Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas

Anthropology of Religion - 1st semester



Academic unit

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas





Teacher in charge

Sónia Sofia de Sousa Alves Ferreira

Weekly hours


Teaching language



This course gives the panorama of the different anthropological approaches on religion and ritual, focusing on perspectives such as the functional relation between religion and social organization (Durkheim, Mauss, Malinowski, Radcliffe Brown), the ones that stress its semiotic and symbolic analysis (Lévi-Strauss, Leach), the ones which emphasize the dramatic and performative functions of religion and ritual (Leach, V. Turner, E. Turner, Tambiah, M. Bloch), the ones that concentrate in the expressive dimensions of visions or theorizations about the world, cosmological, lived or dreamt (Geertz), and the more recent phenomena of interaction between religion, globalization and modernity (Capone,
Oro, Frijerio, Argyardis).
The objective is that the students acquire:
*In-depth knowledge of the basic concepts
*In depth knowledge of the most relevant authors
*development of their capacity for analysis, critique and debate of essential texts, through participation and discussion in class



Subject matter

1) Anthropology of religion: introduction and contents. From the classics to the new perspectives. Universality and functions of religion;
communication with the supernatural; magic, science and religion; religion, adaptation and revitalization.
2) History of religions and religious identities. Visions and theorizations of the world and of religion in different ethnographic contexts: from
Portuguese pilgrimages to the irã cult in Guinea-Bissau.
3)Symbolic classification; myth, ritual, pollution, taboo
4) The role of religion and of religious specialists—shamans, priests and prophets; symbolic efficacy
5) Performance and ritual: rites of passage and the performative dimensions of religion
6)Witchcraft and the evil eye; demons, exorcism; trance and divination
7)The body, therapeutic cults and the religious use of drugs; ethno medicine
8) Death, spirits and the cult of the ancestors
9) Dynamics and religious revitalization in today´s world. Migration and transnational religions


• BERLINER, D.; SARRÓ, R. 2007 Learning Religion. Anthropological Approaches, New York, Berghan Books.
• DOUGLAS, Mary 1972 “ Pollution” in Reader in Comparative Religion, Lessa, W. and Vogt, E. (eds.) 1972 New York, Harper and Row.
• GEERTZ, Clifford 1978 “A religião como sistema cultural”, A interpretação das culturas, Rio de Janeiro, Zahar.
• LAMBEK, Michael 2002 A reader in the Anthropology of religion, London, Blackwell.
• LEHMANN, A.; MYERS, J. 1985 Magic, witchcraft and religion. An anthropological study of the Supernatural, Mayfield Publishing Company,
Mountain View.
• LESSA, W.; VOGT, Evon 1972 Reader in Comparative religion. An Anthropological approach, Harper &Row Publishers, New York.
• LÉVI-STRAUSS, Claude 1974, “L´efficacité symbolique”, Anthropologie Structurale I, Paris, Plon.
• MALINOSWSKI, Bronislaw 1988 “Magia, Ciência e Religião, Lisboa, Edições 70.
• *TURNER, Victor 1967 The forest of symbols, Ithaca, Cornell, University Press.

Teaching method

*lectures (by the professor)
*debates for the analysis of themes presented in the lectures
*oral presentation of texts selected by the students, organized in working groups (2 persons), followed by debate
*viewing of audio-visual materials

Evaluation method

Continuous evaluation:
Evaluation of students´active participation in class and quality of oral group presentation as well as daily debate related to the selected bibliography (20%)
Evaluation of 4 individual reports one of them to be done in class as a mini-test (20%)
Final test (60%) (minimum of 8 points to be exempted from the final exam)
Evaluation of student-workers who cannot attend and participate actively in the classes: final exam (100%)