• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Cultural Studies, History, Pacific Studies, Asia-Pacific Studies
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

What is ritual? How does it work, and what real-world effects does it have? This course examines rituals, both religious and secular, in Asian and Pacific societies across a range of contexts. We examine traditional, modern, Indigenous and non-Indigenous rituals, always keeping local and global influences in view. Special attention is paid to the ritual conjunction of religion and politics: how social orders and political authority are made sacred, or challenged in the name of higher powers. What, ultimately, does ritual accomplish that other forms of social action do not?

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate effective critical knowledge of what ritual is and a critical understanding of how it works

2. Analyse the conjunction and contestation of religious and political authority in ritual

3. Critically examine debates about the effectiveness of ritual.

4. Critically utilise case studies when arguing analytical points in writing.

5. Display expert writing skills in the style of a refereed academic journal article and presenting in the style of a professional conference presentation

Other Information

This is a co-taught course. Any cap on enrolments in one course applies to both courses combined.

Indicative Assessment

Tutorial Presentation 5% 1,2,3,4,5 
Essay 1 35% 2000 words 1,2,3,4,5
Final Essay Presentation 10% 1,2,3,4,5 
Final Essay 50% 4000 words 1,2,3,4,5

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The course will meet once a week for 12 weeks. Students will be expected to do 4 hours of reading for each class. Each three-hour session will combine a lecture on theoretical or analytic matters, the introduction of case study materials either from the lecturer's own research, other scholars' ethnographic writing, fiction or film, a break and tutorial-style discussion of the assigned readings for that period.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed at least 48 units of university courses. This course is incompatible with ASIA8047.

Prescribed Texts

Some of the book-length works lectures and student readings will draw upon include:

Aragon, Lorraine V. 2000. Fields of the Lord: Animism, Christian Minorities, and State Development. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Bell, Catherine. 2009. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Besnier, Niko. 2011. On the Edge of the Global: Modern Anxieties in a Pacific Island Nation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Preliminary Reading

Handman, Courtney. 2014. Critical Christianity: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Keane, Webb. 2007. Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rafael, Vicente. 1992. Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Robbins, Joel. 2004. Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Tomlinson, Matt, and Debra McDougall, eds. 2013. Christian Politics in Oceania. New York: Berghahn.

Tuwere, Ilaitia Sevati. Vanua: Towards a Fijian Theology of Place. Suva: IPS/USP.

Assumed Knowledge

The course is pitched at a third year level. While no specific disciplinary knowledge is assumed, second year essay writing skills are assumed.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $3000
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $4560
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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