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

Postgraduate Course: Anthropology of Christianity (PGSP11385)

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
SummarySince its first moments, both anthropological theory and ethnographic description have engaged with Christianity as social and cultural form. Starting in the new millennium, though, there has been an increased level of anthropological and ethnographic attention to Christianity, and several programmatic calls for there to be an anthropology of Christianity as a self-conscious comparative arena within the discipline. This interest has taken two forms. The first form is documenting self-identified Christian communities, both in the developed world and in the ¿global south¿ (a place where Christianity has experienced near exponential growth. The second form is an increased scrutiny of the Christian roots of the discipline, with an eye towards how this Christian inheritance may serve as either an asset or a liability in the ethnographic study of both Christian and non-Christian populations.

This course will introduce students to both aspects of the anthropology of Christianity. It will address the theoretical literature on the relationship of common Christian ontological and epistemological presumptions in to both historical and contemporary ethnographic inquiry; it will review debates concerning both what an anthropology of Christianity might be like, and whether or not Christianity as a coherent category for comparative anthropological thought; it will introduce students to the geographic and doctrinal varieties of Christianities that have been the object of ethnographic inquiry, and it will open up the question of what relationship Christianity may have to other institutions and concerns that have also been the recurrent object of anthropological inquiry.
Course description Not entered
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
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. show substantive expert and specialist knowledge of the role of Christianity in disciplinary history, calls for and debates concerning the anthropology of Christianity, global demographics, ethnographic study of Christian communities).
  2. show capacity to critique and evaluate assigned ethnographic and theoretical material, as well as additional material they may encounter in other venues that are pertinent to the concerns of the course.
  3. show an ability to also engage in and critique other anthropological discussion of modes of religiosity that are analogous to Christianity in either ethnographic description or theoretical articulation.
  4. relate the above three goals to wider discussions and debates in the discipline of anthropology.
  5. develop a capacity to work with (in the form of texts and audio-visual recordings) 'raw' ethnographic data from Christian communities, that is, material either not collected by an ethnographer, or not placed with an ethnographic text in the service of an argument; they will be able to analyze this material in light of the above texts, problematics, and disciplinary discussions. This exercise will prepare them for a capacity to think both ethnographically and critically about the Christianity as an anthropological concept and ethnographic object, but will also train them to possible produce their own ethnographic texts at a latter stage of their academic development.
Reading List
(Reading list is provisional, and for illustrative purposes only - changes may be made based on UK pricing, availability, and educational fair use standards. Readings will be paced at selections of roughly a hundred twenty five or so pages of a particular ethnography a week over a ten week period)

Week One

Jenkins, P. (2002) "The Next Christianity" The Atlantic Monthly, 290(3): 53-68

Harding, S. (1991). "Representing Fundamentalism: The Problem of the Repugnant Cultural Other." Social Research 58(2): 373-393.

Robbins, J. (2003). "What is a Christian? Notes toward an anthropology of Christianity." Religion 33(3): 191-199.

Cannell, F (2006) Introduction: the anthropology of Christianity In: Cannell, Fenella, (ed.) The anthropology of Christianity. Duke University Press, Durham

Week Two

Engelke, M. (2002). "The Problem of Belief - Evans-Pritchard and Victor Turner on 'the inner life'." Anthropology Today 18(6): 2-8.

Asad, T. (1993) Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, (Chapters 1-2).

Sahlins, M. (1996) "The Sadness of Sweetness: The Native Anthropology of Western Cosmology" Current Anthropology 37(3): 395-428.

Cannell, F. (2005). "The Christianity of Anthropology." The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11(2): 335-356.

Week Three

Rafael V. (1992) Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule. Durham: Duke University Press. [Selections]

Robbins, J. (2004) Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley, University of California Press. [selections].

Robbins, Joel 2007 Continuity Thinking and the Problem of Christian Culture: Belief, Time, and the Anthropology of Christianity. Current Anthropology 48(1):5-38.

Meyer, B. (1999). Translating the Devil: Religion and Modernity among the Ewe in Ghana. Trenton: Africa World Press [selections].

Week Four

Keane, W. (1998). Calvin in the Tropics: Objects and Subjects at the Religious Frontier. In Border Fetishism. P. Spyer, ed. London: Routledge.

Keane, W. (2002). Sincerity, "Modernity," and the Protestants. Cultural Anthropology 17(1):65-92.

Engelke, Matthew. (2007). A Problem of Presence: beyond Scripture in an African church. Berkeley: University of California Press. [selections].

Week Five

Keller, E. (2005). The Road to Clarity. New York: Palgrave. [selections].

Week Six

Austin-Broos, D. (1997) Jamaica Genesis: Religion and the Politics of Moral Orders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [selections].

Week Seven

Weigele, K. (2005). Investing in Miracles: El Shaddai and the Transformation of Popular Catholicism in the Philippines. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. [selections].

Coleman, Simon (2006). Materializing the Self: Words and Gifts in the Construction of Charismatic Protestant Identity. In The Anthropology of Christianity. F. Cannell, ed. Pp. 163-184. Durham: Duke University Press.

Week Eight

Lester, R. (2005). Jesus in Our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent. Berkeley: University of California Press. [selections].

Week Nine

Harding, S. (2000) Book of Jerry Falwell. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [selections].

Elisha, O. (2008). "Moral Ambitions of Grace: The Paradox of Compassion and Accountability in Evangelical Faith-Based Activism." Cultural Anthropology 23(1): 154-189.

Week Ten

Csordas, T. (1997). The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing. Berkeley, University of California Press. [selections].

Luhrmann, T. (2012.). 2012. When God talks back: Understanding the American Evangelical relationship with God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. [selections].

Whitehouse, H. (1992). ¿Memorable Religions: Transmission, Codification and Change in Divergent Melanesian Contexts.¿ Man, New Series 27(4):777-797
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information The course will consist of one two-hour session a week for the whole class (20 contact hours), supported by small-group teaching (seminars) in separate one-hour sessions ¿ there will be one seminar every two weeks (5 contact hours). The two-hour sessions will involve a mixture of lectures, presentations, debates, and videos. The small-group teaching will be organized around a list of discussion topics (available at the beginning of the semester). Attendance and participation in the small group teaching sessions will be compulsory.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Naomi Haynes
Tel: (0131 6)50 4052
Course secretaryMrs Beth Richardson-Mills
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659
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