Anthropology of Religion

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
June 24, 2019 - July 12, 20196/24 - 7/12M-F 12:15P-3:05POpenRobert Kashow

Course Description

In simplest terms Anthropology studies humans and why humans do what they do. In this course we will study scholarship which has analyzed the social institution of religion and why humans engage in this practice, covering the main genealogies of scholarship from Durkheim, Weber, and Marx to the present.

We will trace the main genealogies of anthropological scholarship on religion from Marx, Weber, and Durkheim to the current day. Thus our readings will engage in readings that address the demystification of religion as a form of cultural critique (Marx), the relationship of religion and politics (Weber), and the role and function of religion and its social practices (Durkheim). Notable authors we will read: Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud, Boas, Malinowski, Parsons, Douglas, Mauss, Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard, Girard, Bell, and Kertzer. Special topics of study include ritual, kinship, sacrifice, magic, and violence. The students will read the authors, produce four short papers that engage the readings for a particular class period, and write a take home final exam.

By the end of the course, the student will know the main genealogies of anthropological scholarship and how that developed in the 20th century. Knowing this will lay the foundation for future study in anthropology or religious studies that can lead to more original contributions.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAN0934
  • Length: 3 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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