This course explores magic, science, and religion as systems of explaining and controlling events. How do these belief systems develop, evolve, and function in the practice of everyday life? While magic, science, and religion may seem like stable domains, we examine how the meaning of these categories shifts over time and across contexts, so much so that the difference between them often seems to break down altogether. By focusing on cross-cultural differences in systems of belief, we raise fundamental questions about human nature itself, and the basic human need to interpret and influence events. Students will explore key debates in social scientific (particularly anthropological) research on magic, science, and religion, and conduct their own original research projects involving first-hand observations of magical, scientific, and religious practices.

Alastair Gornall