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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 Undergraduate - Unit

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Arts
OfferedNot offered in 2011
Coordinator(s)Matt Tomlinson


Previously coded ANY2180


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 ATS2374 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

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study

Religion and theology


Either ATS2374 or ATS3374 but not both