Religion: From Magicians to Politicians

Subject ANTH30003 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 1.5 hour lecture and 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Knowledge gained in completing any one of the following subjects is recommended but not required.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed ANTH30003 The Human Cosmos or ANTH30003 Myth, Ritual and Performance are not permitted to enrol in this subject.

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Erin Fitz-Henry


Dr Erin Fitz-Henry

Subject Overview:

What is religion? What purpose does it serve? How does it vary across cultures? Why is it growing rapidly in many parts of the world despite predictions of its inevitable decline? And how does it relate to politics in a diversity of social systems? In this subject, we explore the symbolic systems and ritual practices that people throughout the world have used to make sense of their place in the social world, the political order, the environment, and the cosmos. Students learn core anthropological approaches to the study of religion by exploring images of mythic order and social transgression; the divergent functions of trance and shamanic practice; the roles of messianic religion in movements for social change; the meanings and functions of contemporary pilgrimage; the relationships between occult movements and the rise of shadow economies; and the uses of religious conceptions in contemporary debates about large-scale mining and climate change. Special attention will be paid throughout to the relationship between religion and politics.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this subject students should:

  • have an advanced understanding of the key concepts and theoretical debates that have shaped the anthropological study of religion;
  • have a clear sense of how those debates have shifted over time;
  • be sensitive to the broad range of perspectives that anthropologists bring to bear on religious phenomena (psychoanalytic, structural-functional, symbolic, socio-economic);
  • have an appreciation of the diverse manifestations of religious thought and practice in ethnographic settings as diverse as Africa, South America, North America, and Asia;
  • have developed an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective on religious phenomena that allows for in-depth analysis of contemporary religious practices;
  • be able to communicate in a variety of written and oral formats and to collaborate effectively in groups with people whose disciplinary and cultural backgrounds may differ from their own.


A short essay/observation of 500 words (15%) due during semester; a tutorial paper of 1000 words (25%) due during semester, and a 2500 word final research essay (60%) due during the examination period.

Hurdle Requirement: This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required.

Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Readings will be provided online through the subject's LMS site prior to the commencement of semester

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Anthropology
Related Breadth Track(s): Anthropology - ritual, meaning and performance

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