Media 2: Religion and Popular Culture

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Doel vak

The student:
• develops an understanding of the popularization of contemporary
religion and the religious nature of contemporary popular culture;
• describes and critically evaluates the current state of the art in
social-scientific research on the relationship between religion and
popular culture, including the main theoretical approaches and debates;
• defines and distinguishes the main concepts being used in these
theoretical debates;
• can apply theory on manifestations of religion in popular culture and
popular culture in religion;
• differentiates between empirical (sociological, anthropological) and
concerned (ethical, theological) approaches of religion and popular
culture, and is able to formulate concerned problem definitions;
• can connect one’s personal (ir)religious perspectives, principles and
sources to popular cultural texts and practices, and develop and discuss
arguments for an ethical or theological concerned position in a
multireligious context;
• initiates research independently, resulting in an empirically-based,
concerned research proposal including a problem definition, research
question, theoretical and conceptual framework, and methodology;
• communicates clearly and precisely in order to reach a broad
interested public.

Inhoud vak

Popular culture is frequently perceived to be artificial, superficial
and secular. However, research suggests that popular culture may
function as a repertoire from which people draw in their search for
(religious) meaning and a cultural site where religious practices are
played out and deep religious feelings can be experienced. Movies,
games, dance events, pop music, music festivals, media events, virtual
worlds and other forms of popular culture seem to be not only
entertaining, but may also be important in people’s search for
(religious) meaning.

At the same time, traditional and post-traditional religions
increasingly embrace popular culture, a process often described as the
popularization of religion. Relipop, for instance, is a popular
phenomenon, both among evangelical and Muslim youngsters. Another
example is evangelical worship, a blending of ‘secular’ poprock music
and Christian worship texts. Religious people use popular media and new
media technologies (including social network sites as Facebook and
Twitter) to establish new religious communities. There is a growth in
religious meetings that follow the format of a festival or event.

Finally, a commercial ‘relimarket’ has been developed in recent years,
offering an enormously amount of religious consumer products: books,
clothes, music, movies, lifestyle gadgets, etc. The distinction between
religion and popular culture thus becomes increasingly problematic. This
process evokes a number of questions, which will be addressed in this
course, namely: which religious dimensions can be distinguished in
popular culture? And conversely: to what extend do religious practices,
identities, communication styles and communities transform under the
influence of popular culture? These mainly sociological questions tap
into a wider theoretical debate on religious changes in late-modern

In addition to a sociological approach to the topic of this course, a
concerned approach,defined by a critical stance towards popular culture
on the basis of ethical or theological normativity, is discussed as
well. While in sociological research ethical and theological normativity
is supposed to be bracketed, a concerned approach involves an ethical
and/or theological evaluation. Hence, the student is offered a set of
tools to define, analyse and evaluate the ‘truthfulness, meaningfulness,
goodness, justice, and beauty of popular cultural texts and practices’
(Lynch 2005, ix).


A combination of small-scale interactive lectures and seminar-style
meetings. The lectures will provide a solid theoretical basis and a
methodology for doing concerned ethical-theological research. In
seminar-style meetings students are involved in two different exercises.
In the first place, students will interpret complex social, cultural and
religious phenomena on the basis of theoretical knowledge, and discuss
theoretical insights on the basis of empirical case-studies. Students
are expected to participate actively, by selecting and presenting
empirical studies (scientific articles, books, or papers), evaluating
their scientific quality, and relating them to the theoretical debates
under study. In discussing these studies, students differentiate between
the several distinctive elements of the scientific construction of
theoretical knowledge (in particular problem definition, research
question and methodology).

In the second place, students analyze and evaluate popular cultural
texts and practices from an ethical and/or theological perspective.
Students participate actively by reflecting on their (ir)religious
perspectives, principles and sources, developing arguments for an
ethical or theological concerned position, and contributing to scholarly
and public concerns about popular culture.


A number of selected assignments (20%).
A popularizing essay (80%) on a relevant subject for the 1-year master
students. A popularizing essay (80%) on a relevant subject, related to
ecclesial practices for the 3-years master students. A popularizing
essay (80%) on a relevant subject plus a substantial reflection on
methodology for the researchmaster students.


A selections of articles and book chapters (see CANVAS).

Algemene informatie

Vakcode G_MED2
Studiepunten 6 EC
Periode P2
Vakniveau 400
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit Religie en Theologie
Vakcoördinator dr. J.H. Roeland
Examinator dr. J.H. Roeland
Docenten dr. J.H. Roeland

Praktische informatie

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