ANTH 5: Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion

Choose one of the following topics to research throughout the semester. You will write two papers about your topic.


1) What can a life history tell you about someone’s religious or spiritual path?

Conduct four interviews (about one hour each, over the course of the semester)

About how their religious/spiritual practices/beliefs have changed throughout the course of their life. Pick someone you think has an interesting take on life and would enjoy discussing this topic in detail with you. Record your interviews so you can study and transcribe parts of them later. You can choose to interview one person several times or two different people. Be sure to use the ethnographic style of life history interviewing we discussed and practiced in class.

2) How do rituals and ceremonies build a culturally specific sense of community?

Attend a ceremony and conduct several semi-formal interviews with at least three

Of the ritual .For example, you might attend a church service, rite of passage (bar mitzvah, wedding, funeral, etc.), or an event with a spiritual theme (an AA meeting, performance event, etc.). Be sure to practice your skills as a participant observer and take careful notes

On everything you observe.

3) What kinds of beliefs do people have about the relationship between gender roles and religious/spiritual practices and beliefs?

Conduct four to eight ethnographic interviews (thirty minutes to one hour each, over the course of the semester) on topics related to gender and religion/spirituality. You can also attend one or two events and focus on the gendered aspects of the ritual: are there specific roles for women or men?; does the language used in the ritual evoke a gendered narrative? Etc. Write out a list of ten

Questions you hope to discuss during your interviews. For example, you might ask parents to discuss expectations for their children who are being raised in a particular religious tradition. You might ask how someone’s spirituality makes a difference in their work environment. How do your interviewees put their ideas about gender and religion into practice?

4) How do people create social change through their religious or spiritual practices?

Pick a group of people who are conscious about the links between social justice and religion/spirituality. Conduct four hours of ethnographic interviews with three or more group members (over the course of the semester)—how they started, what they do, their visions for the future, etc. You can also choose to attend one or two rituals geared toward raising consciousness about social justice issues. Conduct semi-formal interviews with event participants as well as people organizing the event. This could be an art event, performance, rally, fellowship meeting, etc. What is the purpose of the event? Who is participating? Who is not participating? What sorts of social change did the event address or accomplish?




Sample Solution