Anthropology of Religion - RSST6210

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history and practice of the anthropology of religion through the past 150 years. Students will explore the 'anthropology of religion' to provide an historical and contemporary understanding of how anthropological studies of religion enrich knowledge of what it means to be religious. The course will examine and students will practise the anthropological method of rich participant observation and comparative analysis. Course content focuses on foundational and contemporary issues of religious definition, ritual, belief, embodiment, rationality and relationships in both Western and non-western contexts.


Contact hours

1hour lecture per week, 2-hour seminar per week for 10 teaching weeks


Also available at Level 5 (TH620)

Method of assessment

70% Coursework
30% Exam

Indicative reading

Indicative reading:

Bowie, F. 2006. The anthropology of religion. Oxford: Blackwell.
Cohen, A. P. 1982 . Belonging: identity and social organization in British rural cultures. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Day, A. 2011 Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hammersley, M. and P. Atkinson 1995. Ethnography: principles in practice. London: Routledge.
Lambeck, M. (ed.) 2002. A reader in the anthropology of religion. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Luhrmann, T. M. 2007. Persuasions of the witch's craft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, Level 5 and 6 students will have:
• acquired detailed and critical knowledge and understanding of core topics in anthropology and religion; e.g. notions of 'the primitive', cultural systems, ideas of belonging and ethnicity and the relationships between religion, nation and politics (programme outcomes A1, A2 and A4)
• demonstrated competence in applying these concepts within new and differing contexts (e.g. to see the relationship between religion and current debates about national identity) (programme outcomes A3, A4 and B3)
• shown cogent understanding of the principal academic methodologies within anthropological approaches to religious studies, especially the use of ethnography in evaluating anthropological research, and to appreciate both the potentialities and the limitations of these methodologies (programme outcomes A4, B3 and C1-4).
• the ability to analyse key texts critically (both primary and secondary) (programme outcomes B1, B2 and B4)

In addition, at the end of the module Level 6 students will have:
• carried out and displayed understanding of additional research and critical thinking in both written assessments and seminar topics that shows an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge (programme outcomes B1-4)
• thorough, detailed and systematic knowledge of core tenets of the subject, including a comprehensive appreciation of the latest research on anthropological approaches to the study of religion (e.g. Falzon's (2009) concept of multi-sited ethnography) (programme outcomes A1-4)
• the necessary skills in using contemporary research methodologies, analytical technique and other modes of enquiry currently at the cutting edge of anthropological and religious studies (e.g. empirical studies of the impacts of migration) (programme outcomes A4, B2 and B3)
• demonstrated independent learning skills by being able to make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources (programme outcomes C1-4)
• the ability to analyse key texts and other materials critically at a high level (programme outcomes B3 and B4)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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