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Exploring religion: places, practices, texts and experiences

This module offers an accessible and cutting-edge introduction to the study of religions, exploring places, practices, texts and experiences. You will encounter a range of religious traditions, in particular Christianity, Hinduism and Islam, in diverse geographical, cultural and historical contexts. You will study these religions as they are actually lived and investigate their impact on different societies and cultures. The module challenges various widely held assumptions about religions and the study of religion, and engages students with three core questions: What is religion? How do we study religion? Why should we study religion? Drawing on rich audio-visual material, this module develops key skills for study and employability.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
A227
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module offers students the critical tools to think about religion and gain a deeper understanding of its place in the modern world, asking three core questions: what is religion, how do we study religion and why should we study religion? It consists of four blocks of study, based on the key frames of places, practices, texts and experiences. Within this structure, it also offers in-depth engagement with three broad religious traditions – Christianity, Hinduism and Islam – as well as various forms of Indigenous religious traditions and contemporary spirituality. It will engage students with the study of religion in its social, cultural, geographical and historical contexts, exploring themes such as the internal diversity of religious traditions; their cross-cultural and transnational aspects; lived and material religion; and the fluid boundaries between the religious and the secular. It will equip students with a greater sense of religious literacy and vital skills which can be important for lifelong learning, careers and good citizenship.

Orientation
The module begins with an introduction to the key questions: What is religion? How do we study religion? Why should we study religion? It then invites students to reflect on the category ‘religion’ in their own localities with an interactive activity called ‘Take a picture of religion’. The unit also gets students started with a Learning Journal, which they will develop as the module progresses.

Block 1: Places 
The module then moves to explore the ways in which religions use, interpret and transform places and spaces. It begins with a case study of religious buildings in London, which includes a suite of 360 degree tours of these sites, and discusses the difference between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives on religion. It then examines mosques in a range of geographical and cultural contexts, and the role of mosques in local communities. Attention then turns to a whole continent, India, in order to introduce the religious traditions we call Hinduism, and the ways in which religion shapes understandings of geography and national identity. Finally, we return to cities, but move from buildings to streets and spaces in a case study on Christianity in the Philippines. Here students will encounter the theory of secularization, which is contrasted with the idea that religion is becoming more ‘liquid’ and adapting to contemporary circumstances rather than disappearing. 

Block 2: Practices 
In this block the module challenges the assumption that religion is primarily about internalised ‘belief’ by focussing on religion as it is practiced and lived – in a range of practices and rituals. This block furthermore provides a gentle introduction to theory, asking how ideas and theories may inform the observation and interpretation of religion as what people ‘do’. It begins with a unit about religion and food, asking ‘what does religion taste like?’ It then looks more closely at various practices associated with (Shia) Islam, (Nigerian) Christianity and (Swaminarayan) Hinduism in both their places of origin and the UK, revealing the diversity of practices within broader religious traditions and the ways in which beliefs and experiences are grounded in formal ritual and everyday life. The block considers the idea of transnational religion – and the flows and connections of religious traditions between different geographical and cultural contexts.

Block 3: Texts 
This block addresses texts as a media for cosmologies, stories and doctrines. Texts are not only storehouses of information, but can be performed and are often material objects. A central theme is the diverse varieties of religious text: religious texts are not only the great canonical, written works of particular traditions, but come in a variety of forms, including oral narratives, buildings, devotional art and movies. The block begins with an exploration of the ways, some of them controversial, in which the Bible is interpreted by Christians and how this has changed through time. It then considers another foundational religious text, the Qur’an, and its organisation, interpretation and the way it is used in everyday life. The third unit explores Hindu temples as texts, followed by a case study on a specific branch of Hinduism, ISKCON, and how it has engaged with the translation and visual representation of its sacred texts.  The final unit focuses on how sacred stories are transmitted in some Indigenous religious traditions through ritual performance and oral narratives. As a whole this block explores the variety of ways in which religious texts of many kinds can be ‘read’. 

Block 4: Experiences 
The focus of the final block is religious experiences. What is religious experience and how are religious experiences represented? It first introduces ideas and theories of religious experience, and how we can study and interpret the experiences of others, beginning with a case study of Cargo Cults. It then explores the auditory element of religious experience focusing on the question ‘what does religion sound like’?  The links between religious experience, music and dance are developed with an exploration of mysticism in the Sufi tradition. The final chapter of the block explores the experience of pilgrimage, examining the variety of different experiences people have, in both religious and ‘secular’ sites, how pilgrimage has changed through time, and why it seems to be increasingly popular for a variety of religious, ‘spiritual’ and non-religious participants.  

You will learn

You will:

  • encounter religions in a diverse range of places, practices, texts and experiences.
  • study key approaches and methods in the study of religion.
  • develop essential cognitive skills.
  • develop a range of key practical and professional skills.

Vocational relevance

Graduates who have studied Religious Studies are highly employable, offering multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary skills, and detailed knowledge of diverse world views and issues. Graduates are able to critically analyse and evaluate issues from a variety of perspectives, drawing on practical experience and academic skills. This module also develops the ability to work independently and communicate to a variety of audiences.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. This module will be taught by a blend of online and face-to-face teaching and the module materials will be provided in a combination of print and online materials.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Exploring religion: places, practices, texts and experiences starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    Examination
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills required for this level, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

    Preparatory work

    No preparatory work is required but having studied The arts past and present (AA100) would be an advantage.

    Register

    Start End Fee
    - - -

    No current presentation - see Future availability

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2028.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 14/12/2018.

    What's included

    Teaching material for this module is delivered via 4 printed books and online via the module website.

    You will need

    For one week of study you will be required to use either Chrome, Firefox or Edge.

    For a few module activities it would be helpful, but not essential, to have access to a device for making digital images (e.g. a camera with a phone, or a digital camera). For one activity it would be helpful, but not essential, to have access to a sound recording device – i.e. the kind available on many mobile phones. However, access to these devices is not compulsory and will not disadvantage you in the module. Also an alternative activities will be made available for those with particular accessibility requirements.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A227 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.