ICRS Courses and Syllabus

Required Courses (4 Credits)

Theories of Religion and Society (1st Semester)


This doctoral seminar discusses the study of religion as an interdisciplinary study. It serves as an introduction to classical theories of religion and how it relates to society. It examines the works of influential scholars about the relation between religion and the many aspects of societal life. The doctoral seminar is expected to stimulate critical thinking about the study of religion in the academic context and its influence on the wider context i.e. society, culture, politics and economics.

Considering the vastness of the field now called "religious study", this doctoral seminar explores important facets of the academic study of religion and inter-religious studies or religion and society. The course problematizes the category of "religion” and “agama”.  In addition, this doctoral seminar will examine the political construction of religion (how [political] power defines religion) and the academic construction of religion/agama (how religion is "invented in the act of studying it), including its impact on public discourse and policymaking. Other aspects of understanding religion will be discussed in relation to other concepts such as identity, populism, democracy, etc.

Aims of the Seminar

This doctoral seminar introduces students to classical theories of religion and society and their significance for today’s religious phenomena   from a number of disciplines (anthropology,   sociology, psychology,   history, philosophy, theology, phenomenology, and others).  The course shows students how these theories are used by Indonesian and other scholars to interpret the historical realities of religions in Indonesia (and Asia), as well as to understand the influence of these theories on Indonesian self-understanding.   It aims to provide students, from different  academic  backgrounds,   with  a  common  field  of  discourse  that  facilitates  communication   across disciplines.  It is designed to promote independent learning, creativity, and critical thinking in the study of religion.

History of Religions (2nd Semester)


In this course, the students will deal with the discourse of history of religions, notably in Indonesian and the Southeast Asian context. Discourse of history is presumed as the important if not essential for any religious and inter-religious research and elaboration. It may give diachronic perspective in dealing with religious issues. A historical perspective might also help to frame the religious discourse in term of understand the genealogical and larger patterns of the present-day religious expression. Furthermore, religions are always part of the historical, social, political, and cultural development of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, hence in this course; the student will investigate the role of religions in shaping those processes in some selected historical phases. 

Aims of the Seminar

There are three primary goals:

·   The course aimsabout the history of relations between religious communities, in particular in Indonesia and Southeast Asia contexts. A common discourse is not the same as agreement or a “master narrative”. Given the great diversity of students’ academic and religious backgrounds our goal is a productive conversation, based on some shared understandings of the history of religions.

·       The course aims to help each student understand the landscape of the theories of histories and historiography, and different narratives of the history of religions in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. We assume that different religious communities have different assumptions about their place in history that give rise to different, complementary and/or conflicting narratives about their community as part of Indonesian identity.

·      The course aims to help students define their questions about religions in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and then choose and apply appropriate theories and methods for finding out what they want to understand.   

Elective Courses (3 Credits)

Philosophy of Knowledge


The two main threads that we will pick up throughout the semester are the issues of what grounds knowledge and objectivity. The first section of the course starts with some basic thoughts in epistemology, such as what makes knowledge and what justifies it. With the help of classical, modern and contemporary philosophers, students will be introduced to the problem of knowledge. Students will be asked to read portions of philosophers’ original works. This section covers foundationalist, anti-foundationalist, and especially constructivist theories of knowledge.

The second section looks variety of approaches to the study of religion. As an interdisciplinary field, study of religion requires openness to different disciplines, methodologies, and approaches. This section covers different disciplines/approaches, which include theology, philosophy, psychology and phenomenology. (Part of the consideration to take up those subjects is that there is already another course on social theories of religion.)

The last section is on a few special topics: religious authority, feminist study of religion, and the question of identity of students of religious studies.

Aims of the Seminar

·         Class participants may gain a deeper understanding related to philosophy of knowledge in any academic field.

·         Participants will have several approaches to the study of religion.

·         This course hopefully will bring an awareness of pluralism and increase the spirit of recognition to others. 


Inter-Religious Hermeneutics


This seminar will introduce how Holy Scriptures are perceived, believed, studied and lived by people of similar faith and others. Many theories on how to approach and understand the Holy Scriptures have been developed by scholars that create a specific field of study known as ‘uluum al-tafsiir among Muslim scholars, or hermeneutics in Christian world and other. The seminar offer several studies of important, influential scholars and their theories, as well as specific concepts produced within such scholarship.

Particular attention will be on assessments over issues as why and how particular method of interpretation has been used and applied. What sorts of theological, sociological or scientific reasons have been taken into account for choosing these methods, and how such selection leaves impacts to efforts of contextual scriptures reading study, especially in our Asian and Indonesian context.

Asia and Indonesia, with its multiracial and multicultural resources, are unique parts of the world and can offer many possibilities for adequate contextual hermeneutics in a multi-scriptural society (Samartha 1991: 58, 59). Taking Archie Lee opinion, for instance, he mentions Asian religious people, at least, live in two worlds: the world of their religion and its sacred text, and the world of Asian texts, cultures and religions. Both identities and both worlds should be upheld in a creative, dynamic, interrelated, interactive and integrated way, so that integrity is safeguarded” (2012: 34).

Related to the above issue, then several examples of how Asian hermeneuticians and theologians, as well as Muslim scholars in tafsiir have been using the method will be discussed along with critical remarks by placing them within the dialogue about the tension between openness to the other and commitment to one’s faith identity. This seminar will also present several possible explications of our hermeneutical position and assessment of the value and practice of this inter-religious reading within interreligious dialogue.

Aims of the Seminar

At the end of the doctoral/class seminar students are expected to demonstrate their ability to:

  • Understand and be able to explain the roles of Holy Scriptures in the life of people of different faiths and identities.
  • Explain few theories of hermeneutics developed within Muslim and Christian Scholarships, as well as their related specific concepts
  •  Analyze some important factors that become the arguments for these theories
  • Examine how these theories of tafsiir/hermeneutics can be relevant in Asia and Indonesian contexts which are multi-religious, multiracial, and multicultural


Research Design and Methods


The course is designed to train graduate students in the planning and conduct of research projects in the human sciences, and more especially in religious and cultural studies. The course will enable students to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of scholarly argument, and how to evidence truth claims, in the human sciences. The course will train students in research design, and in generating and developing research questions and problems amenable to investigation in graduate research projects. The course will help students to learn how to plan and write scholarly literature reviews, and how to identify, gather and interpret data in such a way as to generate new theoretical insights from the study of empirical and internet-originate data, and/or primary texts such as sacred scriptures or organisational reports. The course will develop an understanding of research methods particularly appropriate to the study of religion and culture, including discourse analysis and ethnography. Finally the course will enable students to prepare and write a research proposal.

Aims of the Seminar

By the end of the course:

  • Students will be able to identify and define a research topic based on the principles of scientific inquiry.
  • Students will be able to locate and read critically scholarly papers and books relevant to their research interests from scholarly literature in religious and cultural studies, and the human sciences more broadly.
  • Students will be able to plan and write required components of research design and proposal (including statement of purpose or abstract, research question, literature review, conceptual 


Religion and International Affairs


Religion and International Affairs takes you on a journey to discover how religion is played out in the global arena, both as a manifestation of religious teachings and doctrines as well as norms and discourses. It thus examines global norms, discourses, institutions and international relations through the religious lens. The graduate course will therefore not only study how religion has forged international cooperation and peace efforts around the world, but also how it could breed distrust, and lead to conflicts and wars.

The course will also involve discussing the complex and complicated ways in which religion and faith communities are engaged by states to achieve their foreign policy and public diplomacy objectives. Using relevant theories, concepts and paradigms, students are expected to discuss and debate in class how issues such as democracy, religious freedom, human rights and dignity have become standard norms in international relations.

This graduate course will involve intensive interaction and intellectual stimulation between and among the facilitators and students.

Aims of the Seminar 

At the end of the graduate course, students are expected to be able to respond intelligently and critically to the following set of questions: How does religion play out in international affairs and the global scene? What norms, discourses and institutions have come out of religion or religious teachings/doctrines? What relevant theories, concepts and paradigms are useful in analyzing the role of religion in international affairs? How are religion and faith communities used and deployed in foreign policy and public diplomacy?