Religious Studies | Religion and Magic
R780 | 27366 | Campany


Neither “magic” nor “religion” is a natural, given thing found in
the world.  Rather, these terms are historically contingent and
culturally relative, denoting categories of discourse produced in
the West over many centuries.  Moreover, particularly as a byproduct
of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, “magic”
and “religion” have usually been defined in contrast to one
another.  This seminar will proceed in three phases.  We will begin
by examining the histories of both of these categories in Western
discourse, particularly as they have been entangled with each
other.  We will also pause to consider possibly analogous categories
and binary oppositions in other cultures, including late classical
and early medieval China.  In the second phase, we will closely read
and discuss some exemplary studies of instances of “magic” at the
intersection with religion in various cultural and historical
settings, attending not only to the practices and their implicit
logics and principles of action but also to the worldviews
underlying the practices, to the social roles of practitioners and
clients, to relations with “religious” traditions, and to the
functions of “magic” in people’s lives.  In this way we will
simultaneously study particular “magical” practices in their social
and cultural settings and study how scholars have gone about
studying them.  The seminar’s culminant phase will center on the
presentation and discussion of research projects:  each student,
having prepared his or her own paper on materials from an area of
the world in which he or she has expertise, will introduce it to the
seminar for critical feedback.

700-level credit is available for those students who wish it,
provided that the appropriate primary and secondary languages are
used in the research project.