Anthropology of Religion SOCIO4003

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Any religiosity is a pliant formation that is embedded in historical contexts. But, what is in plain sight today: religion or secularism? The course is premised on the idea that to understand a variety of religiosities in the contemporary world, we need to move beyond a binary analytic that pits reified notions of religion and secularism against each other. Instead of reproducing a commonplace argument that religion is a spectral form that dwells in and haunts the predominantly secular world, this course argues for a relational analytical framework that explores zones of their co-presence and contradictions across space and time. What is it like to give a religious funeral to your AI robot pet? Is there secular immortality? Why change one's name to cut associations with religious heritage? Does a curse work as a viable political action? Why do some people believe in magic but can't remember how to use it? What happens when people cannot live up to their own religious commitments? And how can we start thinking about these phenomena historically? This approach necessitates a painstaking interrogation of familiar arguments about religious decline and revival in order to craft a new understanding of 'religion' as a capacious concept that accommodates and co-constitutes constellations of spiritual and atheist subjectivities, political action, aesthetic and historical imaginaries, among other things.


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


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





Two summative assessments

Two 2000-word essays.

One essay has a practical research component when students are required to take images and analyse spaces where religion and secularism interact.

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