Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO1951: Islam Observed: Ethnographic Accounts of Muslim Practice

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO1951: Islam Observed: Ethnographic Accounts of Muslim Practice

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the study of Islam from an anthropological perspective.
  • To develop an understanding of the diverse forms of Muslim religious life in the contemporary world.
  • To foster an appreciation of the complex relationship between the local and the global in Islam.
  • To carry out an ethnographically grounded comparative analysis of geographically disparate Muslim communities.
  • To develop an understanding of the complex relationship of ethnography and comparative analysis.
  • To carry out the critical analysis of ethnographic accounts of Muslim practice, including the ability to detect the bias and academic conventions that implicitly inform such accounts.


  • This module acts as a critical introduction to a select and diverse range of Muslim practices that are documented in the ethnographic record. The module will explore the rich variety of Muslim rituals, traditions and social systems, from the sacred music of possession cults to the miracle cures of saint veneration. In doing so, the module will consider the tension between global and local expressions of Islam and the way that religious practice engages with issues such as gender and identity in contemporary Islam. This module complements the Study of Religions module by providing the analysis of Islam alongside that module’s focus on theories of comparative analysis. It also complements other modules offered in Durham University, for it raises awareness of the diversity of Islam and Muslim communities beyond the Middle East, such as France, Great Britain, West Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and Pakistan.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Basic knowledge and understanding of the main institutions and tenets of Islam and its various expressions in different local settings.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to critically analyse ethnographic studies of Islam in relation to the study of critical theory in the study of religion.
  • The ability to detect ethnocentric writing and to understand the value of reflexivity in the study of religion.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to analyse information through reading.
  • The ability to structure and present information in both written and oral form.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: convey information and exemplify an approach to the subject-matter, enabling students to develop a clear understanding of the subject and to improve their skills in listening and evaluating information.
  • Seminars: enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of different viewpoints and approaches.
  • Formative book review: develops subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with the acquisition of information through reading and critical evaluation of the content.
  • Final examination: assesses subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with the acquisition of skills in structuring and presenting information in written form under time constraints.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 hour per week 1 hour 22
Seminars 8 MT 6, EP 2 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Two questions in two hours 2 hours 100% yes
Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 100% yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative reacting exercise, which involves a presentation and a short writing assignments on a connected theme.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University