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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Charles F Keyes
ANTH 521
Seattle Campus

Seminar on the Anthropological Study of Religion

Advanced seminar in the anthropological study of religion designed for students who have a background in the theory and applications of theory developed in the anthropological study of religion. Seminar topics vary each quarter. Prerequisite: ANTH 422 and graduate standing; permission of instructor for graduate students in Comparative Religion.

Class description

 This joint seminar between Comparative Religion and Anthropology will consider religious challenges to the assumptions of modernity. Such critiques have emerged as peoples have responded to the programs of administrative centralization, economic development, and cultural domination imposed by states and to the processes which integrate them into a global economy. In the 1950s and 1960s social science theory assumed that the modernization projects launched by "newly developing" societies would result in the same process of secularization of society as had occurred earlier in Europe and North America and that religion would, as a consequence, be relegated to an increasingly smaller part of people's private lives. Considerable attention was given in this period to millennialisms which while very widespread were still seen as an atavatistic and ineffectual responses to modernization. That some religious movements did not collapse but became "new religions" led to some re-thinking of the modernization and religion thesis. By the 1980s significant "resurgence" of many religions, the emergence of strong religious challenges to the authority of nation-states (often in the guise of "fundamentalism") and the appearance of a few new theocratic states has necessitated a total reappraisal of the role of religion in the "modern" world. Among the questions we will take up in the seminar are the following: (1) Has "modernization" proven to be not the culmination of an evolutionary process but a sociocultural phenomenon produced by historically particular processes? (2) Has "modernization" been a distinctive and unique product of Western (Christian) civilization that has proven non-transferable to non-Western contexts? If so, what significance is to be attached to religious "resurgence" in the West itself? (3) Why has millennialism appeared to give way to other forms of religious resurgence? (4) Have militant religious challenges to the authority of secular nation--states been more characteristic of some religions than others? If so, why?

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

 Each student will be assigned to make presentations in class on assigned readings and to lead discussion on these readings. All students will be expected to participate in classroom discussions.

Recommended preparation

 The seminar is designed to meet requirements for the graduate programs in either comparative religion or anthropology. Students enrolled in the graduate programs in either Comparative Religion and Anthropology can take the course without permission. All others must obtain entry codes.

Class assignments and grading

 There are there types of assignments for this seminar. First, students will be assigned to lead discussions on assigned readings. These include one book, Max Weber’s THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM, translated by Talcott Parsons (London and New York: Routledge, 1980) and a set of articles and papers available in photocopy form. Secondly, students will be expected to participate in discussion. Finally, students will be required to submit a term paper on a topic related to the theme of the seminar. The term paper topic must be chosen by no later than the third week of class. Students will be expected to consult with the instructor during course about the term paper. Finally, the term paper must be submitted by early in exam week.

 The grade on the term paper will be the primary basis for determining the grade in the course, but classroom participation will also be taken into account. Final grades will be adjusted up or down by as much as two tenths of a grade depending on the quality of classroom participation.


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 Charles F Keyes
Date: 10/17/1999