Masterseminar Empirical Religious Studies
Cursus informatieRooster
Studiepunten (ECTS)10
Aangeboden doorRadboud Universiteit; Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen; Opleiding Religiestudies;
E.J. van Dalen, MA
Overige cursussen docent
Contactpersoon van de cursus
E.J. van Dalen, MA
Overige cursussen docent
E.J. van Dalen, MA
Overige cursussen docent
prof. dr. C.A.M. Hermans
Overige cursussen docent
SEM1  (31-08-2020 t/m 24-01-2021)
Inschrijven via OSIRISJa
Inschrijven voor bijvakkersNee
After this course you will be able to:
  • have knowledge of and reflect critically on a building block approach of spiritual and religious experiences (Hermans);
  • have knowledge of  and reflect critically on the concept of narrative identity of Paul Ricoeur;
  • have knowledge of the concepts of contingency, ultimate concern, tragedy, self-transcendence (Other than reason),spiritual transformation as building blocs of spiritual and religious experiences, and can critically reflect on the difference between spiritual and religious experiences;
  • formulate research questions relevant for religious studies which are suitable for empirical research;
  • develop an interview topic list, conduct interviews and analyse them with the help of Atlas.ti, and are able to report on the results.
Has God disappeared in the life of persons, public institutions and society? Sociological research on religion shows that the belief in a personal God is diminishing in Western Europe. At the same time, human life is still marked by experiences of contingency and experiences of transcendence. Where can we find memories, motivations, emotions, and transformations in personal life stories which express a search for ultimate meaning  beyond Reason? What defines spiritual and religious experiences? And what are differences between them? 
In this Master seminar, students are introduced in a conceptual framework of  narratives. The concepts are part of our building block approach, namely contingency in philosophy of religion  (Wuchterl) and religious studies (Scherer-Rath),  tragedy (Van Dalen), narrative identity of the self (P.Ricoeur); emotion narratives (Lazarus); and the theory on spiritual transformation (Waaijman; Hermans). We will reflect on the possibility and nature of  an awareness (longing) of God in experiences of contingency.
Based on this conceptual framework, students are introduced in empirical-theological research into spiritual life-narratives. Students will be introduced in an instrument into spiritual self-narratives  (Van den Brand, Hermans, Scherer-Rath). We follow the path from concept to operationalisation ("how to observe the concept). You will acquire knowledge and skills in conducting a qualitative interview. Together we will code (a part of) an interview of a spiritual life narrative with the help of Atlas.ti (= a computer program). You will learn to distinguish  in first order and second order coding (Saldana). Finally, we will analyse the coding result in view of the theoretical frame of the first part of the lecture.

Three possibilities: choose one 
Main concepts of the spiritual biography: narrative identity; divided self, contingency; emotions; anomalous experiences; ultimate concerns; spiritual transformation; foundational reality (God)
AIM:     reconstruct the logic of the spiritual biography, and reflect critically on its logic (= human person as spiritually motivated story teller)
Outline of you paper:
  1. Logic of the reconstruction of the life narrative :
    the logic is based on cognitive motivational theory = Frijda, Van den Brand ; Hermans
    through the interview this logic is reconstructed
  2. Concept and measurement:
    Define the main concepts and how it is measured?
    Give attention to the  indicators of the concepts and how they are operationalized?
  3. Reflection:
    3.1. Conceptual: How would you define a spiritual biography? Strengths and weaknesses.
    3.2. Personal:  Reflect on the process of the biographical interview. What do interviewees learn from this interview?
    3.3. Religious studies: What is interesting from a religious study perspective? Strengths and weaknesses.
Main concepts in the seminar: narrative identity; divided self, contingency; emotions; anomalous experiences; ultimate concerns; spiritual transformation; foundational reality (God)
AIM:     deepen your understanding of one of the core concepts of this seminar
Either by reading more on the same concept from the same author (like Tillich on ultimate concern) and authors who reflect critically on the use of this concept by this author
by reading more on the same concept for other authors (for example how his concept is
Note:  you need to send a proposal for additional literature to the lecturer. About the extent of the literature: between 150-200 pages. It all depends on the difficulty of the literature that you have chosen. If you choose articles, they are more condense. If you choose a book, it is often more easy to “digest”.
Outline of you paper:
  1. Problem statement:
    what do you know? [= based on the concept as elaborated during the seminar)
    And:  what do you want to know? [= new knowledge; open questions]
  2. Conceptualization:
    2.1. What do you know [based on the literature of the seminar; bijvoorbeeld het concept narratieve identiteit bij Ricoeur, met name permanentie in de tijd en creativiteit: ]
    2.2. New knowledge:  concept/ conceptualization; bijvoorbeeld identiteit en creativiteit bij een andere auteur)
  3. Conclusion: what have you learned conceptually with regard to the problem raised in the problem statement? Is your concept enriched?  Questions which remain?
  4. Reflection: What is your interest in this topic from a religious studies perspective?
Choose one of the main concepts of the spiritual biography: narrative identity; divided self, contingency; emotions; anomalous experiences; ultimate concerns; spiritual transformation; foundational reality (God)
AIM:     to ground concepts in empirical data of spiritual biographies ;
Show that you can argue from theory to empirical data and back to theory
Outline of you paper:
  1. Problem statement: what do you not know? [or what do you want to know?]
  2. Conceptualisation: define the concept on which you focus your research! Ground this concept in the literature?
  3. Formulate research question(s) (for example: Which concerns does the principle speak about? Or: Which markers of ultimacy does he refer to?)
  4. Coding: how are indicators of the concept translated in codes
  5. Empirical analysis of the interview:
    Select a part of the interview which refer to you concept: between 4-10 page
    a. open coding: start with theoretical codes, supplement with empirical codes
    b. axial coding (see scheme Rubin & Rubin page 201-201)
  6. Conclusion: what do you know based on your empirical analysis?
  7. Reflection: what have you learnt? What is difficult? What do you need to develop further? What is your religious studies interest in this?

Aanbevolen materiaal
Literature will be distributed during the course.


GelegenhedenBlok SEM1, Blok SEM2