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As of September 2025 in Groningen: MA track Anthropology of Religion and Culture

'Making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar'
09 July 2024

The Faculty of Religion, Culture and Society of the University of Groningen announces the accreditation of its new Master’s track in Anthropology of Religion and Culture. This means that the MA programme will start from the academic year 2025/2026. It enables students to conduct research on vital sociocultural themes in our contemporary globalized world from an anthropological perspective. Dr Brenda Mathijssen, Director of Education: ‘I’m delighted that the Master’s track in Anthropology of Religion and Culture will start in our Faculty, as it will teach students to think critically about human interaction in different contexts.’

Substantial expertise

The Board of the University of Groningen gave the Faculty the green light for this MA track–the only MA degree in anthropology within the UG. The new Master’s track is intended for students who are interested in today’s complex world and, above all, the role of human action and ideas in it. Mathijssen: ‘An anthropological perspective makes you look through various cultural lenses, which enables you to connect global challenges, for instance those regarding migration or food distribution, to local contexts, i.e. communities, individuals, and societies. You will gain insight into the motivations of individuals or groups of people. Our Faculty has substantial expertise in the field of anthropology. Lecturers of the new track include Peter Berger, Kim Knibbe, and Manoela Carpenedo.'

Understanding through difference

Dr Peter Berger, Master’s coordinator and associate professor of Indian Religions and the Anthropology of Religion at the Faculty, explains why the anthropological perspective is so relevant in today's world: ‘In anthropology, you look at the world through different eyes. In fact, you enter different worlds. Cultural difference is often considered a problem or obstacle; just think about the public discussions on immigration and integration. Anthropology however recognizes cultural difference as a resource. It is a resource for understanding other life-worlds and, as such, is deemed crucial to intercultural dialogue. In addition to this, cultures all over the world, in the present and in the past, are repositories of knowledge and wisdom. By making an effort to understand different life-worlds and by taking them seriously, we also open up the possibilities to encounter novel and alternative solutions for global problems.’

Berger continues: ‘Anthropology shows that there are many alternative ways of viewing the world and living in the world, and that it is important to be able to change perspectives. It challenges our common sense, because our common sense may be nonsense in other places in the world, or in other times in history. The central idea of ‚Äč‚Äčanthropology and its ethnographic fieldwork is understanding through difference. By learning to understand other cultures, you also learn more about yourself. And just like biodiversity is crucial for sustainability, cultural diversity is important for human survival. Anthropology puts those aspects of difference and diversity on the agenda, in a positive, constructive sense.’

One-year track

The new Master’s track in Anthropology of Religion and Culture will start in September 2025. In the one-year track, students will gain insight into themes such as social inequality and migration, and into the cultural frameworks of government policy. During the first semester, students will acquire the necessary analytical, theoretical, and methodological skills, set up their research design, and discuss relevant examples of different life-worlds with regard to particular subjects, such as gender and sexuality, religious and cultural change, and human/environment relationships. In the second semester, 10 weeks will be spent on ethnographic fieldwork and the students will have to write a Master's thesis.

‘This Master’s track makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar, thus bringing 'the other' closer, regardless of their background or role in the world. In doing so, it fits in closely with our Faculty’s mission: to study religion in the past and present as a cultural phenomenon embedded in societies across the globe,’ says Mathijssen.

More information and enrolment

Enrolment is possible via Studielink from 1 October 2024. For more information about the programme, please contact coordinator Dr Peter Berger.

Last modified:10 July 2024 09.52 a.m.
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