So I found out yesterday that my class for the spring should be a go! I’m about to order some ethnographies to read through that I might want to use, as well as text-books to evaluate. Since I know some of you who read this are in college right now, and others went; I have decided to get some advice from you all. You can be guinea pig students 🙂 Official professional disclaimer: this post about my class is for feedback and planning purposes only. I have no intention to blog about the class, student’s, etc . . . I’m no fool 🙂
The class is “The Anthropology of Religion and Magic.” So what I want to know, if you were to take this class (heck some of you might have), what would you expect to learn about in it? Now for some who might not be familiar with anthropology, it’s the study of human culture, past and present. It’s heavily focused on the “other,” usually with cultural anthropology this means non-western cultures. However in later years this had been relaxed and many anthropologists study sub-cultures here at home. With this said, the major religions like Christianity, Islam, Hindu, etc are not going to be the focus of this class. It’s going to be the other, aka “the exotic.”
Now the focus of the class, from the description, is just what I stated above; a focus on magic and religion in “primitive” non-western cultures. I’m sure it’s an older description on the books for awhile tough. I’ve been told I can choose to teach what I want, there aren’t restrictions. My plan is to keep a heavy focus on this with a text book that covers the basics (shamanism, trance states, totems) and uses ethnographic examples to illustrate them. I’m adding a healthy dose of archaeology to all the examples though, to give them a foundation of how ancient a lot of these practices are. Finally to bring it home, I plan to challenge them to realize these ideas aren’t “primitive” and even in our civilized western culture you can find examples (good luck charms, horoscopes, etc).
So far I have the following planned to do for sure . . . .
– VooDoo –
Probable ethnography: Mama Lola (A VooDoo Priestess in Brooklyn)
Alternate: Traditional ethnography on Haiti
To Lecture On: New Orleans, Marie Laveau, history of VooDoo
Film (may be optional extra credit): Serpent and the Rainbow (with possible report on comparing and contrasting the film version of VooDoo with what they’ve learned in class)
Probable ethnography: Neo-Paganism in America (study of a group of witches in San Francisco)
Class Lecture/Video Segments: Accusations of Witchcraft in America (contrasting the Salem Witch Trials with the Anasazi (Native Americans))
Film (again possible extra credit): The Craft (with possible report on comparing and contrasting the film version of Wicca with what they’ve learned in class)
A lecture on superstitions, their origins, origins of popular ones. To facilitate a class discussion to get students involved talking about their own beliefs in superstitions, to show them how many in fact originate with fears of death and evil spirits.
Film/Film Segments: ??? I know there are films out there about bad luck and stuff, I’m sure Jim Carey made one.
-A Healthy Dose of Death-
Haven’t given this one too much thought yet. Definitely a focus on different burial rites, the belief and fear of spirits and ghosts, exorcism.
Film/Film Segments: Oh “The Exorcist” for sure, “Poltergeist.”
Okay now with all that intro, what would you as a possible student expect to get out of this class or hope to learn subject wise that I haven’t listed? Or given the few things I’ve listed; suggestions ?