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ANY2180 - Witchcraft in the modern world

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader(s): Nicholas Herriman


Clayton First semester 2009 (Day)


This unit presents witchcraft as a topic integral to the anthropology of religion, relevant both to earlier generations of scholars attempting to study religion objectively and to present-day scholars exploring witchcraft as a cultural phenomenon in the industrialised West. In this unit, students approach the study of witchcraft from both angles, asking: Why have narratives of witchcraft circulated so successfully in different cultural contexts for long historical periods? In what ways do pagan groups borrow from mainstream ideologies and practices, and in what ways subvert them? How can anthropologists investigate the interplay between religious practices and their representations?


After successfully completing this unit, students in ANY2180 will be able to:
a. discuss the development of anthropological theories of religion through the lens of ethnographic work on witchcraft b. identify key definitions of witchcraft in the anthropological canon, and discuss their relevance to studies of modern neopagan religious movements c. discuss the emerging ethnography of modern neopagan religious movements d. use specific case studies to evaluate the validity of generalisations about witchcraft
Aims: Students are expected to develop their abilities to:

  1. use analytic and interpretive skills in dealing with ethnographic accounts ii. read written sources and view visual material critically
  2. assess their own preconceived ideas about what witchcraft is vi. present logical, coherent arguments both orally and in writing


Participation : 10%
In-class exam (1000) : 20%
Research essay 1 (1500) : 30%
Research essay 2 (2000) : 40%
Students taking the unit at Level 3 as part of a major in Anthropology will be required in their essays to show how the literature on witchcraft has contributed to broader developments in anthropological theory.

Contact hours

2 hour seminar


Either ANY2180 or ANY3180 but not both

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