Anthropology and Sociology of Religion

Firmly grounded in an approach that treats the study of social structures and culture as interrelated, the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion (ASR) area’s major questions revolve around topics like the following: What is the role played by religious actors and institutions in a given social/cultural setting? What is the contribution of religious practice in the legitimation or contestation of authority? How are domains of religious interests socially and culturally configured? How do religious commitments impact processes of social transformation and how are they in turn impacted by them? How do religious disciplines contribute to the shaping of particular affects, sensibilities, and virtues?


Hussein Ali Agrama, Alireza Doostdar, Omar M. McRoberts

Anthropology and Sociology of Religion brief area overview (pdf)

The ASR area studies religious phenomena as social and cultural facts and constructs, which can be apprehended through textual sources or through the ethnography of contemporary social settings, or through a combination of both methods. Increasingly, research in the ASR area is attendant to processes of mediation – including those that involve new technologies of representation, communication, and self-care – and to trans-local flows that connect religious communities beyond social, temporal, and geographic boundaries, even as they produce new forms of difference and constraint.

Students establish a foundation in both classical and theoretical perspectives in the study of religion, from the early 19th century to the present.  The study of the transformation of religious groups and ideas in various historical contexts is also essential preparation for research in this discipline.  Students are encouraged to be in conversation with the anthropological and sociological approaches to religion from the discipline's evolutionist beginnings to contemporary research.


Progress Conference format

The progress (or pre-exam) conference is normally held in the spring quarter of the second year, or the fall of the third year.  In Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, the progress conference is held with the student's panel of examiners for the qualifying examinations, and will normally include assessment of coursework to date, cogency of the course of study petition, readiness for qualifying examinations, and development of the dissertation project. A report from the advisor and a timeline for the qualifying examinations is submitted to the Dean of Students following the conference. 


Written Examinations
Students are required to take two exams in the area, and two exams in other areas of the Divinity School, chosen in consultation with their advisor.
ASR offers six examinations. ASR1 and ASR2 assess the ways in which “religion” as an analytical concept has been defined and theorized in anthropological and sociological literature. The first exam focuses on classical theoretical perspectives on religion from the early 19th to the mid 20th century; the second examines theories from the middle of the 20th century to the present. ASR3 addresses the formation and transformation of religious groups and ideas in the contexts of colonialism, post-colonialism and globalization. ASR4 focuses on theorizing the relationship between Islam and power in sociology, anthropology as well as political science. ASR5 explores different religious visions of history, like utopianism, millenarianism, messianism, and fundamentalism. ASR6 focuses on French sociology and anthropology of religion.
ASR1 Classical Theories view exam bibliography (pdf)
ASR2 Contemporary Theories view exam bibliography (pdf)
ASR3 From Colonialism to Globalization view exam bibliography (pdf)
ASR4 Modern Islam and Power view exam bibliography (pdf)
ASR5 Religious Ideologies and Utopias
ASR6 French Sociology and Anthropology of Religion


Selected Anthropology and Sociology of Religion Courses
AASR 30501 Magic, Science and Religion. Doostdar
AASR 33600 The Anthropology of Religion. Doostdar
AASR 41600 Interpretation of Ritual. Lincoln
AASR 43800 Modern Enchantments:  The Occult, the Paranormal and the Extraterrestrial. Doostdar
AASR 50500 Sociology of Religion in Urban Contexts. Staff
SOCI 40112 Ethnographic Methods. McRoberts
SOCI 30104 Urban Structure and Process. McRoberts