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ANTH 2667: The anthropology of religion—a guide to the unit
The purpose of the unit is to examine religion and its relationship to social life. Arguably the study of religion has been part of anthropology since its founding, but anthropologists are skeptical of claims that religion is universal. Religious ideas, practices and symbols have been analyzed from a variety of competing perspectives. Nothing about this topic is certain or uncontroversial. Thus, students need to acquire more than mere familiarity with scholars arguments and ideas. They should also develop their own critical perspective on them. In this sense, the overall aim of this unit is to help students participate in the debates within this subfield of anthropology and the larger conversations of which these are one part.
There are no right answers in this class. Everything in this class is based on someone’s interpretation. To learn about religion is, then, to learn how to make your own interpretation, explain it to someone else, and to listen to a perspective with which you may not agree. Students have to develop their own relationship to what scholars say about religion by reflecting critically on their perspectives and assumptions, and considering questions from many points of view.
Also, the writing assignments in this class will help students develop their capacity to create new ideas by seeking out new information on their own. In this sense, the research project, the weekly writings, and the class discussions all come together to help students learn to think for themselves and to think critically about their own knowledge.