REL 274
The Body in Power Spring 2020
Division II
Cross-listed ANTH 299 / REL 274

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The thesis of this course is that ritual plays a crucial role not only in legitimizing and mobilizing political power, but also in determining whether people decide to act in defense of or dissent against the status quo. In the first part of the semester, we focus on the ways in which different cultures construct categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, while also creating rituals for ensuring the preservation of the dominant social order against all that is transgressive and undermining to those in power. Of particular importance to our discussion will be consideration of how the body is ritually mobilized as an instrument of persuasion and control. On this foundation, we move to an examination of how political rituals are used to undermine established orthodoxies, mobilize popular dissent, and bring down those on top. Among the topics to be discussed are the role of martyrdom and beheadings in the rise of the Islamic State, the use of symbols and ritual interventions in framing both sides of the abortion debate, and the expanding importance of social media in protests movements around the world. The final unit of the course will consider a current controversy (e.g., police violence against African-American men) in light of the concepts discussed during the semester.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3096
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, three short response papers, and one 10- to 12-page research paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: open to first years
Distributions: Division II
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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