ANTH 299
Ritual, Power and Transgression Spring 2015
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed ANTH 299 / REL 274
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Anthropology began, in part, as an effort to study “savage” cultures before they disappeared under the onslaught of modern civilization, and indeed most of the societies investigated by early anthropologists no longer exist or survive in completely altered form. As they lost their original object of study, however, anthropologists also discovered that the tools and concepts developed in the study of “primitive” cultures could be applied to the contemporary world. Exploring this possibility, this course examines the relevance of fundamental anthropological concepts that have developed through the structural and symbolic study of myth and ritual to the contemporary world in which we live. The course is divided into four sections. In the first unit, we read and discuss the work of Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Marshall Sahlins on myth and ritual, focusing in particular on the ways in which different cultures construct categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, pure and impure, while also creating the “in between” spaces within which both creativity and transgression emerge. On this foundation, we move to the second unit in which we discuss the structural relationship between ritual, power, and transgression in western contexts, taking the majority of our examples from early modern European and American history. In the third section of the course, we consider what an anthropological perspective can reveal about some seminal events in 20th century history, and we end the course by considering how anthropological theory informs two critical areas of current concern: immigration and national security.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3152
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, two short response papers, 10-page research paper, final exam
Prerequisites: ANTH 101, SOC 101, REL 101, or any other ANTH or SOC course
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology, Sociology or Religion majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ANTH 299 Division II REL 274 Division II

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