Fall 2016 - SA 322 D100

Religion and Society (SA) (4)

Class Number: 3480

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2016: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Matthew Guffin
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of the relations between religion and the social environment. Consideration will be given to classical theoretical debates in the anthropology and sociology of religion. Specific topics vary from year to year, and may include: religion in personhood and communities; religion, gender, ethnicity and social class; secularization and secularism; the role of religion in political mobilizations; interreligious relations; religious freedom and citizenship.


This course focuses on the role of religion in the contemporary world. Among other topics, we will be exploring the ways religion becomes more mobile in an era of increasing global migration as well as ways that many people look to religion for a sense of both spiritual and spatial rootedness. We will also consider various ways that religious institutions and practitioners incorporate new technologies in order to express and spread their faiths. Throughout the course, we will consider religions as thoroughly modern phenomena that are important in shaping the world as we know it. An important component of the course will be a modest ethnographic project that you will conduct throughout the term, focusing on a ritual community, space, or practice that you are unfamiliar with. In conducting your project, you will learn more about how religion and/or ritual helps shape people’s lives today and will develop skills in conducting ethnographic research and analyzing the results. Another goal of this course is to develop a deeper understanding of the important roles religion plays in our contemporary global context. We approach this project as partners, and we will be insightful and generous critics to the
material and each other.


  • Class Participation and Attendance: 20%
  • Weekly Reading Responses: 20%
  • Ethnographic Project Proposal: 5%
  • Initial Field Notes/Interviews Write-up: 10%
  • Theoretical Framework: 15%
  • Final Project: 30%


Grades in this class will be based on a percentage scale. Reading responses will not be accepted after 1:00 p.m. the Saturday before class; late submissions for other assignments will result in a grade reduction of 5 percentage points per day, unless you present documentation for a medical reason or other significant emergency. With the exception of reading responses, all graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.


Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01– S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



Peña, Elaine A. 2011. Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hirshkind, Charles. 2006. The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: Columbia University Press.

Both books are available on reserve at Fraser Library at SFU’s Surrey campus. Both are also available electronically through SFU’s online library system.

Additional required readings are available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online as noted.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html