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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Ritual and Religion (PGSP11191)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will look at anthropological contributions to the understanding of ritual and religion, starting and ending with moments of especially acute reflection on the place of religion in the contemporary world. Our starting point will be that moment in the late 19th and early 20th century when classic theorists (especially Weber and Durkheim) pondered the place of religion in an age of scientific challenge, and we shall explore contemporary arguments about the boundaries between religion, power, and politics. We will also investigate the intersection of religion and ritual with a range of topics (gender, material culture, the body and cognition).
Course description By the end of the course, through class assignments and tutorial projects that foster a critical appreciation of the anthropology of religion and ritual, students should have a clear overview of the main theories of ritual action and religious commitment. In addition, having explored a variety of ethnographies, they should be able to reflect on the possible application of these theories to different ethnographic problems.

Outline Content:

Course content is based on readings, and will range in tone, from discussion of ¿grand theories¿ of ritual and religion to consideration of detailed ethnographic examples that support or problematise such grand and universalising schemes. Case studies will be drawn from across the world, and will include examples from ¿world religions¿ such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, as well as studies of other spiritual and ideological forms, such as ¿animism¿, spirit possession, and even concepts of secularism and ¿non-belief¿.

Student Learning Experience:

Two hour lecture slots will be supported by single hour tutorials. Lecture slots are divided between traditional lecture delivery and pedagogical activities such as organized debates, film presentations and discussion activities. Students are expected to come to lectures having pre-prepared for certain listed activities through reading or other research. The system of written assessment, the "personal response," will form the backbone of tutorial participation. Students are required to come to tutorials having prepared 100-200 words on a selected reading, using the Handbook ¿Questions to Think About¿ sections as a guide. Students will take it in turn to present their reflections in a clear and professional manner to their group, and will be expected to contribute actively in all discussions.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  33
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 3000 Word Long Essay (80%)
1-2 pages Formative Essay Plan (20%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the study of religion and ritual from an anthropological perspective. This course explores fundamental questions related to the definition and study of religious systems and ritual practices and challenges us to reconsider the general categories and classifications used in anthropology, particularly in relation to the concepts of "religion" and "ritual" themselves and related disciplinary distinctions between notions of "science," "magic," and "myth." The general aim is to provide a critical reappraisal of how the notions of ritual and religion have been constructed and used in the comparative study of society and culture. Concentrating on the most influential theories of ritual action and religious commitment, the course addresses the role these constructions have played in organizing a broad discourse on human diversity and the varied nature of human life and experience. Tracing the fluctuating presence of common themes, each session will provide an analysis of more general theoretical paradigms rather than single theorists or individual ethnographies.
  2. By the end of the course, through class assignments and tutorial projects that foster a critical appreciation of 'the anthropology of religion and ritual', students should have a clear overview of the main theories of ritual action and religious commitment. In addition, having explored a variety of ethnographies, they should be able to reflect on the possible application of these theories to different ethnographic problems.
Reading List
Ammerman, N.T. (1987) Bible Believers: fundamentalists in the modern world. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Christian, W. 1972/1989. Person and God in a Spanish Valley. Princeton: UP.
Ewing, K. 1997. Arguing sainthood: modernity, psychoanalysis, and Islam. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Fader, A. (2009) Mitzvah girls: bringing up the next generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Favret-Saada, J. 1980 Deadly words: witchcraft in the Bocage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Festinger, L., Riecken, H. and Shachter, S. 1956. When prophecy fails. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Keller, E. 2005. Road to clarity: Seventh-Day Adventism in Madagascar. Palgrave Macmillan.
Kwon, H. 2008. Ghosts of War in Vietnam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kugelmass, J. 1996 The Miracle of Intervale Avenue: The Story of a Jewish Congregation in the South Bronx. Columbia University Press.
Lienhardt, G. (1961) Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Luehrmann, S. 2011. Secularism Soviet Style. Teaching Atheism and Religion in a Volga Republic. Indiana University Press.
Mahmood, S. 2005. The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: UP.
Marsden, M. 2005. Living Islam: Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan¿s North-West Frontier. Cambridge: UP.
Mayblin, M. 2010. Gender, Catholicism and Morality in Brazil. Palgrave Macmillan.
McIntosh, J. 2009. The edge of Islam. Power, personhood, and ethnoreligious boundaries on the Kenya coast. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Mittermaier, A. 2011 Dreams that Matter. Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Obeyesekere, G. 1981. Medusa's Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience. Chicago: UP.
Orsi, R. 2005. Between heaven and earth. The religious worlds people make and the scholars who study them. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ortner, S. 1978. Sherpas Through their Rituals. Cambridge University Press.
Pedersen, M. 2011. Not Quite Shamans. Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia. Ithaca and London: Cornell University.
Robbins, J. 2004. Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Tuzin, D. 1997 The Cassowary¿s Revenge. The Life and Death of Masculinity in New Guinea Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Maya Mayblin
Course secretaryMrs Beth Richardson-Mills
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659
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