Faculty of Arts

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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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, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Arts
Organisational UnitAnthropology
OfferedNot offered in 2014


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
  2. read written sources and view visual material critically
  3. assess their own preconceived ideas about what witchcraft is
  4. 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.

Chief examiner(s)


Workload requirements

2 hour seminar

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


Either ATS2374 or ATS3374 but not both