REL210 Intercultural understanding

1 semester
Bachelor (fordjupingsnivå)
2023 Vår
Emnenavn på engelsk: 
Intercultural understanding
2023 Vår
Krav til forkunnskapar

45 ECTS the human or social sciences (for example students in religious studies who have REL151, REL152, REL153 or REL154 or equivalent).

Om emnet

The objectives of this course are to provide the students with knowledge and understanding of cultural and religious plurality in Norwegian and international contexts. Cultural plurality raises both theoretical and practical challenges, and the teachings will address both these aspects. On the one hand, cultural plurality has a practical side in how we create and organize human relations face to face, and also in policy making. On the other hand, knowledge and frames of interpretation developed in the human and social sciences (cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, theology, religious studies, philosophy) provides us with insights into different ways cultural plurality can be conceptualized and interpreted. The pedagogical approach to the topic is student-active learning, with case studies and personal accounts playing a central role. Central themes are:

  • Cultural diversity in schools, workplaces and the media
  • Dimensions of migration (cultural- and religious encounters in the past and present)
  • The relation between culture and religion
  • Values, pluralism, tolerance and secularization
  • Intercultural understanding and analysis (concepts, models)
  • Communication and intercultural communication theory

The course has three main parts :

Part 1 : Intercultural communication

This part is concerned with intercultural understanding on a micro level by focussing on practices, communication and human relations. Processes of communication in arenas such as the school, work, and social relations in practice and theory are addressed. Communication is fundamental for human coexistence. Yet communication is often related to conflict and is also a question of power and the right to define. The teaching will intially introduce cases and experiences from workplaces, schools and media. Secondly, this material will be used in theoretical discussions introducing various  concepts, theories and modells current in the field (such as communication, interpretation, and dialogue). Examples of questions discussed are: What are the mediums available through which intercultural relations are created ? Why do some relations work and others not ? Thus, tools are discussed that may promote consciousness for interpretation as well as better understanding of misinterpretation. Thirdly, political implications for the communicative setting is highlighted pursuing arguments to manners of which analysis of communication may reveal hidden power structures.

Part 2 : Religious and cultural encounters  
In the second part, intercultural understanding on a macro level is discussed. Cultural encounters and contact between various groups has always been a part of human history. At the same time these encounters has often been subject to regulation and restrain from politcal authorities as well as within cultural groups themselves. Initially, empirical examples of cultural contact in the history of migration will be brought up providing context for discussions of how religion, race and culture have been, and are, used as principles for inclusion and exclusion in European and Norwegian political history. Secondly, cultural plurality is approached by way of analyzis of various political and social frames (like multiculturalism, secularism, integration, inclusion and exclusion) developed and used for dealing with cultural plurality. Thirdly, ethical questions are addressed such as tolerance and values in the interaction between humans with various backgrounds.

Part 3 : Cultural analysis and interpretation

Discussions from the two previous parts are broadened through selected theoretical models, concepts, and methods used in analysis and interpretation of cultural expression (examples being «interpretative sociology», «thick descriptions» «hermeneutics», «everyday religion» and «intercultural comparison»). Furthermore, language and metaphors used to understand culture complexity and interaction will be discussed (such as monoculture, creolizaton, religious syncretism and cultural hybridity). The theoretical concepts and models are used for analysis, interpretation and discussion of concrete cultural expressions such as images, music, texts, films, human action, interaction and communication. 

Target groups: International and Norwegian students who want to study cultural plurality from practical and theoretical perspectives. The course is relevant for students who have worked in multicultural and/or international environements, or who aim at working in such environements .  


In accordance with the National Qualifications Framework the student will have following learning outcome after completing the course:


The student will have knowledge and understanding of

  • Central challenges and concerns related to culture in multicultural societies (social, ethical, political, relational)
  • Practical concerns and challenges related to cultural pluralism at workplaces and schools.
  • Theories of intercultural communication
  • Historical cases of religious and cultural encounters
  • Various concepts and models for cultural analysis in the human and social sciences and how they can be used
  • Various political concepts and models in multicultural societies and their practical outcome.
  • The students own cultural backgrounds and practices

The student will have developed and improved skills in

  • Application of theories, models and expressions in cultural analysis or intercultural communication on real-life cases.   
  • Finding cases and examples of intercultural communication and cultural encounters.
  • Formulating relevant research questions on basis of theories, cases of intercultural communication or cultural encounters.
  • Reflecting upon one’s own practice when writing academic texts in the field of intercultural understanding
  • Oral discussion of topics in intercultural communication and cultural analysis in class room
  • Reflecting upon one’s own cultural background and practice
Generell kompetanse

The student should be able to

  • Reflect upon important theories and tools in the field of intercultural understanding, as well as their application on human relations, cultural analysis 
  • Critically reflect on both the advantages and the challenges of cultural pluralism.
Praktisk organisering og arbeidsmåtar

The course lays emphasis on student-active learning. The course is organized with a mixture of lectures, written assignments with individual tutorial, discussions, group tasks and studentpresentations. Excursions to workplaces, schools and religious communities in the area will be held to learn about the cultural and religious pluralitiy in practice. The course language is English.

Vilkår for å framstille seg til eksamen

The requirements for the course are:

One paper (written in either English or Norwegian), of 3000 words +/- 10%. The students must choose a topic and angle for the paper within the thematic frames of the course. The studentes receives supervision in the process, and the paper must be handed in for a tutorial and accepted before the exam. The paper will be part of the final exam (see below). In accordance with the topic of the paper and with the assistance from a professor the students must choose 1/3 of the pensum her or himself. 

Attendance in class is not mandatory.

Jonas Gamborg Lillebø
Hildegunn Valen Kleive
Emnet inngår i følgande studieprogram
Erasmus utvekslingsavtale
Religion, livssyn og etikk - fordjupingsstudium
OppgaveIndividuell1semesterA-F, der A er best og E er siste ståkarakter50%3000 ord +/- 10%
Munnleg eksamenIndividuell30minuttA-F, der A er best og E er siste ståkarakter 50%
Karakterskala:A-F, der A er best og E er siste ståkarakter
Omfang:3000 ord +/- 10%
Vurderingsform:Munnleg eksamen
Karakterskala:A-F, der A er best og E er siste ståkarakter
Andel: 50%
Godkjent av: 
Arne Myklebust