BA Philosophy and Religion

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Contemporary Religion in the British Isles

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT31322
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What it means to be religious varies across the British Isles. In this course, we survey a number of contemporary expressions of religion and non-religion. We explore current developments and controversies within religious communities and in their interaction with wider society and culture. While the focus is on the British Isles, the study of current and historical global links enables a holistic understanding. Additionally, we critically evaluate the representation of religion in the news and on social media, and how they function as sources of knowledge. Material draws on recent scholarship and primary sources such as statistical data, community publications, material objects, news items and Twitter feeds. You will analyse how they reveal and complicate contested debates over religious belonging, authentic religious practice and thought, and the place of religion within contemporary societies and cultures. You will pursue your own specialist interest through independent research of a self-selected ethnographic case study.


  • To explore the presence, role and representation of diverse expressions of religion in contemporary societies and cultures of the British Isles
  • To examine theories of religious and non-religious social identities in context
  • To reflect critically on specific expressions of contemporary religion and their value to generalized understandings of social and cultural developments
  • To enable students to develop communication skills aimed at a range of non-academic and academic audience

Teaching and learning methods

The course uses an enquiry-based flipped classroom process in which individual preparation for student-led seminars with small group work are followed by interactive lectures. A rich Blackboard site, project planning technology, and research and study skills workshops at relevant points in the semester facilitate effective student engagement. Students’ media digests and case studies of sufficient quality are selected for inclusion in a public-facing ‘Religion in the British Isles’ web resource.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain how religious expressions manifest in the British Isles
  • Demonstrate how the presence and role of specific religious communities has changed over time
  • Evaluate representations of contemporary religion in the media
  • Explain the relationship between religion and key social, cultural and political sites such as sacred space, public and private ritual, community, education, and social activism.

Intellectual skills

  • Understand and evaluate a diversity of scholarly and popular positions on the role of religion in contemporary life
  • Compile a critical media digest
  • Carry out systematic and structured analysis of an ethnographic case study
  • Develop a reflective critical position on religion in contemporary life
  • Manage your own academic development, including reflecting on progress and taking appropriate action

Practical skills

  • Negotiate common working practices as part of a team.
  • Design and deliver clear and informative research material for a specified non-academic audience
  • Conduct bibliographic and Internet searches to locate relevant primary and secondary sources
  • Synthesize information from a variety of sources
  • Provide and learn from peer feedback

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop awareness of the role of religion in contemporary British life and its global links
  • Engage in critical discussion
  • Communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  • Use reflexivity to undertake self-evaluation

Employability skills

By the end of the term, students will have developed: · - The ability to work as part of a team and individually to achieve specific goals - Written and oral communications skills - Religious literacy - Cultural awareness · - Independent research skills and project management · - To formulate informed generalisations on the basis of critical analysis of real-world examples

Assessment methods

Assessment Type Weighting
Reflective Review Formative 0%
Media Digest Summative 35%
Case Study Proposal Formative 0%
Case Study Summative 65%

Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative/Summative
Reflective Review: written tutor feedback Formative

Media Digest: written tutor and peer feedback; written self-assessment

Formative (peers) and summative (self and tutor)
Case study: written tutor feedback Summative

Additional one-to-one feedback available in

office hours and by appointment.



Recommended reading

  • Davie, G. (2015). Religion in Britain : a persistent paradox. Second edition. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Day, A., Vincett, G. and Cotter, C.R. (2013). Social identities between the sacred and the secular. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Gregg, S.E. and Scholefield, L. (2015). Engaging with Living Religion: A Guide to Fieldwork in the Study of Religion. London: Routledge.
  • Knott, K. (2014). The location of religion : a spatial analysis. London: Routledge.
  • Knott, K., Poole, E. and Taira, T. (2013). Media portrayals of religion and the secular sacred: representation and change. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Knott, K. and McLoughlin, S. (2010). Diasporas : concepts, intersections, identities. London: Zed Books.
  • Woodhead, L. and Catto, R. (2012). Religion and change in modern Britain. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 16
Practical classes & workshops 5
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katja Stuerzenhofecker Unit coordinator

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