for future record – or if you are also a teacher interested in teaching anthropology of witchcraft – i’ve posted my syllabus below.
This course introduces students to both historical and contemporary debates in cultural anthropology over what is conventionally known as magic, witchcraft and sorcery. However, whereas traditionally anthropologists – coming from the West – sketched these belief systems as separate and more backward than “modern” ideologies, this experimental course will attempt to bridge both arenas, offering instead that an anthropological approach to the key concepts of Western thought, such as rationality, science and medicine is just as vital – and tenuous – to cultural creativity as magic. This class takes as its core analytic concept, then, that rather than distinguishing between these systems, we must see how they all foreground the body, including race and class, in what we assume to be merely religious, or old-fashioned superstition.
This course tacks, therefore, into two paths that may be different from a traditional anthropology course: first, we emphasize contemporary anthropological texts alongside old ones in order to analyze not just what they say, but how they were written (a reflection on anthropology itself). Second, it intends to call into question key assumptions built into our own cultural context by tying together work in different realms, hoping that through a class that questions everything, students will be encouraged to make creative connections between cultural theories and current social, political, and economic issues in order to better understand—and influence—the world around us and the peoples that occupy it.
Download syllabus in PDF here.