Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Anthropology of Religion SOCIO4003

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides an introduction to the anthropology of religion. We will begin by looking at range theories that anthropologists have offered to help us understand how humans order and relate to the world around them through what we call "religion". We will assess the strengths and limitations of such theories through an exploration of classic as well as recent ethnographic studies of different religious forms and phenomena around the globe. This cross-cultural examination will allow us to question the universality of western notions of religion, including academic ones. Throughout the course, we will highlight how in order to grasp the complexities of specific theories and ethnographies of religion, we need to interrogate the historical circumstances and positionally of their authors. This course, then, is as much about concrete religious beliefs and practices as about the mechanics of knowledge production about religion.


20 contact hours over the course of a single semester. This will normally consist of 2 hours per week and may be a combination of lectures and seminars/workshops.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Sociology requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Sociology 2A and Sociology 2B as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses





4,000 word essay (100%). You will be given the option of answering a question from a list provided by the lecturer or to choose your own topic and question.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ provide you with knowledge of the principles and theory of anthropology, particularly with regards to theories of religion and culture;

■ give you an opportunity to develop practical skills in the gathering, analysis, presentation and discussion of anthropological data, particularly with regards to religious beliefs and differences;

■ allow you to develop the ability to apply your knowledge and practical skills to solving anthropologically based research problems;

■ enable you to engage reflexively with the particularities of your own cultural and social contexts, as well as with the complex possibilities inherent in cross cultural comparison;

■ enable you to enhance your transferable and inter-personal skills, particularly in communication, time management, individual and group research work, critical appraisal of social issues, and the informed use of information technology

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course you will be able to:

■ recognise and assess key concepts and theories in the anthropology of religion;

■ demonstrate knowledge of the religious beliefs, values and practices of different cultures;

■ competently employ anthropological perspectives in the analysis of contemporary and historical religious phenomena and issues;

■ formulate, investigate and discuss pertinent anthropological questions about contemporary religious issue; 

■ apply a critical appreciation of the dangers that ethnocentric representations and approaches pose to the cross-cultural study of religion.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits