This article argues that, although we think of Australian tribal ritual as Durkheim’s source material for his masterwork The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, we must also consider the extensive Indological scholarship on which he draws – and with which he debates – as critical inspirations for the text. His extensive engagement with his nephew, Marcel Mauss, whose earlier work, Sacrifice, with Henri Hubert, was premised on an analysis of Vedic ritual, would have been one source for his study of religion writ large; Elementary Forms also takes up in detail the work of Max Müller, among other Indologists, whose work was well known and widely engaged with in the French and broader European intellectual context of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article argues that the Indological comparative lens was key to Durkheim’s own approach as he worked to articulate the relationship between religion and society; in contrast to the philologists, he argued for the primacy of practice over language in ritual action.
An Alternative Genealogy of <i>The Elementary Forms of Religious Life</i>
Sondra L. Hausner
Sondra L. Hausner
In this commentary, I argue that we need to expose the multiple layers of historical thinking about the production of the category of religion that play into both our scholarly thinking and the way religion is lived, understood and fought for in the lives of our informants. We can no more take the contours (or limits) of any particular religion for granted, or as self‐evident, than we can take the category of religion, named as such, as a natural human phenomenon that is somehow free from the domain of culture.
Tracing Durkheim's Legacy
Sondra L. Hausner
This issue of Durkheimian Studies presents the collective efforts of the participants of a workshop held in late 2017, the centenary anniversary of Émile Durkheim’s death, at the University of Oxford. The articles that emerged from it, published together in this special issue for the first time along with some new material, demonstrate a continuation of classic Durkheimian themes, but with contemporary approaches. First, they consider the role of action in the production of society. Second, they rely on authors’ own ethnographies: the contributors here engage with Durkheimian questions from the data of their own fieldsites. Third, effervescence, one of Durkheim’s most innovative contributions to sociology, is considered in depth, and in context: how do societies sustain themselves over time? Finally, what intellectual histories did Durkheim himself draw upon – and how can we better understand his conceptual contributions in light of these influences?
The Personal and the Political
Simon Coleman and Sondra L. Hausner
The central task of our journal is to present outstanding work on religion. Through our focus on individual scholars in the Portrait section, we are also able to consider how such work is produced, and our hope is to reveal the intellectual, institutional, political, and personal factors behind research that has helped us to revive and reconstruct our field. The subject of this year's Portrait, Talal Asad, has famously addressed questions about the category of religion in unusually productive and provocative ways. Published here for the first time, Asad's autobiographical observations take the reader through some of the key relationships and events of his life, from a remarkable childhood during which he witnessed the violence of Partition first-hand, to what happened in 1950 when he arrived in London from Pakistan and began to discern the problems behind “the local version of modern civilization into which [he] was being unevenly assimilated,” to the process of becoming an anthropologist and an ethnographer.
Place, Horizon, and Imaginary
Sondra L. Hausner and Simon Coleman
Perhaps it is no coincidence that as we approach two years of a COVID-adjusted world, this volume of Religion and Society turns its sights to horizons, imaginaries, and lenses of legibility. What does this new world look like, and from what vantage point might we best approach it? And how might these new ways of seeing imply new ways of acting in community, in concert, over time, and across space—or how might we see our old ways of acting anew?
The Borders of Religion
Ruy Llera Blanes, Simon Coleman, and Sondra L. Hausner
This volume of Religion and Society is marked by borders, boundaries, and limits. The borders here are those that make religion operative and politically powerful, as well as those that are enabled and put into place by religious arguments and worldviews. All these dimensions of borders are included in the special section of this volume, coordinated by Valentina Napolitano and Nurit Stadler, entitled “Borderlands and Religion: Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization of State Sovereignty.” The section includes articles by Alejandro Lugo, Nurit Stadler and Nimrod Luz, Alberto Hernández and Amalia Campos-Delgado, and Alexander D. M. Henley. They dwell upon two of the most notorious and contentious borders in the world: the one that separates Lebanon and Palestine from Israel, and the one that separates the US from Mexico. Both Israel and the US are known for their fenced and walled frontier politics. From these contributions, we learn how borderlands and their religious framing become spaces of political negotiation by affirmation and/or by exclusion: they determine sovereignty, ontology, history.
Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner, and Simon Coleman
Religions, Histories, and Comparisons
Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Sondra L. Hausner
Narratives, Ontologies, Entanglements, and Iconoclasms
Sondra L. Hausner, Simon Coleman, and Ruy Llera Blanes
In Response to Charlie
Faisal Devji, Jane Garnett, Ghassan Hage, and Sondra L. Hausner
There is a close relation between satire and secularism as the latter came to emerge in Europe. Secularism, as is well-known, gained strength historically as a reaction to an era of European interreligious violence and massacres. It was not only a desire for the separation of church and state, as the classical formula has it. It was also an attempt to keep religious affect out of politics. This was in the belief that religion, because it is faith rather than reasoned thinking, produces too much of a narcissistic affect—that the faithful are unable to ‘keep their distance’ from what they believe in. It was thought that this narcissism was behind the murderous intensity of religiously driven conflicts. Being able to laugh at yourself literally means being able to not take yourself overly seriously. This, in turn, is crucial for the deintensification of the affects generated by the defense of what one believes in and for the relativization of one’s personal beliefs. Such relativization, as Claude Lévi- Strauss argued, is crucial for thinking oneself comparatively and in relation to others (the opposite of narcissism).