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

Undergraduate Course: Magic, Science and Healing (SCAN10008)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDo not trust those who analyze magic. They are usually magicians in search of revenge.= (Bruno Latour).

Why do anthropologists fetishise magic? Magic, in contrast to science, has come to stand in for the difference that attracts us to so many of the societies that we study. Like science, magic is a way of knowing the world, and yet one of the longest standing debates in anthropology asks whether magic and science produce epistemological worlds that are ultimately incommensurable. Drawing on insights from anthropology and science studies we will consider the following debates: is it possible to distinguish between rationality and belief? How can magic and science be ?political=? Why has the occult persisted in modern society, and why is it that science enchants? We will use ethnographies of witchcraft and sorcery, scientific laboratories, anatomy and immunology, and colonial science to engage with these debates. As we address these questions, we will consider whether the scholarly analysis of magic is ideological: on the one hand rationalising regimes of power over ?others= (the production of expertise), on the other serving as a sleight of hand through which to critique hegemonic narratives of modernity. We end the course with an analysis of magical and scientific modes of healing & shamanism, vaccination and pharmaceuticals.
Course description Not entered
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Visiting students must have prior study in Social Anthropology or closely related subject area; as a general guide we usually require students to have completed three courses at grade B or above.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. critically engaged with debates pertaining to the anthropology of magic and the anthropology of medical science. They should be able to apply these ideas to think about different systems of healing. In particular they will be expected to:
  2. Familiarise themselves with the history of anthropological thinking about science and magic.
  3. Appraise the contribution that science studies have made to theory in anthropology.
  4. Critique the role that epistemological claims play in our understanding of science and magic as ways of 'knowing' and 'believing'.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Stefan Ecks
Tel: (0131 6)50 6969
Course secretaryMiss Katarzyna Pietrzak
Tel: (0131 6)51 3162
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