Studying Religions as Lived Realities @UCC

MA-Contemporary-Religions-C The MA Contemporary Religions at UCC is an innovative postgrad program approaching religions as lived and experienced by their followers.

Interested in the diversity of religious practices in India? Want to make sense of the Arab Spring? Looking for hands-on training on how to undertake fieldwork on religions? Want to debate the latest theories on religions? Then the new MA in Contemporary Religions offered by the Study of Religions Department at University College Cork in Ireland is the right program for you.

This innovative postgrad program focusses on religions in the contemporary world and approaches them as lived realities, best accessed through ethnographic fieldwork. The courses are taught by a vibrant faculty with internationally recognized research expertise. It involves far more than just learning ‘about’ different religions, though this is part of what we do. The globalisation of religion and the religious character of globalisation are changing the religious landscape of most parts of the world. Yet, changes taking place today can only be understood within the broader context of global cultural encounters, peaceful or violent, since at least the 19th century which have not only transformed religions but also shaped our contemporary ideas about what “religion” should be. Issues of power, gender, authority, spirituality, experience, belief and rationality shape the questions we ask about “religion” and hence our academic representations of religious life. The methods we use to study religions, the concepts we employ to construct knowledge about the “religious” or “spiritual” aspects of life and society all need to be questioned if we are to understand “contemporary religions”.

As part of the program, thematic modules are offered such as “Deities, Devotion and Discipline in Indian Religions” or “Contemporary Islam”. In addition, students discuss the latest theoretical contributions and methodological approaches and study and debate current trends in the field of the Study of Religions. A fieldwork module will provide hands-on training on how to undertake fieldwork in religions by faculty with extensive experience of ethnographic research on religions. Students taking this course need to develop and undertake their own fieldwork project to apply their training in praxis. The centre piece of the program is the MA dissertation providing the opportunity to investigate an area of the student’s interest in-depth which can be but does not have to be fieldwork-based. There is also the opportunity to learn one of a variety of Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean offered as part of the program.

The department’s faculty, including Brian Bocking, Oliver Scharbrodt, James Kapalo and Lidia Guzy, has expertise in contemporary Islamic movements, Muslims in Europe, Orthodox Christianity, folk religion, global Buddhism, New Religious Movements, Indian tribal religions and material culture and religions.

Students of the programme have presented papers on the research they undertook as part of their coursework at international conferences such as the Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions. Many graduates have continued their research and are part of PhD programmes in Ireland or somewhere else.

The College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences at University College Cork offers an attractive scholarship to which students of this programme have successfully applied. The scholarship provides the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience. Successful awardees become teaching assistants in a variety of undergraduate courses offered by the Study of Religions Department.

For further information on UCC’s MA Contemporary Religions, see: or contact Oliver Scharbrodt (

Student testimonies:

“The Masters in Contemporary Religion is a wonderful program. For someone who had been out of education for a while, the Department and Staff were extremely supportive, helpful and approachable. It is an innovative and progressive program that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to explore elements of the contemporary global religious landscape.” – Gillian Watt, graduate in 2013

“The best aspects of this MA program are the high level of quality supervision and guidance available to students, and a subtle but nevertheless strong focus on encouraging students to explore their own interests within the field of the Study of Religions.” – Magdalena Mikulak, graduate of 2012, PhD scholarship at London School o


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