Anthropology of Religion

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Frölander-Ulf
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1540
End: 1655
Field Work: Day 1 | Japan
Prerequisites: None or one or two social science and/or philosophy courses Download Syllabus

This course introduces a cross-cultural analysis of religion with a special emphasis on religious systems of indigenous societies. We study symbolic systems, rituals, religious organization, leadership, and religious change through functionalist, structural, and ecological and other materialist theoretical frameworks. The material illuminates the complex relationship between religious beliefs and practices, as well as the relationship between societal organizations and systems of religious thought and behavior. We strive to deepen our understanding of, and co-existence with, philosophies different from our own and to contemplate the role of religious thought and behavior in our own society and/or personal life.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 1

In this field lab, we visit a Zen Buddhist temple, Kencho-ji in the city of Kamakura, one of the main centers of Zen practice in Japan since the 13th century. Kencho-ji is the headquarters of the Rinzai sect and Japan’s oldest Zen training monastery. We will receive a short introduction to Zen practice and participate in a session of zazen sitting and walking meditation for approximately three hours. After exploring the exquisite temple complex, we gather to discuss the experience over dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Academic Objectives: 1. This field lab gives you ample opportunity to relate the day's experiences to a variety of course topics. You may wish to contemplate whether Zen Buddhism is indeed a religion or study, for example, the effects of meditation on one’s consciousness, or the purpose of meditation in the Zen tradition. You may choose to investigate the concept of sacred space and sacred place, the relationship between Zen Buddhist beliefs and the ‘natural’ environment, the gendered aspects of the Zen tradition, the symbols found in Zen temples, and/or the changes that have occurred in Zen Buddhist beliefs and practices. 2. The field lab also provides a great opportunity to develop your observational, note-taking, analytical, writing, and speaking skills.

3. You will be organized into sets of field research teams, submit a jointly written paper (4-5 pages) and present a brief report on your findings in class.  You are expected to participate fully in all of the day's events.