Anthropology of Religion

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Six
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 1 - Wednesday, 8 October | Morocco Download Syllabus

Religion is a powerful force in our everyday lives. This course examines the primary components shared by all faiths including: creations myths and stories; concepts of the divine; lifecycle- and calendar-based rituals; sacred spaces, objects, texts and individuals; as well as a religion’s ultimate outcomes (what’s in it for the true believer). By comparing religions and sacred practices cross-culturally we will come to better comprehend the true function of religious structure. Whether influenced directly (as a devotee) or indirectly through religious based acts of governance, this course examines the role of religion in orientating and controlling human behavior – including how religious dogma influences the actions of nations across the global stage. In today’s rapidly shrinking world, it is essential to have a basic understanding of how this powerful force has the ability to both unite and divide humanity. This course will provide field opportunities to tour important religious and sacred sites of the countries we will be visiting.

Field Work

Country: Morocco
Day: 1 - Wednesday, 8 October

Over 50% of the people on the planet are followers of three religions based on the common belief they are descendants of Abraham.  They are, in chronological order of appearance: Judaism; Christianity and Islam.  Although, peripherally, Abrahamic religions are monotheistic with roots in the Middle East based on a shared belief in a common spiritual “father,” their foundational beliefs are very different.  For example, the belief the resurrection of Jesus – which figures prominently in Christianity – is not embraced by Judaism or Islam.  Just as the prophetic (Mohammad) and messianic (Jesus) beliefs of Islam and Christianity are not shared by Judaism.  In Casablanca we will be visiting three sacred sites – each associated with an Abrahamic religion.  The earliest of these is the CathedralSacré-Cœur de Casablanca, church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Built in 1930, it is a former Roman Catholic church that was intended to be a cathedral but in actuality was never the seat of a bishop.  The Cathedral Sacré-Cœur de Casablanca ceased its religious function in 1956 after the independence of Morocco from French and Spanish protectorates. We will also be visiting the Grande Mosquée Hassan II- the seventh largest mosque in the world.  Build by King Hassan II to honor King Mohammed V after his death in 1961, the massive structure was inaugurated on the 11th Rabi` al-thani of the year 1414 of the Hegria (August 30, 1993) marking the eve of Prophet Mohammad’s Birth and can accommodate up to 80,000 devotees.  Finally we will also be touring the Museum of Moroccan Judaism – one of the only institutions of its kind in the Arab world.  Founded in 1997, the Jewish Museum as it is commonly known, was built on the site of a demolished Jewish orphanage and is homage to 2,000 years of Judaism in Morocco and features photos of synagogues and objects of Jewish-Moroccan cultural heritage.  Today Morocco has about 3,000 Jews – approximately one tenth of its historic population. Academic Objectives:

  1. To provide students with an opportunity to visit important Abrahamic religious structures, art and iconography
  2. To challenge students to think critically about what each structure is “saying” about its religion and place in society
  3. To explore commonalities and differences between three competing religions via their reified, architectural expression