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SAM5150: Religion, Identity and Populism

Time schedule | PDF-version for print

General information | Course requirements | Final assessment | Course objective and content | Literature 

Person responsible for the course:Lars Åsmund Laird Iversen (
Credit points (ECTS):10
Start of studies:Spring
Study programme:Master's degree (2 years) - Master of Theology
Master's degree (2 years) - Master in Religion in Contemporary Society
Department:Department of Education, Religion and Society

General information

The course investigates the ways religion is connected to nationalism and politicised group belonging. The relationship between religion and feelings and ideologies of belonging is a long-standing source of social scientific inquiry into religion.
Populist movements have had increasing visibility and electorial success in several continents. This course uses theses populist political movements as a contemporary lens through which the relationship between religion and identity can be understood in a globalizing world.
It further investigates the relationship between nationalism and religion. This is done to provide some useful theoretical tools for discussing recent populist movements` use of religious rhetoric. It is also done to be able to critically examine whether the labels of "nationalism" and "populism" are useful when analyzing movements in Asia, Africa and Latin-America who use religion in their political rhetoric.
The theoretical interest in religion, nationalism and identity gives shape to the treatment of populism, and conversely, the focus on populism shows the relevance and timeliness of investigating the ties between religion, nationalism and identity.
The course is a selective course in the Master's programme Religion in Contemporary Society.
The course is taught through a series of lectures and/or seminars.
Recommended prior knowledge: It is recommended that students have completed SAM5010, SAM5020 and SAM5030.

Course requirements

In order to receive a final assessment, the student must: 
  • submit and have approved an essay (1200-1500 words) on a given topic, handed in by set deadlines
  • attend at least 75% of lectures and seminars
  • participate in the electronic evaluation of the course if such evaluation is stipulated in the relevant term
When course requirements are not fulfilled, this will count as one examination attempt, unless the student withdraws before the set deadline (1 May/November).

Final assessment

The final assessment is in the form of a take-home examination (one week, 4000-5000 words). The exam is assessed with grades (A-F). In order to receive a final assessment, the student must fulfil the course requirements within the fixed deadline.

Course objective and content

The student has
  • thorough knowledge of social scientific understandings of the concept "populism"
  • thorough knowledge about social scientific research on the role of religion in populist movements
  • good knowledge about social scientific understandings of the role of religion in social identity
  • good knowledge of case studies of populist movements engaging with religion in at least three continents
  • knowledge about theories on religion and nationalism
The student can
  • analyze case studies of specific populist movements in the light of social scientific theories on religion, nationalism and populism
  • write analytical texts informed by social science research about nationalism, populist movements and religion
  • present and discuss the concept of populism


To access electronic literature when you are not at MF:

  • Brubaker, R. (2017). Between nationalism and civilizationism: The European populist moment in comparative perspective. Ethnic and racial studies, 40(8), p. 1191-1226. (Compendium).
  • Brubaker, R. (2017). Why populism?. Theory and Society, 46(5), p. 357-385. Library. Hentet 2017/11/01 fra
  • Fukuyama, F. (2018). Identity: The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Library 0374129290
  • Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Ochoa Espejo, P. & Ostiguy, P. (2017). The Oxford handbook of populism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Library
  • Marzouki, N., McDonnell, D. & Roy, O. (Ed.) (2016). Saving the people: How populists hijack religion. London: Hurst. Library
  • Müller, J.-W. (2016). What is populism?. University of Pennsylvania Press. Library
  • Sinha, S. (2017). Fragile Hegemony: Social Media and Competitive Electoral Populism in India. International Journal of Communication, 11, 4158?4180. Library?8036. Hentet fra
  • Stålsett, S. J. (2021). The other in the ecclesial self: The church and the populist challenge. I U. Schmiedel (Ed.), The spirit of populism: Political theologies in polarized times. Leiden: Brill.
  • Veer, P. v. d. (1994). Religious nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India (p. 1-24). Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press. Library, 9780520082564

> PDF version for printing