SOCA2520 Religion and Politics in Contemporary Society

Semester 2, 2003

Essay 1

Essay Topics

1. Evaluate the successes and limitations of liberation theology in Latin America. In what ways was Christian symbolism and imagery useful in the struggle for political liberation? In what ways was it counter-productive?

2. In what ways are “Hinduism” and “Buddhism” as we know them today products of the 19th and 20th centuries? (You can answer in terms of either “Hinduism” or “Buddhism,” or can discuss both if you prefer.)

3. Why do many Hindu women support right-wing Hindu so-called “fundamentalist” movements such as the VHP and RSS, despite the opposition of these movements to Western ideas of women¼s rights? Are they simply deluded about their real interests, or do they gain something positive from participation in these movements?

4. Explain the importance of the god Rama (Ram) and of the symbolism associated with him for Hindu identity today. How has this symbolism been exploited by movements such as the VHP? Why do contemporary Indians find this symbolism convincing?


The readings and supplementary readings listed in the Subject Guide under Weeks 2 to 6 will provide a starting point for these topics. A good essay will use other readings in addition to those listed.

Suggestions on Finding References for Essays

Links on Religion and Politics


This essay should be between 1250 to 1500 words in length. It is to be submitted by Monday, April 7th. The essay comprises 40% of the subject assessment.

The essay should be referenced in accordance with the usual “Harvard” or author-date system. In brief, this involves (1) giving author, year and page number in brackets after all citations and other references, and (2) providing a list of the references you have cited at the end arranged according to author and year of publication (and NOT a “bibliography” of everything you have read on the subject). If you are not familiar with this system, check our Writing Your Essay guide for SOCA1010 students.

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updated GBS 13/04/2003