Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Anthropology 298. Experimental Courses

The Anthropology of Islam

The anthropological study of Islam shows that the forms of religious life and their meanings vary widely. This course provides an historical and ethnographic examination of Islam through time and across space: it will historicize Islam as a world religion and situate Muslims in the contexts of their own cultural traditions. The overall aim of the course is to introduce students to the people and cultures of the Muslim world and to understand what holds the Muslim world together, the commonalities of Muslim religious experience across cultures, and Islam’s varied social and Sunni, Shi’a and Sufi (Islamic Mysticism) religious manifestations. We will make use of a mixture of ethnographies, biographies, autobiographies, and artistic expressions (poetry, comedy, as well as visual arts) by and about Muslims in order to capture the historical and contemporary diversity of Islam and the Muslim world. The course appeals to anthropology, religious studies, history, and political science majors and does not require previous knowledge of the topic.


Pilgrimage in South Asia

This course will use the spiritual journeys of pilgrims as a lens through which to understand the diversity of religious practices and beliefs, ethnicities, and cultures in South Asia and the ways that they interact in shaping peoples’ understandings of the sacred places they seek. It will also explore why people feel compelled to endure what is often extraordinary hardship entailing considerable expense to join massive crowds in devotional travel and attempt to comprehend what they experience in the process. These pilgrimages range from largest gathering of humanity in the world at the Kumbh Mela, to the arduous journey to the cave shrine of Amarnath, located at an altitude of over 12,000 feet in Jammu-Kashmir, to travel to remote lesser known “power places” in Nepal and Bhutan.


Archaeology of Bronze Age Greece

The Bronze Age sites of Troy in Turkey, Knossos on Crete and Mycenae on the Greek mainland are steeped in myth. These were some of the places associated with the fabled Trojan War and its heroes, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Helen, Achilles and Hector of Homer’s Iliad fame, and the home of the Minotaur, the labyrinth of King Minos, and the hero Theseus. But they were also real, prehistoric places around which great societies grew. In this class, students will spend much of the semester investigating the artistic and archaeological remains of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations of the Bronze Age, and their precursors (3000 to c. 1100 B.C.). We will look at the material culture from various sites (statuary, pottery, architecture, metal wares, etc.) and the interactions they had with other civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt, Anatolia, the Levant) and Mesopotamia. We will also try to piece together the reasons that these civilizations collapsed during the end of the 12th century B.C.
Prerequisite for three-week, faculty-led summer course in Greece: Of Minoans and Mycenaeans.

Alex Trayford