While explaining religion has been central to social anthropology from its beginnings, it has also become a focal topic of theoretical interest and empirical investigation in recent naturalistic approaches to the origins and social transmission of cumulative cultural knowledge. The course will explore and contrast different conceptual frameworks, methodological commitments and empirical traditions that underlie anthropological approaches to religion and ritual versus naturalistic approaches that attempt to explain religion by means of cognitive and developmental methodologies and cross-cultural experimental research. We shall examine the theoretical tensions and controversies that often characterize these alternative approaches while also providing an overview of newly emerging convergences and the growing scope for fruitful dialogue and methodological integration. As ritual practices and religious beliefs are arguably universal features of human culture, an interdisciplinary study can lend rich insights into the social and psychological mechanisms that shape their evolution and transmission.
Venue: Oktober 6 street 7, 1st floor, room 103.