditions;
  • provide, when required, appropriate language instruction;
  • equip you for a variety of careers through subject specific knowledge, active engagement in your own learning and the development of analytical and other transferable skills.

Special features

Placement year option

Apply your subject-specific knowledge in a real-world context through a placement year in your third year of study. This will enable you to enhance your employment prospects, clarify your career goals and build your external networks.

Learn in a multi-faith city

You will have the opportunity to engage with living religious traditions in a contemporary context in one of the most religiously-diverse and dynamic cities in the UK.

Study abroad

Apply to spend one semester studying abroad during the second year of your degree.

Connect with like-minded students

Join one of our student societies to further explore your interests, such as the Religions and Theology Society, an inclusive community that plans academic and social activities from first year through to postgraduate level.

Teaching and learning

You'll be exposed to traditional and innovative teaching and learning methods. You may have the opportunity to conduct research among Manchester's various multi-faith communities.

These methods include:

  • lectures;
  • seminars;
  • one-to-one meetings;
  • small group tutorials;
  • research workshops.

A number of units may offer 'outward facing' assessment, in which students work with mentors to produce resources that can be used outside of an academic context, such as blogs and guides.

Coursework and assessment

Assessment includes:
  • written coursework (eg essays, literature reviews and a 12,000-word dissertation);
  • examinations;
  • e-learning activities;
  • group projects/presentations.

Course unit details

You'll choose from an extensive menu of course units relating to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Japanese religions. You'll be exposed to a challenging blend of traditional and innovative teaching and learning methods, with the opportunity to do research among Manchester's various faith communities.

Course content for year 1

You'll look at some of the key concepts and approaches to understanding culture, including topics such as social inequality, diversity and gender.

You'll also have the opportunity to study different regions of the world.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Introduction to the Study of Religions and Theology RELT10311 20 Mandatory
Power and Culture: Inequality in Everyday Life SOAN10301 10 Mandatory
Cultural Diversity in Global Perspective SOAN10312 10 Mandatory
Key Ideas in Social Anthropology SOAN10321 10 Mandatory
Intro to Ethnographic Reading SOAN10322 10 Mandatory
Histories of the Islamic World HIST10172 20 Optional
New Testament Greek RELT10120 20 Optional
Introduction to Christianity RELT10131 20 Optional
Introduction to Judaism RELT10191 20 Optional
Religion, Ethics and the Environment RELT10242 20 Optional
Truth and Truth Telling RELT10522 20 Optional
Bible in Ancient and Modern Worlds RELT10712 20 Optional
Being Human[e]: Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics RELT10911 20 Optional
Standing on The Shoulders of Giants: Foundations for Study in The Arts SALC10002 20 Optional
Regional Studies of Culture: 1 SOAN10331 20 Optional
Regional Studies of Culture: 2 SOAN10352 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 16 course units for year 1

Course content for year 2

Take a core course unit in Anthropology of Religion and explore a wide range of different religious beliefs and practices, as well as questions about how such beliefs and practices should be understood.

Course units for year 2

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
World Philosophies: Ethics and Ideas in the History of Thought RELT21701 20 Mandatory
Anthropology of Religion SOAN20812 20 Mandatory
Religion in Japan JAPA20211 20 Optional
The Politics of Women and Gender in the Middle East and North Africa MEST20352 20 Optional
History of Modern Islamic Thought MEST20502 20 Optional
Religion, Culture and Gender RELT20121 20 Optional
Christianity, Modernity, Tradition RELT20131 20 Optional
Biblical Hebrew RELT20140 20 Optional
New Testament in Greek II RELT20150 20 Optional
World Christianities RELT20301 20 Optional
Interpreting Religion RELT20572 20 Optional
God at the Movies RELT20632 20 Optional
Jewish Philosophy and Ethics RELT20651 20 Optional
End of the World and Apocalypticism RELT21082 20 Optional
Problems in Theology, Philosophy and Ethics: Evil RELT21112 20 Optional
All about Eve: Encountering the First Woman from Antiquity to Today SALC21132 20 Optional
Anthropology of Kinship, Gender and Sex SOAN20802 20 Optional
Political and Economic Anthropology SOAN20821 20 Optional
Anthropological Theory SOAN20830 20 Optional
The Ethnographer's Craft SOAN20841 20 Optional
Materiality and Representation SOAN20852 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 21 course units for year 2

Course content for year 3

Tailor your study and pursue your own research in a specific area of interest through your final year dissertation.

Your dissertation will relate to both religion and anthropology and you'll receive supervision from a member of teaching staff in each discipline.

Course units for year 3

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation RELT30000 40 Mandatory
Religion in Political Philosophy: From Early Modernity to the Contemporary RELT30271 20 Optional
Holocaust Theology and Ethics RELT30332 20 Optional
Science and Islam RELT30521 20 Optional
Gender and Sexuality in the Bible RELT30711 20 Optional
Interdisciplinary Literature and Theology: Empathy, Ethics, Liberation RELT31131 20 Optional
Making Sense of Christ RELT31142 20 Optional
Lived Religion: Places, Practices, Bodies, Objects RELT31212 20 Optional
Contemporary Religion in the British Isles RELT31322 20 Optional
The Anthropology of Health and Wellbeing SOAN30251 20 Optional
Anthropology of Childhood, Youth and Education SOAN30372 20 Optional
Black Identities and Cultures in Latin America SOAN30661 20 Optional
Screening Culture SOAN30791 20 Optional
Anthropology of Vision, Senses and Memory SOAN30811 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 14 course units for year 3


Our most distinctive research resource is the John Rylands Research Institute and Library - an internationally renowned resource which holds one of the finest collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives in the world.

As well as an excellent general collection of books on Religions and Theology and related areas, the Rylands houses many collections of world importance.

You will find a substantial collection of papyri, such as the oldest manuscript fragment of a New Testament book, alongside several major archives, including the Methodist archive, with many original documents.

At Manchester you can also study ethnographic film and video as you'll have access to the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology and optional course units in art history and visual studies.

Find out more about our Facilities .

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: