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Unit information: Religion and Material Culture in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Religion and Material Culture
Unit code ARCH20054
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Langer
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

none

Co-requisites

none

School/department Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

This unit is co-taught with THRS20096 Religion and Material Culture.

Temples, prayer beads, icons, robes, books, relics, candles and incense, scarves and hats, sacred food and holy water - objects of all sorts play a prominent role in all religions, evoking a wide range of emotional responses, from reverence, solace and even ecstasy, to fear, hostility and violence. Surprisingly, specialists in religious studies have been slow to recognize the importance of material culture to religion, though scholarship in this area has recently begun to emerge. In this unit, we will adopt a comparative approach, drawing on a variety of traditions to examine the place of food, clothing, ritual objects, architecture and relics in religious thought and practice. A Field work element will give students hands-on experience and a range of practical and transferable skills, such as effective communication, presentation, negotiation and teamwork.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have: (1) developed a critical and scholarly understanding of the role of material culture in religion; (2) developed a thorough and hands-on understanding of the methods and value of fieldwork for religious studies and an appreciation for the value of extant artefacts for understanding religion past and present; (3) demonstrated an ability to critically analyse and explain the broad significance of the place of food, clothing, architecture and icons in the history of religion; (4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument.

Teaching details

20 hours (lecture/seminar/fieldwork)

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 2500 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours (50%).

Both the exam and essay will assess (1) students’ knowledge and critical understanding of the of the role of material culture in religion; (2) the student’s understanding of the methods and value of fieldwork for religious studies and an appreciation for the value of extant artefacts for understanding religion past and present. The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILOs (3) and (4).

Reading and References

• Colleen McDannell, Material Christianity. Religion and Popular Culture in America (Yale, 1998). • David Morgan, Visual Piety. A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images (University of California, 1999). • David Morgan, Religion and Material Culture. The Matter of Belief (Routledge, 2009). • John Kieschnick, The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture (Princeton, 2003). • S. Brent Plate, Religion, Art and Visual Culture. A Cross-Cultural Reader (Palgrave, 2002).

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