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PPR.361: Spirit Possession in Social Contexts

Tutor: Dr Andrew Dawson
Term: Michaelmas

Course Description

•Complemented by film/video footage, the module surveys and examines the main themes, debates and approaches to ritualised spirit possession in a variety of social contexts. It also engages established social processes and emerging trends as they are expressed through a range of spirit possession motifs, repertoires and paradigms. The module encourages students to develop an analytical and interpretative framework for understanding beliefs, concrete practices and ongoing transformations concerning ritualised spirit-possession.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Discuss key concepts, topics and debates associated with academic treatments of spirit possession as expressed through a variety of social contexts;
  • Employ a variety of theoretical and practical methods commonly used in the academic study of spirit possession;
  • Use appropriate resources to formulate a coherent argument that takes account of divergent opinions and their implications for the academic study of ritualised spirit possession;
  • Use a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information and to reach informed conclusions arising from that analysis;
  • Communicate effectively information, arguments and analysis and deploy relevant techniques of learning effectively.


40% coursework and 60% exam.

Coursework: 1 essay of 3000 words.  Exam: 2 hours.

Teaching Method:    

Lecture and seminar (one single 3 hour block each week,
 including lecture, dvds, group discussion and seminar readings)

Introductory Reading:

Dawson, A              Summoning the Spirits: Possession and Invocation in Contemporary Religion
Lewis, I M               Ecstatic Religion.

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