SOCA2520 Religion and Politics in Contemporary Society

Semester 1, 2003

Essay 2

Essay Topics

1. Why did Ambedkar and his followers convert to Buddhism? Have they been successful in achieving their objectives?

2. Buddhism and nationalism have become closely linked for both Tibetan and Sinhalese Buddhists. Compare and contrast the two cases.

3. Describe the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian society from the 1920s until the present. Present the cases for and against considering the Muslim Brotherhood as a "fundamentalist" movement.

4. The Taliban have been described as "neo-fundamentalist" (Olivier Roy), as a specifically Afghan and Pushtun movement (Peter Marsden), and as a product of US neo-colonialism (Richard Mackenzie). Assess the usefulness of each of these descriptions in understanding the Taliban. Explain how they came to link up with Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network.

If you would like to write on a topic other than the above, you are welcome to discuss your ideas with me.


The readings mentioned above will provide a starting point for these topics. A good essay will use other readings in addition to those listed. See also the Links on Religion and Politics on this site.

In relation to Question 2, the on-line Journal of Buddhist Ethics have just published the Proceedings of a three-day international conference on Buddhism and Conflict in Sri Lanka which took place at Bath Spa University College, UK from June 28-30, 2002. You can find them on the web here and they contain 12 paper presentations and 7 responses.

In relation to questions 3 and 4, there have been many recent publications arising out of the September 11th events and I I have given references for some web items on the Links on Religion and Politics page. The September 2002 issue of the journal American Anthropologist is a special issue entitled "In Focus: September 11, 2001" and contains several useful items. You can find many further references in the footnotes to these items.

Also on this site you can find some Suggestions on Finding References for Essays.

Several of the references listed in the Course Guide come from the five Fundamentalisms volumes edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Please note that these volumes are listed in the catalogue only under the COLLECTIVE title (The Fundamentalisms Project) and NOT under their individual titles (Fundamentalisms Observed, Fundamentalisms and the State, etc.)


This essay should be between 2000 and 2500 words in length. It is to be submitted by MONDAY, JUNE 9th at 5 p.m. Any extensions must be applied for in writing on the approved form and signed by me before this date.

The essay should be referenced in accordance with the "Harvard system" used in all essays in the Department. 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 the material provided for SOCA1010 students. For web references, see How To Cite E-Text.

The essay comprises 50% of the subject assessment.

Geoffrey Samuel 13th April 2003

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revised GBS 20/4/2003