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Unit information: Religion and Material Culture in 2021/22

Unit name Religion and Material Culture
Unit code THRS20096
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Langer
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Temples, prayer beads, icons, robes, books, relics, candles and incense, scarves and hats, sacred food and holy water - objects of all sorts play a prominent role in all religions, evoking a wide range of emotional responses, from reverence, solace and even ecstasy, to fear, hostility and violence. Surprisingly, specialists in religious studies have been slow to recognize the importance of material culture to religion, though scholarship in this area has recently begun to emerge. In this unit, we will adopt a comparative approach, drawing on a variety of traditions to examine the place of food, clothing, ritual objects, architecture and relics in religious thought and practice. A Field work element will give students hands-on experience and a range of practical and transferable skills. Students will have the opportunity to practise their oral presentation skills, to work on their seminar skills, and also, through the summative assessment, on their written skills.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate a critical and scholarly understanding of the role of material culture in religion;
  2. demonstrate a thorough and hands-on understanding of the methods and value of fieldwork for religious studies and an appreciation for the value of extant artefacts for understanding religion past and present;
  3. critically analyse and explain orally and in writing the broad significance of the place of food, clothing, architecture and icons in the history of religion;
  4. identify and evaluate pertinent evidence from primary and secondary sources in order to illustrate a cogent argument appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 2000 word summative word portfolio (formative) [ILOs 1-3]

1 x 2500 word essay (100%) [1-4]


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If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THRS20096).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.