How are religion, conflict and peace related? What is at stake in the "musealization" of religion? What role does religion and spirituality play in our experience of sexual health and wellbeing?
In this Research Master's Programme you will study how religion is embedded in present-day and in historical cultural contexts. You will explore the impact of local and global socio-economic and political developments on religion, and how religion contributes to such developments. A staff member whose research interests in religion matches yours best, will act as your supervisor throughout the programme.
You will acquire an overview of central debates in the study of religion and develop key research skills by following three compulsory core modules. We offer three specialization routes within which you can develop your individual research profile and skills. Your individual, tailor made route within the programme consists of a combination of optional modules from one of the one-year master specializations, research traineeships, (individual) tutorials and writing a thesis and a research proposal. The final specialisation occurs in the Research Master's thesis, which forms the basis of a PhD thesis proposal or an application for research funding.
Education that far exceeds the materials discussed in class
I chose to do the Research Master's (ReMa) programme in Theology and Religious Studies here because I followed two classes at this faculty as part of a Minor during my Bachelor's degree in Psychology at the UG. This was a great experience for me, as my lecturers and fellow students engaged so critically and enthusiastically with their topics and with the people around them.
Therefore, my choice for this programme was mostly due to the Faculty, its staff, its academic attitude, its readiness to discuss sensitive topics and its productive learning environment. Moreover, what makes the study of religions unique to me is that interdisciplinarity is not something that has to be created artificially but forms naturally through a shared interest in the topic, instead of in the method.
Part of the reason that I am following the specialization track in Religion, Conflict and Globalization within the programme is because I am interested in the way in which global or transnational dynamics influence religion entwining with political and cultural practices and discussions. Additionally, when starting the programme, this track appeared to be the only Master’s track at the University that focuses on minority groups, migration, gender and race.
What makes this programme special is the support that you receive when you are finding your own research interests and way of studying. You are encouraged to work independently and to develop a topic to a level that makes the scary idea of a subsequent PhD position seem an achievable next step. I appreciate this programme for giving me an education that far exceeds the materials discussed in class and is so comprehensive that it provides a general understanding of European history, culture and society over the past 400 years, including its history of knowledge, thoughts and beliefs and the multi-layered dynamic between science and religion that continues to influence local and global politics, practices and situations in daily life. I have learned to reflect on and discuss information critically and to take perspective without deciding which answers are right or wrong
The most challenging part of the programme is the level of autonomy that you have as a student. Although the programme has a clear, established structure, as a ReMa student it is expected of you to plan your own course units, find your own mentor and support and organize your own placements. Finding a balance is crucial! As part of the placement aspect of the programme, I had the chance to give two presentations at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Religions in Estonia this year. On top of that, I also helped to organize a symposium in Berlin and travelled to Rome for a masterclass hosted by Birgit Meyer at the Royal Netherlands Institute.
My Master’s thesis is about non-linear writing practices and eco-critical monism in black feminist lyricism. I am interested in linearity as a white patriarchal tool of knowledge-making that is perceived to be opposed to non-linear forms of expression, such as myth-making. In my thesis, I look at the ways in which this dualism between myth and knowledge is bridged by black feminist lyricism through a form of ‘monistic worlding’ that sees radical love as the sole source of energy. I am interested in this radical love as a form of eco-criticism that unites rather than separates.
Space and freedom to really go in-depth
I wanted to know more about new religious movements and the classifications of non-mainstream religions, which is why I decided to partake in the research master's programme in Theology and Religious Studies after my bachelor's in Religious Studies. This programme gives me the space and freedom to really go in-depth and explore the topics that I find the most interesting. Also, my goal is to do a Ph.D., and doing the research master's is a good preparation for that academic career path.
I like the programme even more now that I know how much freedom you have as a research master’s student. Apart from the fact that there are a couple of courses, such as Generic Academic Skills, which you must follow, you have the opportunity to completely select your own courses and extracurricular activities such as conferences, summer schools, and workshops. Additionally, you are free to present your own ideas with regard to the tutorials and traineeships. Because of this, I can really select activities that connect well to my research topic. I also feel very supported by my personal mentor and the other professors who guide me through this programme. I can always knock on someone’s door with questions or when I need advice on, for example, an article I want to write or an activity I want to partake in.
I chose the Religion, Conflict, and Globalization specialization track as this track matches my research interest best. In my research, I focus a lot on the prejudices that surround new religious movements. I focus mainly on what effects words such as “cults”, “sects”, and “alternative spirituality” have on the individuals that are part of new religious movements. It is commonly known that there is the prejudice that many “cults” - a word I’d rather avoid in my research - are violent and that members of these groups are brainwashed. In my research, I aim to develop policy that can enhance and positively develop the understanding between individuals from new religious movements and members from wider (mostly Christian) society, such as politicians and government officials. Courses such as Religion, Violence, and Conflict Transformation taught by professor Joram Tarusarira fit this interest well and provide me with the necessary background information.
Looking at the world without a Eurocentric lens
After gaining my Bachelor's degree in History, I applied for admission to the Research Master's programme in Theology and Religious Studies. I chose to specialize in Religion, Conflict and Globalization because I wanted to study the role of religion in the contemporary world.
In this programme, you do not try to ‘prove’ the existence of religions, but rather focus on religions as phenomena that influence people’s lives, identities and behaviour. You are encouraged to observe the world from a non-Eurocentric perspective. We may have become secular nations here in the West, where religion doesn’t play a large role, but that is not the case for the rest of the world. My fellow students have various backgrounds. This makes the discussions in class very interesting. I believe this Master’s programme not only helps you to expand your knowledge, but also transforms you personally.
My thesis focuses on the role of religion in international development programmes. Since Western Europe dominates international politics, the development agenda is highly secular, and local religious and cultural systems are often not taken seriously. In my thesis I look at religious NGOs, and inquire whether they bring something new to the table in this regard. After graduating, I would like to pursue a PhD degree in order to learn more about this topic. In the future, I hope either to work as an academic or to establish my own NGO, one that strives to serve the interests and goals of local communities, not those of politicians or big companies.
The most demanding and rewarding degree programme that we offer
The Research Master in Theology and Religious Studies is in many ways the most demanding and rewarding degree programme that we offer. In addition to specializing in a specific research area, you receive intensive 'generalist' academic training. This combination will be an important string to your bow; you are trained to connect your core expertise with different research traditions — a valuable asset wherever you choose to apply your talents.
In the Research Master programme, I co-teach the course Philosophy of Science in the Study of Religion and Culture with Professor Kocku von Stuckrad and Dr. Joram Tarusarira. It is one of the two course units that provide the 'generalist' training.
My own research interests lie in the historical and philosophical part of the curriculum. I am interested in the role of religion in ethics and political thinking, and more broadly in the history of ideas. For instance, I have worked on the changing face of virtue ethics, from Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to its use in today's political election programmes.
At the moment I am intrigued by the changing attitudes towards consolation in Western culture. While philosophers and theologians in the past wrote letters of consolation and treatises about how to offer comfort to the bereaved, the culture of a highly argumentative approach to death and dying has increasingly come under pressure. What can this development tell us about the role of religion, about changing views about the self, reason, emotion and human fulfilment? To cut a long story short, consolation is an understudied but fascinating and highly significant cultural 'marker' for the development of Western culture.
Are you interested in such questions yourself? Come and have a chat.
Thinking beyond mere economic value
I studied History, Philosophy and Religious Studies because I have a broad interest in culture and people. Maybe it is due to my atheist upbringing that I have always been fascinated with what attracts people to religion.
Relatively quickly after graduating, I started working as a consultant, helping businesses to innovate and obtain grants. The company I worked for mainly employed economists and business experts and was keen on hiring someone with a different perspective. I then spent a number of years as a project manager in the cultural sector, developing and managing exhibitions, outreach projects and international collaboration projects. After that, I was a fundraiser for the UG Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and the Faculty of Arts. In 2015, I took my family to London, where I became a fundraiser at the London School of Economics.
After years of project management and fundraising, I was yearning for more ‘substantive’ work, i.e. research, alongside my practical duties – provided that the subject could generate clear societal impact. That is why I now work as a researcher and fundraiser at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, where I study social enterprises and societal impact at the NoorderRuimte knowledge centre. In addition, I also lead a large European research project on the impact of social sciences and humanities research.
I believe that the strength of the humanities mainly lies in their reflective character, their ability to think beyond mere economic value and to put developments into context. My current job includes doing research – a skill which I also developed during my Research Master's programme, of course.
Privacy and security are increasingly important in an access-oriented world
Right after graduation, I was accepted into a national trainee programme for information management. This traineeship included several short-term projects with various government institutions. Someone in my personal network tipped me about a job vacancy for an Information Manager at the Municipality of Nijmegen. I could already start there when I was halfway through my traineeship.
My job as information manager is very active and it gives me a lot of energy. Every day is different and time flies. Through training and coaching, I am becoming aware of what sensitive information is and how to handle it. I also think along and offer advice on how to build an archive, which has great cultural and historical as well as legal importance. Project management plays an important role in my job as well: from tender to implementation, from applications to new ways of working.
My degree programme has been useful for my job, particularly in terms of acquired skills, such as networking, presenting, thinking critically and analytically and approaching issues from different perspectives. During my Research Master, I followed the Religion, Conflict and Globalization track. Globalization and digitization form interesting links between this programme and information management, as privacy and security are increasingly important in an access-oriented world. This means that information must be handled with utmost care. On the one hand digitization can be a convenient means: relevant information is rapidly available and it enables safe and efficient collaboration. On the other hand, radical ideas also manifest themselves on the internet, information can fall into the wrong hands, data leaks can occur and cyber attacks are being launched.
The extracurricular activities that I did alongside my studies have proven extremely important for my current job. I was a member of the Programme Committee and the Faculty Board, for instance. Both memberships were useful as I am involved in consultancy and policymaking. I also gained experience with information provision as Master's ambassador and with organizing and promoting events as a member of the sustainability committee.
If you are interested in a master's degree programme in religion, you might also consider one of our other master's programmes: