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Department Head Alexander Semyonov
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Book chapter
Spells of Materialist Magic, or Soviet Children and Electric Power

Chunikhin K.

In bk.: The Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children. University of Toronto Press, 2021. P. 265-298.

Working paper
THE ISSUES OF CULTURAL HIERARCHIES IN EARLY MODERN ETHNOGRAPHY BASED ON THE ACCOUNTS BY PETRUS PETREJUS, PAUL RYCAUT, FYNES MORYSON, AND JOHN DAVIES

Selin A. A., Байгушев С. В., Levin F. et al.

Working Papers of Humanities. WP. Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2020. No. 197.

Anthropology of belief and knowledge

2021/2022
Academic Year
ENG
Instruction in English
5
ECTS credits
Delivered by:
Department of History
Type:
Minor
When:
3, 4 module

Instructors

Course Syllabus

Abstract

Anthropology of both religion and science seek an understanding of an understanding: it aims at grasping what people across cultures admit to be true. How various systems of knowledge and belief distinguish the rational and the irrational? What is sense and senselessness? How knowledge, belief, intuition and revelation are distinguished in different social and cultural contexts? How epistemologies are related to aesthetics, ethics, moral order and everyday knowledge practices? We consider these questions by drawing on detailed ethnographies of science and religion. Cases that we explore range from studies of shamanism and conspiracy theories to economic rationality; include ethnographies of Christianity and Islam, and various knowledge systems from fortune-telling to big data. The course will also assess the applied skills that anthropologists have developed in these fields. This includes anthropological mediation of indigenous knowledge, cultural property, and negotiations of boundaries of science, culture and religion.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • be able not only read key ethnographies, but also make an individual research, based on the unique ethnographic experience, applying the skills learnt through the course.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Students will get to know the milestones in the history of anthropological thought
  • Will learn a variety of research methods applicable for the anthropology of science and religion
  • Will be guided through their first steps in the making of the anthropological research
  • Will get practice of critical and analytical thinking through the discussions of the key ethnographies of classical and contemporary anthropology.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Anthropology and Imperial Knowledge
    This lecture links the anthropological concerns with classification and causality with the emerging field of the anthropology of science by looking at the historiographic or reflexive turn in anthropology. Questions for discussion: - How did the concept of “successful fieldwork” change through the time? - Is “heteroglossia” a useful conceptual category in talking about ethnographic fieldwork?
  • Anthropology and science studies
    Question for discussion: - What unique could be said about the anthropology of science?
  • Symbol, classification & culture
    This lecture opens the course by asking how people classify things in the world, and what is the role of culture in such classifications. Continuation of Lecture 3: Are people everywhere “rational” in the same way? Are the concepts of time, space and cause universal or relative to culture?
  • Magic
    Questions for discussion: - Is it useful to ask about the relationship between magic and religion, on the one hand, and science on the other? - Is magic ‘primitive’ science?
  • Rationality & belief
    Questions for discussion: - Is belief useful analytical category? - Do people have different ideas of causality?
  • Pollution & taboo
    Question for discussion: - How does thinking of dirt “as matter out of place” illuminate why certain things, places, animals, etc, are forbidden or permitted in different cultures?
  • Ontological turn
    OT is a new trend in the anthropology of knowledge. Lecture outlines its emergence, main questions and areas of contribution.:
  • Transparency and Conspiracy
    Conspiracy Theories and Their Truth Trajectories
  • Religion vs Science: the Case of Creationism
    Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World
  • Economic Theologies
    Questions for discussion: - How does trading with God give a way of engaging with capitalist present?
  • The concepts of time and cause. Conspiracy theories, truth and suspicion
  • Exchange in science
    Question for discussion: - What is ‘giving credit’ in the context of science? - What is the relationship between manners, knowledge and exchange systems?
  • Religious conversion and pedagogies of persuasion
    A moment of persuasion: travelling preachers and Islamic pedagogy in the Netherlands
  • Is secular world possible?
    Lecture discusses definitions of religion, secularization debates and anthropological approaches to secularism and secularization.
  • Ontological turn and perspectivism
    Questions for discussion: - How different is perspectivism from cultural relativism?
  • Ritual, Agency and Power. Film: Mad Masters
    The alchemy of life: Magic, anthropology and human nature in a Pagan theology
  • “Technologies of self” and religious practices
    - What are the “technologies of self” in religious cultures? - What is the role of right intentions in religious ritual?
  • Ethical turn and the study of religion
    What is ‘ethical turn’ in anthropology and why is it important to the study of religion?
  • Technologies of Mediation. Revision and colloquium.
    The Ethics of Listening.
  • Death and Ancestors.
    The Ethics of Listening. Film: No one Dies in Lily Dale (HBO) 1h 23 min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJx8sR-Wb5k
  • Sacred necropolitics
  • Body and Discipline
  • Materiality and Affect
    The lecture discusses the material turn in anthropology. It focuses on the ways this turn influenced the study of religion, including such topics as mediation and the senses.
  • The Power of Words: Ritual and Language
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking attendance
  • non-blocking project essay
  • non-blocking final essay exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.5 * final essay exam + 0.5 * project essay
Bibliography

Bibliography

Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Belton, P. (2018). Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger : An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Macat Library. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1723201

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Ushakin, S. (2009). The Patriotism of Despair : Nation, War, and Loss in Russia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=2183689