AN3E1      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Religion (Anthropology Exchanges)

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Fenella Cannell


This course is available on the Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Cape Town), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Fudan), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Melbourne) and Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Tokyo). This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

Students will be asked to rethink the category of ‘religion’ and its role in anthropological analysis. The guiding underlying approach will be to ask; what is the study of  ‘religion’  for the social sciences,  and what are the potentials and limitations of different answers to that question.  We will also be asking where (if anywhere) religion is located as category, practice and experience for a range of interlocutors,  and in different kinds of  analytic writing.    Topics facilitating this project may include some of the following: shamanism,  spirit mediumship,   death rituals and ritual theory,  magic and witchcraft,  ‘spirituality’  and new religious movements,  religion and kinship,   ghosts,  spirits and ancestors,  cosmology,  faith-healing,  life-cycle rituals, human-nonhuman relations, religion and nature,   and religion in diaspora and social change,  religion and ‘ethics’,  problems of suffering and critical approaches to religion,  violence and inequality,  encounters with the divine and sacred, religion,  capitalism and the fetish,    religion,  gender  and the body,   religion and development,   implicit religion.   Examples will be drawn both western and non-western contexts, and from both ‘salvation religions’ such as Hinduism,  Judaism and Christianity,  and other including so-called  ‘animist’  contexts.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual lectures, classes and online interactive activities. The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. This course has a reading week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Susannah  Crockford  2021  Ripples of the Universe; spirituality in Sedona,  Arizona    Naomi  Leite   2017  Unorthodox  Kin;Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging  Michael Lambek  2002    The Weight of the Past  Charles Stewart  2017   Dreaming and historical consciousness in island Greece   Sonja Luerhrmann ed.  Sonja Luehrmann ed.  2017  Praying with the senses;  contemporary orthodox Christian spirituality in practice  Talal Asad 2009, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam; Webb Keane 2007, Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter; W. F. Sullivan, E. S. Hurd, et al. (eds.) 2015, Politics of Religious Freedom; Courtney Bender 2010, The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination; Leigh Eric Schmidt 2000, Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment;: Changing the Terms of the Religion Versus Secularity Debate; D. C. Posthumus 2018,  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.  Willem Pietz  1985   The Problem of the Fetish

Detailed reading lists provided at the start of each term.


Essay (100%, 3500 words) in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information