Anthropology of Ritual Assignments – learning from the class


Joy Hendry


Department of Anthropology and Geography. SSL


Weekly practice, as well as two new forms of assessment, introduced into the module Anthropology of Ritual last year, allowed students to draw on and share their own experiences from a variety of different cultural backgrounds.


The students on the module were divided into groups of between 6 and 10, and they met each week to share ideas about their own experiences, as well as their reading, and then one member would report on their discussions to the whole class. At the end of semester, each group “performed” and interpreted a ritual of their choice as part of the assessment.


To allow students from a range of different countries and cultural background within this country to share their own experiences of rituals in which they had taken part, and therefore generally to add their own prior knowledge to the learning experience.


A module in which ritual is anyway looked at from different cultural perspectives, previously drawing on the written work of anthropologists, but in this case allowing students to share their own varied experiences as well.


Many of the students brought examples of their involvement in family rituals, such as weddings or funerals, but there were also a number of examples taken from different religious practice, and even international differences in the practice of a single religion


The feedback from the students was mostly very positive, especially about the sharing of experience and ideas, although I need to make clearer that the Ritual Review, which was one piece of assessed work, also needs some anthropological interpretation! The performance produced great results.

Other comments

The previous module leader came to give a lecture in the last meeting, when the performances took place, and commented that the students demonstrated a greater acquisition of knowledge about the subject than in the exams she had set.

Further information

Happy to share any details about this. Contact