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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Charles F Keyes
ANTH 421
Seattle Campus

Belief, Ritual, and the Structure of Religion

Systematic survey of concepts, models, and theories that characterize the anthropological study of religion. Consideration of the human universal basis of religion and of diverse ways in which religions are constructed and related to social experience. Prerequisite: either ANTH 321 or JSIS C 201; JSIS C 202.

Class description

This course is designed to provide students with a systematic introduction to the concepts, models, and theories utilized in the study of religion as practiced. After first considering how religion can be defined, we will consider the experiential basis for the adoption of a religious perspective on the world, the ways in which religious authority are asserted, the centrality of ritual in religious practice, and the mythological construction of religious truths. We will then turn to consider the relationship between religion and health, religion and social identity (including gender identity), religion and economy, and religion and power (including how religion itself can be the source of conflict). Ethnographic examples will be drawn from studies of ‘animistic’, Buddhist, East Asian, Muslim, and Christian traditions as well as of ‘new’ religions and religious movements

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Upper division standing. It is recommended that students have taken at least one of the basic 200-level courses in sociocultural anthropology or RELIG 202 or ANTH 321.

Class assignments and grading

Assignments will be to readings in the following text available at the UW Bookstore. Bowen, John R. 2002. Religions in Practice: An Approach to the Anthropology of Religion. . Boston, London, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore: Allyn and Bacon. And to articles available on-line from the Undergraduate reserve desk.

There will be three take-home examinations. Each of these will involve answering two questions in approximately five-eight (6-10) pages (4-5 pages for each essay). Answers to these questions should make reference to assigned readings, lectures, and films.

Grades will be based on an average of all three examinations – in other words, each exam will be weighed equally.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Abraham T. Cherian
Date: 11/07/2002