Print Version

Effective: Summer 2011

Grade Type: Letter Grade, the student may select Pass/No Pass
Not Repeatable.
FHGE: Social & Behavioral Sciences Transferable: CSU/UC
4 hours lecture. (48 hours total per quarter)

Student Learning Outcomes -
  • Students will recognize and articulate key terminology, theoretical orientations, guiding principles and methods of anthropology in understanding human behavior in small-scale and more complex societies.
  • Students will recognize, articulate and apply an anthropological approach to the study of religion in a socio-cultural context, including understanding the role of culture in shaping the ways humans know about and perceive their world.
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast elements of religion such as symbolism, mythology, ritual, magic, divination, religious specialists, shamanism, traditional healing practices, witchcraft, supernatural entities, and religious revitalization movements, as well as expressions of these religious elements found in small-scale and complex societies from the past and present around the world.
  • Students will be able to apply anthropological principles for solving human problems on the local, regional and world scales, particularly through an understanding and awareness of holism, ethnocentric biases, anthropological methods and the value of practicing cultural relativism.
Description -
Explores the ways in which people have attempted to gain mastery over the natural and supernatural worlds beginning with prehistoric times and concluding with modern day society and the contemporary world. Cross-cultural study of the beliefs about the nature of reality, spirituality, death, magic, science and healing.

Course Objectives -
The student will be able to:
  1. develop awareness of own ethnocentric biases in the area of religion from the view of cultural relativism.
  2. develop an understanding of religious identification through the use of the modern anthropological methods and theoretical approaches.
  3. attain insights into the religious beliefs and practices of other, including beliefs about death, shamanism, healing, causation, creation and ceremonial cycles.
  4. explore and appreciate the diversity of beliefs and practices foreign to the students' own interpretations of phenomena related to these beliefs and practices.
Special Facilities and/or Equipment -
When taught as an online distance learning section, students and faculty need ongoing and continuous Internet and Email access.

Course Content (Body of knowledge) -
  1. The Anthropological Perspective for study of Religions
  2. Definitions of Religions and the Domains of theoretical approaches to belief systems.
  3. Altered States of Consciousness: Biological basis and Ethnographic Examples
  4. Cultural Specialists: shaman, priests, healers,diviners and others
  5. The world of magic, divination, sorcery in societies.
  6. Souls, Ghosts and Death Rituals
  7. Gods and Spirits: Monotheism, Atheism and 'Great Religions'
  8. Witchcraft in Historic and Modern Periods
  9. Cults, Neopaganism, "High Demand" charismatic organizations, Spiritualistic groups
  10. Fundamentalism and Revitalization Movements
  11. Cross-cultural comparisons and change of Belief Systems
  12. Religious interface with political, health, economic, and expressive sectors of cultures.
Methods of Evaluation -
  1. Written assignments
  2. Midterm examinations
  3. Final examinations
  4. Research project
Representative Text(s) -
Stein, Rebecca L. and Philip L Stein. The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008.

Disciplines -
Method of Instruction -
Lecture, Discussion, Cooperative learning exercises, Self-paced, Field work, Oral presentations.
Lab Content -
Not applicable.
Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing and Outside of Class Assignments -
  1. Reading Assignments: Weekly reading assignments from text and outside sources ranging from 30 to 60 pages per week.
  2. Lecture: Weekly lecture covering subject matter from text assignment with extended topic information. Class discussion is encouraged.
  3. Guest Speakers: Industry and faculty speakers covering selected topics.
  4. When taught online these methods may take the form of video, audio, animation and web page presentations. Laboratory assignments will be submitted online as well.