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ANT 3241 Anthropology Of Religion

Summer A 2015
Class Meeting Times: Mon-Fri 12:30- 1:45 pm (period 4)
Location: TUR L005

Instructor: Choeeta Chakrabarti

Office: TBA
Office Hours: TBA
Course Description:
Anthropology is the study of the human condition. From questions about how humans
evolved, to debates about current human rights laws, it covers a whole spectrum of issues
related to human behavior. This course introduces the anthropology of religion through
analyses of the cultural and social dimensions of human variation. This course is not a
synopsis of different religions in the world. Rather, it is an exploration of key concepts in
religious belief including rituals, magic, witchcraft, religious healing and myth and the
purpose these elements play for different religions. The course aims to expose students to
diversity in religious behavior and encourage critical thinking in contemporary debates
surrounding religious practices.
Please be advised that this is not an easy course. As an upper level class during Summer A,
it will be intensive. Your performance will be directly related to completing all the required

readings and assignments in a timely manner. Please read the syllabus carefully to avoid
any misunderstanding.

Required Text
Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft (3nd Edition). Philip L. Stein and Rebecca
Stein. [ARMW on reading list]
A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion (2nd ed.). Michael Lambek.
[RAR on reading list].
Other readings will be uploaded on canvas
Course Objectives:

Gain an informed understanding of anthropology of religion

Understand anthropological approaches to the study of religion
Learn the various methodological tools used in the study of religion
Understand how ones own assumptions and ones specific cultural lens paints the
way humans understand the world around them.
Gain an understanding of anthropological concepts of social complexity, cultural
relativism and reflexivity.
Appreciate human diversity.
Gain experience in anthropological fieldwork.
Understand the relevance of anthropology to current affairs

This course fulfills a Social Science General Education requirement

This course is a social and behavioral sciences (S) subject area course in the UF General
Education Program. Social and behavioral science courses provide instruction in the
history, key themes, principles, terminology, and underlying theory or methodologies used
in the social and behavioral sciences. Students will learn to identify, describe and explain
social institutions, structures or processes. These courses emphasize the effective
application of accepted problem-solving techniques. Students will apply formal and
informal qualitative or quantitative analysis to examine the processes and means by which
individuals make personal and group decisions, as well as the evaluation of opinions,
outcomes or human behavior. Students are expected to assess and analyze ethical
perspectives in individual and societal decisions.
Learning outcomes:
1. Gain awareness and understanding of the cross-cultural impact of the
social and/or natural environment on the development of self and culture:
Students will conduct simplified ethnographies designed to illustrate diversity in



religious behavior. Students will produce a semester paper centered on an aspect

of religion.
Acquire the ability to collect information relevant to an issue/problem
using methods and sources suitable to the discipline: Students will
demonstrate this ability providing discussion posts of peer-reviewed sources
Verify the accuracy, authority, bias, currency, and sufficiency of collected
evidence applicable to an issue/problem. Students will participate in
scheduled in-class discussions designed to encourage critical assessments and
debate regarding anthropological perspectives of religious behavior.
Document sources by following a system of citation appropriate to the
discipline: Students semester papers will be assessed for appropriate AAA style
Organize collected information in a coherent, unified, and logical manner:
Student semester papers will be assessed for logical organization, appropriate
arguments and accompanying supporting peer-reviewed reference materials.

Course Schedule
Instructor reserves the right to change the course schedule and assignments
Weekly readings will be announced and uploaded on canvas
Week 1 (May 9)

Class Introduction and Overview

Intro to Anthropology?
READING1: ARMW Chapter 1: The Anthropological Perspective, The
Approach, The Study of Human Societies, and Two Ways of Viewing
Culture, Cultural Relativism and The Concept of Culture.
WEDNESDAYIntro to Religion? - Part I
READING: ARMW Chapter 1: Attempts at Defining Religion and The
Domain of Religion; RAR Part I: Religion as a Cultural System by Clifford
THURSDAY: Intro to Religion? - Part II
READING: ARMW Chapter 1: The Biological Basis of Religious Behavior;
RAR Part I The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category
by Talal Asad.
Discussion post due before class


Approaches to Studying Religion

READING: ARMW Chapter 1: The Study of Religion, Theoretical
Approaches to the study of Religion, Conclusion, and Summary
Paper outline due
Week 2 (May 16)
Early Theoretical Perspectives on Religion I
READING: RAR Part I: Religion in Primitive Culture by Edward Tylor, and
The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Emile Durkheim
Early Theoretical Perspectives on Religion Part II
READING: RAR Part I: Remarks on Frazers Golden Bough by Ludwig
Wittgenstein; RAR Part II: Myth in Primitive Psychology by Bronislaw
WEDNESDAYMythology Part I
READING: ARMW Chapter 2: The Nature of Myths, Understanding Myths,
and Approaches to Analysis of Myths
FILM Part I: Mythos by Joseph Campbell
THURSDAY: Mythology Part II
READING: ARMW Chapter 2: Common Themes in Myths, BOXES 2.1-2.6,
Conclusion, and Summary
FILM Part II: Mythos by Joseph Campbell.
Discussion post due before class

Religious Symbols Part I

READING: ARMW Chapter 3: What is a Symbol?, Religious Symbols; RAR
Part II: The Logic of Signs and Symbols;

Week 3 (May 23)

Religious Symbols Part II
READING: RAR Part II: The Problem of Symbols by E.E. Evans-Pritchard,
On Key Symbols by Sherry B. Ortner. ARMW Chapter 3: The Symbolism of
Music and Dance, Conclusion, and Summary
Review for Exam I
THURSDAY: Rituals Part I
READING: ARMW Chapter 4: The Basics of Ritual Performance,
Prescriptive and Situational Rituals, Periodic and Occasional Rituals, A
Classification of Rituals, A Survey of Rituals, Social Rites of
Intensification, Therapy Rituals and Healing, Salvation Rituals,
Revitalization Rituals
Discussion post due before class
Rituals Part II
READING: ARMW Chapter 4: Rites of Passage, The Structure of a Rite of
Passage, Coming-of-Age Rituals, Alterations of the Human Body,
Pilgrimages, Conclusion, and Summary; Canvas: Transitions in Life and
Death in Religions and Practice pp. 41-66

Week 4 (May 30)


UF Holiday


Altered States of Consciousness

READING: ARMW Chapter 5: The Nature of Altered States of
Consciousness, Entering an Altered State of Consciousness, The Biological
Basis of Altered States of Consciousness, Drug-Induced Altered States, BOX
5.1 & 5.2, Religious Use of Drugs in South America, Rastafarians,
Conclusion and Summary
Canvas: Extending our Powers: Magic and Healing in Religions in Practice.
WEDNESDAYReligious Specialists
READING: ARMW Chapter 6: Shamans, Defining Shamanism, Korean
Shamanism, Priests, Aztec Priests, Eastern Orthodox Priests,
Prophets, Conclusion, and Summary; RAR Part IV: Shamanic Practices
and the State in Northern Asian... by Caroline Humphrey. Canvas: Shams
and Shamans: The Discursive Effects of Ethnotourism in Ecuador by
Veronica M. Davidov
THURSDAY Magic and Divination
READING: ARMW Chapter 7: The World of Magic, Magic and Religion,
Magic and Science, The Function of Magic, Why Magic Works, Magic in
Society, Divination, Forms of Divination, Divination Techniques,
Conclusion, and Summary; RAR Part III: Form and Meaning of Magical
Acts, by Stanely Tambiah, and The Poetics of Time in Mayan Divination, by
Dennis Tedlock.
Discussion post due before class



Film: Split Horn
Week 5 (June 6)

The Soul and Death
READING: ARMW Chapter 8: Souls and Ancestors, Variation in the Concept
of the Soul, Souls, Death, and the Afterlife, Examples of the Concepts of the
Soul, Bodies and Souls, Death Rituals, Funeral Rituals, Conclusion,
and Summary; RAR Part III: Spirits and Selves in Northern Sudan... by
Janice Boddy.
WEDNESDAYGods and Spirits
READING: ARMW Chapter 9: Spirits, Guardian Spirits and the Native
American Vision Quest, Gods, Types of Gods, Gods and Society, The
Gods of the Yoruba, Goddesses, Monotheism Conceptions of God in
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Atheism, Conclusion, and Summary

THURSDAY Witchcraft
READING: ARMW Chapter 10: Entire chapter; RAR Part II: Witchcraft and
Sexual Relations... by Raymond Kelly.
Canvas: Explaining Misfortune: Witchcraft and Sorcery in Religions in
Prcatice. Pp 82-100
Final paper due
Discussion post due before class

Religion, Modernity, and Change

READING: ARMW Chapter 11: Entire chapter; RAR Part IV: The Genesis of
Capitalism amongst a South American Peasantry..., by Michael Taussig.
Canvas: The Place or Religions in Modern Nation-States in Religions in
Practice. Pp 234-256
Week 6 (June 13)
Film: Jesus Camp
Abrahamic religions Part I
READING: RAR Part I: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by
Max Weber, Christians as Believers by Malcom Ruel; RAR Part IV:
Convicted by the Holy Spirit... by Susan Harding.
WEDNESDAY Religion, Human Rights and Contemporary Debates
READING: Canvas: Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?: Anthropological
Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others By Abu Lughod Behind the
Veil by Jennifer M. Westerfield
Ayahuasca and Spiritual Crisis: Liminality as Space for Personal Growth by
Sara. E. Lewis
Discussion post due before class

There will be a total of 410 points for this course.
Quizzes 6 x 20pts = 120 points
Discussion Posts 6 x 5pts = 30 points
Exams 3 x 50pts = 150 points
Paper outline 10 points
Research Paper 100 points
Total = 410 points

Course Grading Scale (by %):


Letter Grade



















< 56.7

To find the percentage of your grade, simply divide your total grade by the total possible
grade (360). A detailed breakdown of final grades is as follows: Additional information on
UF grading policy can be found at:
Reading assignments:
Students are expected to come to class prepared for the weeks topic. Relevant readings
and videos are specified for each class. The relevant material will be uploaded on canvas.
Discussion posts: (30 points)
There will be weekly discussion posts in this course. Questions/ topics of discussion will be
posted on canvas well before the day it is due. All discussion posts will be on due every
Thursday before class, that is, by 12:30 pm. Any post after 12:30 pm will not be given any
credit. No exceptions.

POP Quizzes: (120 points)

There will be a total of 6 unscheduled pop quizzes scheduled for the course. They will be
multiple choice questions.
Exams: (150 points)
There will be three exams for this course. Exam III will be comprehensive. These will be
held in class.
Research Paper Outline: (10 points)
An outline of the research paper is due in the second week of the course. Details will be
provided on canvas.
Research Paper: (100 points)
Students are expected to write a research paper for this class. The details of the paper will
be discussed in class and will be posted on canvas. The final paper is due on the Friday of
week 5.

Critical Dates:
Mark the following days on your calendar. Any changes will be discussed in class and
posted on canvas.
Paper Outline Due: May 13
Exam I: May 25
Final Paper Due: June 9
Exam II: August 17

Attendance Policy:
Attendance will not be taken but is expected. Absence in class will directly affect your
grade, since power point presentations will not be posted online. Additionally, quizzes and
exams will contain questions that pertain directly to lectures and discussions in class.
Absence due to a sickness will be excused with a doctors note. If you have some other valid
reason to miss class, please contact the instructor well before class by email to arrange for
make-up work. Requests for make-up work after class absences will not be accepted. This
is non-negotiable. Any student who misses more than three classes must communicate to
the instructor the reasons for these absences. If for any reason you stop attending class,
without notifying your instructor, you will receive an E grade on your permanent record.
Requirements for class attendance and make-up exams, assignments, and other work are
consistent with university policies that can be found at:
Harassment and Discrimination:
Harassment is defined as conduct that (1) is of any type (written, oral, graphic, or
physical) (2) is directed towards or against a person because of their personal status (i.e.
race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, national origin, age, disability,
marital status, pregnancy or others) and that (3) unreasonably interferes with the
individuals work, education, or participation in activities or programs at UF or creates a
working or learning environment that a reasonable person would find threatening.
Discrimination is defined as a conduct that (1) adversely affects any aspect of an
individuals employment, education, or participation in activities or programs at UF, and
(2) is based on one or more personal characteristics listed above. Any student who feels
their rights have been violated are asked to confront the offending party, should that not
resolve the issue, or the student is uncomfortable with confronting the offending party they
may file a complaint with UF Department of Human Resources.
Cell phones, computers, touch pads and other smart devices: College students are
adults and capable of making informed decisions. Use of cell phones, computers and touch
pads will not be actively policed. However, students are asked to please be respectful their
fellow students in the course as well as the instructor, who will not appreciate continued
Course evaluations: Students are expected to provide feedback on the quality of
instruction in this course by completing online evaluations at
Evaluations are typically open during the last two or three weeks of the semester, but
students will be given specific times when they are open. Summary results of these
assessments are available to students at
Academic Honesty:

All students are expected to do their own work without unauthorized assistance. Any student found
cheating, will be given a grade of zero on the assignment. Violations will lead to the Departments
and the Universitys procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty. UF students are bound by
the Honor Pledge which states, We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to
hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honor and integrity by abiding by the
Honor Code. On all work submitted for credit by students at the University of Florida, the following
pledge is either required or implied: On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized
aid in doing this assignments. The Honor Code ( specifies a number of behaviors that are in violation of this code and the
possible sanctions. Furthermore, you are obligated to report any condition that facilitates academic
misconduct to appropriate personnel. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with
the instructor or TAs in this class.

For questions about what constitutes academic misconduct please consult the UF Honor
Code as well as the UF Policies on Academic Honesty. These are available online at
Here are three websites that explain plagiarism and I encourage you to look at all of them
- A 30 minute video, titled Citing Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, at the bottom of the
webpage -

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities

If you require accommodation due to a disability, please make an appointment during my office
hours so that we may discuss your needs. Students with disabilities requesting classroom
accommodation must first register with the Disability Resource Office (352-392-8565, by providing appropriate documentation. Once registered, students
will receive an accommodation letter which must be presented to the instructor when requesting
accommodation. The Disability Resource office is located in 001 Reid Hall. Further

information can be found at UF Counseling Services: Resources are

available on campus for students having personal or goal oriented problems 1. University
Counseling Center, 301 Peabody Hall, 392-1575 2. Student Mental Health, Student Health
Care Center, 391-1171 (personal counseling) 3. Sexual Assault Recovery Services (SARS),
Student Health Care Center, 392-1161 4. Career Resource Center, Reitz Union, 392-1601
Please make any requests by the second week of class.
UF Counseling Services
Resources are available on-campus for students having personal problems or lacking clear
career and academic goals that interfere with their academic performance. These resources
1. University Counseling and Wellness Center, 3190 Radio Road, 392-1575,, personal and career counseling
2. Sexual Assault Recovery Services (SARS), Student Health Care Center, 392-1161,
sexual counseling
3. University Police Department, 392-1111 or 911 for emergencies
4. Student Mental Health, Student Health Care Center, 392-1171, personal counseling

5. Career Resource Center, Reitz Union, 392-1601, career development assistance and
6. Reading & Writing Center, Broward Hall, 392-0791, writing assistance, study skills,
test preparation
24-hour Grade Dispute Policy
Students who wish to discuss grades on assignments and exams should contact the
instructor within 24 hours of posting to arrange a meeting time. Please do not wait until

the end of the semester to question grades or request special consideration. Twenty-four
hours after posting, all grades are final.
Late Assignment Policy:
Assignments that are turned in late receive no credit or will not be evaluated unless there
has been a documented emergency. Similarly, missing an exam deadline will result in a
failing grade for that exam unless there has been a documented emergency. Documented
emergencies include emergency (not routine) hospitalizations of the student (certified by
attending physician), deaths in the immediate family or love (parents, siblings, spouses,
children, or a lover; certified by a mortician), or disabling accidents/diseases involving the
student near the time of the due date (certified by police). No more than one such
exception will be made.
Student Conduct
All students must comply with the Student Conduct Code which can found at Any behavior that
interferes with either the instructors ability to conduct the class or the ability of other
students to benefit from the instructional program will not be tolerated. Please turn off cell
phones and all other electronic devices before class. Laptops may only be used to take
notes. Disruptive students will be asked to leave.