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RT1215: Emotions, Symbols & Rituals - 20 credits (RT1215)

Module Tutor: Dr Louise Child

Summary of course content

Drawing From the anthropology of religion, this module uses films and texts to explore the nature of emotions within the individual and society.  Using examples from a number of cultures, including those of Aboriginal Australia, the Amazon, and Africa, it suggests ways in which horror, laughter, anger and love are expressed and shaped through symbolism.  Rites of passage, surrounding birth, marriage, initiation and death are explored, highlighting their engagement with the relationship between emotions, symbols and the body.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: None

Necessary for: N/A


To introduce students to ideas and arguments used by scholars working in the anthropology of religion.

To facilitate engagement with anthropological and contemporary film and scholarship about these films.

Learning outcomes

Identify and evaluate key debates in the anthropology of religion.

Apply (verbally and in writing) these debates to a scholarly discussion about a number of religious traditions

Critically assess the role of various religious traditions in shaping gendered identities

Analyses film sequences in the context of scholarly debates

Teaching methods

Lectures, Seminars, Film Analysis


A portfolio of two essays, each of which is approx 3,000 words in length

Suggested book purchases

Bowie, F. (2000) The Anthropology of Religion: an introduction.

Suggested preparatory reading

Banks, M. & Morphy, H. (eds) (1997) Rethinking Visual Anthropology.

Gilmore, D. (1990) Manhood in the Making: cultural concepts of masculinity.

Grimshaw, A. (2001) The Ethnographer’s Eye: ways of seeing in modern anthropology.

Harvey, G. (ed) (2000) Indigenous Religions: a companion.

Kulick, D. & Wilson, M. (eds) (1995) Taboo: sex, identity and erotic subjectivity in anthropological fieldwork.

Ray, B.C. (2000) African Religions: symbol, ritual and community.

Turner, V. (1988) The Anthropology of Performance

Primary sources

Ethnographic scholarship: e.g.

Bell, D. (1983) Daughters of the Dreaming.

Briggs, J. (1970) Never in Anger: portrait of an Eskimo family.

Lutz, C.A. (1988) Unnatural Emotions: everyday sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and their challenge to western theory.

Films and television:

Lins, M., Lins, L. & Lins, P. (2002) City of Men.

Singer, A. The Strangers Abroad Series, especially,
Off the Verandah, and Strange Beliefs.

Whedon, J. (2000) Buffy the Vampire Slayer