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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Postgraduate Course: Anthropological Approaches to Shamanism and Spirit Possession (SCAN11015)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe anthropological engagement with shamanism and spirit possession reflects a particular history of the discipline, pushing us to the limits of both the theoretical and empirical. In this course students will examine these phenomena and the social relations involved through lectures addressing theoretical approaches and case studies across regional contexts. We will ask to what extent a universal shamanism can be extracted from the specificities of locality, and explore the range of theoretical ideas used to understand and explain these phenomena. In particular we shall ask, what has been the relationship between these practitioners and modernity, particularly the state?; are shamans and mediums best understood as healers, or religious practitioners, and does this distinction matter? Core lectures will be delivered by the course convenor, with several guest slots delivered by staff across social anthropology drawing on their diverse regional engagement with these practitioners.
Course description Weekly topics to include:
1. Introduction;
2. From Eliade and Lewis, through Taussig to phenomenology and its -ism(s) - History of an anthropological obsession;
3. shamanism and spirit possession as healing;
4. shamanism as religious practice;
5. spirit possession and the state;
6. at the borders of anthropology - psychological approaches to shamanism and spirit possession;
7,8,9. Three lectures on regional variations, e.g.: Eastern and Southern Africa, the Himalayas, Indonesia, and the Amazon;
10. globalization and neo-shamanic practice.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course students will have a critical understanding of the historical evolution of the anthropology of shamanism and spirit possession. They will have been exposed to a wide range of regional approaches to the phenomena and will understand its place in the broader regional traditions of anthropology, and its divergent manifestations. They should be familiar with the key anthropological analyses of shamanism and spirit possession from Lewis and structural functionalism, through Tausig and historically informed political economic analyses, to medical anthropology and the anthropological engagement with religion. The strengths and limits of different approaches will be developed through case studies across regions and countries, and reflected in essays and assessments.
Reading List
Indicative readings:

Connor L. H. & G. Samuel (eds) 2001. Healing Powers and Modernity: Traditional Medicine, Shamanism and Science in Asian Societies. Westport and London: Bergin and Garvey.

Desjarlais, R. 1992. Body and Emotion: The Aesthetics of Illness and Healing in the Nepal Himalayas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Eliade M 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. New York: Pantheon.

Harvey G (ed) 2003. Shamanism: A Reader. London & New York: Routledge.

La Fonteine J (ed) 2009. The Devil's Children. From Spirit Possession to Witchcraft: New Allegations that Effect Children. Ashgate.

Lewis I M (1989) [1971]. Ecstatic Religion. London & New York: Routledge

Humphrey, Caroline & U. Onon 1996 Shamans and elders: experience, knowledge and power among the Daur Mongols Oxford: Clarendon Press

Kakar, Sudhir. 1982. Shamans, Mystics and Doctors. Delhi: OUP.

Maskarinec G, 1995. The Rulings of the Night: An Ethnography of Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Taussig M 1991. Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wildman. Chicago University Press.

Vitebski P, 1993. Dialogues with the Dead: The Discussion of Mortality among the Sora. Cambridge University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Ian Harper
Tel: (0131 6)50 3816
Course secretaryMrs Gillian Macdonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244
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