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Anthropology and Religion


Admission requirements

This course is only open to students of Religiewetenschappen and as an elective for students of Midden-Oostenstudies: Islamstudies.
This course is open to electives provided there is sufficient space. For more information, contact the studycoordinator.


This course provides an overview of important themes from the anthropology of religion based on James S. Bielo, Anthropology of Religion: The Basics (Routledge, 2015). The point of departure is that religion is something that people do. The anthropology of religion focuses in particular on the concrete ways in which people shape religion: through rituals, texts, objects, images, sounds and body. Students read literature selected topics from the anthropology of religion and submit assignments on these readings,including summaries, critical discussion, searching for examples in the literature, producing an overview scheme and writing an overview reflection.

Course objectives

After completing the course, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and name theoretical and methodical issues related to anthropological research;

  • Illustrate, on the basis of concrete examples, how researchers have dealt with these issues;

  • Critically assess these approaches;

  • Report on this in writing to an audience consisting of specialists and non-specialists;

  • Synthesize the acquired knowledge through an overview scheme and a written reflection on the

Transferable skills

After completing the course, students should be able to:

  • Be able to critically evaluate ethnographic writing in relation to theoretical and methodological

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the range of human religious behaviour;

  • Be able to identify and concisely summarise arguments from academic literature;

  • Improve their oral presentation skills;

  • Improve their skills in written English.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

8 assignments in total:

  • 5 short assignments about the literature read (pass/fail);

  • An essay (40%);

  • An ethnography book review (60%);

  • An oral presentation (pass/fail).
    All assignments must be submitted. In the absence of one assignment, no final grade is calculated.

The final mark for the course is determined through a weighted average of the grades given for the essay and the book review.

Students producing unsatisfactory work for their final papers will be asked to submit a new piece on a different topic for the resit.

Assignments will be graded via Brightspace.

Reading list

James S. Bielo, 2015, Anthropology of Religion: The Basics. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Further readings will be announced during the first lecture.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the



Dr C. J. Pearce