This module is focused on a diverse range of approaches deployed by anthropologists to the study of religion, and belief and symbolic systems. It introduces a range of anthropological insights to the ongoing transformations of religious traditions and belief systems vis-à-vis colonial encounters, post-colonial settings, as well as globalisation. The aim of the module is to familiarize students with the complex interactions between lived religious practice, religious traditions, and the ways in which these are intertwined with other domains of social life, politics, economics and ideology. The key topics covered in this module focus on ritual and sacrifice; witchcraft and sorcery; secularisation and fundamentalism; millennialism and conversion; cosmology and ideology; human and non-human relationships; modes of religiosity, rationality and belief; mediation and ethics. This module will develop students' awareness of the strengths and limitations of anthropological insights compared to other disciplinary perspectives on religion such as theology, cognitive science or sociology.
This module appears in the following module collections.
BSc: Anthropology; BA: Social Anthropology; Joint Honours; with a Language; with a Year Abroad
Method of assessment
50% Exam; 50% Coursework
Seminar Participation (10%)
Seminar Presentation (10%)
Abramson, A. and M. Holbraad eds. (2014) Framing Cosmologies: The Anthropology of Worlds. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Bloch, M. (1992) Prey Into Hunter: The Politics of Religious Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bloch, M. (2012) Anthropology and the Cognitive Challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bowie, F. (2006) The Anthropology of Religion: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell
Lambek, M. (ed.) 2001. A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lambek, M. ed. (2013) A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell.
Whitehouse, H. and J. Laidlaw eds. (2007) Religion, Anthropology, and Cognitive Science. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
8.1 Be conversant with the main themes and trends of the anthropology of religion
8.2 Have cultivated an in-depth critical understanding of the historical depth and cultural diversity of a number of religious traditions, symbolic systems, rituals and practices both inside and outside 'Western' and modern contexts, and at regional, national and global levels
8.3 Have acquired a critical understanding of the historical development of those anthropological debates and theories
8.4 Be able to apply anthropological insights to the ongoing transformations of these traditions vis-à-vis colonial encounters, post-colonial settings, as well as globalisation e.g. ritual and sacrifice; witchcraft and sorcery; secularisation and fundamentalism; millennialism and conversion; and to develop awareness of the strengths and limitations of these insights compared to other disciplinary perspectives on social life, politics, economics and ideology
8.5 Be knowledgeable about key theoretical contributions of the anthropology of religion to the wider discipline and their leading role in shaping wider anthropological debates and disciplinary reflexivity
8.6 Be able to analyse and communicate their understanding of anthropological texts in both written and spoken form
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- The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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