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Religion and society 1


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree obtained, admission to the RMA-programme.


This seminar is situated at the heart of ongoing research in the specialisation, focusing on the archaeology, history and anthropology of indigenous American cultures. RMA-students as well as PhD-candidates work on their theses in focused groups, formed according to region (or theme), and receive specialised instruction in tutorials focusing either on the Caribbean/Amazonian region or on Mesoamerica and the Andes. For general topics these groups may be combined in common sessions. Students identify and evaluate the most important publications, especially relevant articles in recent issues of leading journals, and write a review of a monograph that is crucial for their thesis research.

During the Fall Semester Alex Geurds will guest lecture this seminar and discuss the most prevalent themes in the Archaeology of Central America, regionally bound by eastern Honduras and El Salvador and northwestern Colombia). This semester-long seminar will examine the terms of reference (regional geography, history of research, paradigms and regional cultural framing), and proceed to discuss topics including chronology (current issues, relation to ethnohistorical data), lifeways (food procurement, diet, village structure, ritual life), exchange (local vs. interregional foci, coastal seafaring, Pacific vs. Caribbean exchange), material culture and production (pottery, stone tools etc), and motifs and semiology (stylistic analyses, discussions on cosmovision, shamanism). We will consider theoretical perspectives through which the prehistory of this region is examined. During the course we will also review data on type-sites from El Salvador through to NW Colombia. In addition, the contemporary stakeholders in archaeology (indigenous and otherwise) will be introduced into the class discussion. Finally, on occasion a guest speaker will by invited to complement the course materials.

In the Spring Semester, taught by Maarten Jansen, RMA-students are required to draft a formal research proposal (in NWO format), formulating research questions, theoretical framework and methodology, after which they prepare and realise a small-scale research project.

RMA-students are expected to attend all guest lectures of the specialisation programme (to be announced during the year). In addition, RMA-students attend an international symposium, workshop or congress, to be selected in consultation with their thesis supervisor. Students are required to prepare the meeting with a paper

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the state of the art regarding the region and discipline of thesis research;

  • Ability to formulate a research topic in the framework of modern scholarly discussions;

  • Exercising analytical and library research skills;

  • Preparation and elaboration of the thesis project exercising skills of oral presentation, discussion and writing;

  • Ability to draft a research proposal and plan concrete fieldwork and other research activities.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Seminar with student’s reports, commenting on the structure of research and thesis, with analytic discussion of recent publications.

Assessment method

  • Active participation in the seminar;

  • Written assignments;

  • Analytical presentation of recent literature related to the topic of the thesis, papers on congress attendance as well as a research proposal. Papers should be handed in the examination week following the course block.

Reading list

Partly indicated during the seminar, partly to be identified by the students themselves.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr M.E.R.G.N. Jansen.


The separate tutorials mentioned in the description are Communicating communities (Caribbean) and Intercultural communication (America/Andes).