AN470      Half Unit
Anthropology of Religion: Current Themes and Theories

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael W. Scott OLD 6.16


This course is available on the MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Through readings in contemporary ethnography and theory, this course will explore phenomena and questions classically framed as the anthropology of religion.  We will consider topics such as shamanism, cargo cults, initiation, witchcraft and sorcery, cosmology, and human-nonhuman relations, primarily with reference to ongoing transformations of the indigenous traditions of Melanesia, Africa, Amazonia, Australia, and the circumpolar north.  Recurring themes will be: transformations in the definition of ‘religion’ in relation to ‘science’; the nature of rationality; and the extent to which anthropology itself can be either – or both – a religious and a scientific quest to experience the wonder of unknown otherness.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

Formative coursework

Discussions and presentations during seminars.

Indicative reading

A. Abramson and M. Holbraad (eds.) 2014, Framing Cosmologies: The Anthropology of Worlds; G. Bateson and M. C. Bateson 1987, Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred; B. Kapferer (ed.) 2002, Beyond Rationalism: Rethinking Magic, Witchcraft and Sorcery; L. Lévy-Bruhl 1926, How Natives Think; M. A. Pedersen 2011, Not Quite Shamans: Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia; K. Swancutt 2012, Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination; H. Whitehouse and J. Laidlaw (eds.) 2007, Religion, Anthropology, and Cognitive Science; R. Willerslev 2007, Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism, and Personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs; D. E. Young and J-G. Goulet (eds.) 1994, Being Changed: The Anthropology of Extraordinary Experience.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 3

Average class size 2015/16: 4

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information