Body & Soul. Subjectivity and sociality

Course content

How are ideas about body and soul articulated in religious ideas and rituals, as well as in social imaginations and philosophical ideas within different social and cultural contexts? The course will work with texts on what after Marcel Mauss has been termed the category of the person, and it will pursue ideas about the divide – or un-divide - between body and soul in different cultural contexts and historical periods. An ethnographic core of the course will be the Brazilian religion Candomblé and its derivatives, and it will rely on texts with topics ranging from African ideas about the person to the contemporary Candomblé and further on to the Christian tradition as for instance reflected in Pentecostalism. Texts on Western ideas about body and soul in a historical light with emphasis on European philosophical ideas and Christianity, including ideas about authenticity as elaborated in Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s work, will also be included.

The course will thus provide an opportunity to discuss what Webb Keane has called a depth ontology, and in a broader sense how the interiority orientation that has been said to characterize post-Lutheran Christianity relates to ideas about the human body.

The course should be of interest to students who intend to work with anthropological approaches to subjectivity with a phenomenological inspired focus on the body, but it will also deal with sociality in a perspective that relies on a performance approach. And since religion and ritual will be the ethnographic core of the course, it can also be regarded as an advanced course in the anthropology of religion.

Learning outcome


  • have knowledge about philosophical ideas that concern the human subject and knowledge about how ideas about body and soul are reflected in texts on religion and ritual.



  • being able to reflect critically upon understandings of subjectivity in different cultural contexts and manage the reading of texts on religion in a comparative light.



  • have the ability to write good quality academic texts on subjectivity and religious beliefs in a comparative light.

Lectures, groups work, and student presentations

BSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature.

MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature + 200 pages of literature chosen by students. Literature chosen by students must be relevant to the course’s subject matter.

Course literature will be available via Absalon

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)

Written feedback on portfolios and final exam essay, if needed supplemented with oral feed back

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Essay length: 21,600–26,400 keystrokes for an individual submission. 6,750–8,250 keystrokes per extra member for group submissions. The maximum number of students who can write an essay in a group is four.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 37
  • Preparation
  • 84
  • Practical exercises
  • 44
  • English
  • 207