Spring 2011 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Riccio, Thomas
Discipline and Number
HUAS 7340 Section 001
F Time 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Course Title
Shamans, Healers, and Diviners

Description of Course:


This course is an introduction to the animistic spiritual belief systems that include shamans, healers, and diviners. The first part of the course will examine, from a cross-cultural and multidisciplinary perspective, the form and function of shamans, healers and diviners from a cultural, social, historical, and performance perspective as to provide an overview of concepts, contexts, and range of practices. A comparative and structural examination of shamanism, and its ancillary functions of healing and divination, will identify origins, processes and evolution as a spiritual practice and its central function of defining and maintaining spiritual, social and cultural order and continuity.

The second part will examine more specifically how shamans function and perform as intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Within this role Shamans function as healers of both physical and spiritual illness. Case studies in varied cultural settings will examine in detail the various processes and methods of the shamanism as a technology for the restoration of balance and wholeness for the individual, community, and human-spiritual worlds.

Using specific examples from the instructor’s fieldwork in Siberia, Africa, Alaska, China, and Korea, the course will identify and explore the common attributes of shamanism, healing, and divination, and how various expressions have been shaped by practical need, place, deep ecology, and the imagination. The course will conclude with an exploration of how shamanism—its expressions, techniques, symbols, and mythologies—has been transformed and thrives and is varously expressed in the contemporary world.

Required Texts:

1. Animism: Respecting the Living World, Graham Harvey, Columbia Univ. Press
2. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abram, Pantheon
3. Shamanism: Archaic Technique of Ecstasy, Mircea Eliade, Princeton
4. African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing, Phillip Peek (ed.), Indiana Univ. Press
5. The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History, Terence Mckenna
6. Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life, Laurel Kendall, Hawaii Univ. Press

Additional Material on library/electronic reserve.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Completion of reading assignments prior to class discussion
• Four typed, double spaced, 3 page response/analysis papers
(topics to be assigned)
• One 20-25 page (minimum) research project on an approved subject
• Class participation & Attendance

© The University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts and Humanities.
No part of this website can be copied or reproduced without permisssion.