In this article I explore the continued salience of Durkheimian effervescence through an examination of ritual activities contained within contemporary English cathedrals. My argument focuses less on collective occasions of creative or destructive tumult and more on ritualised forms of action where modalities of engagement and participation are nuanced, reflexively negotiated and small-scale. My aim is to render more subtle – and potentially productive – our understandings of gradations in ritual intensity.
Durkheim in the Cathedral
What, if not Durkheim’s ‘collective representations’ acquired during exalted states of effervescence, gives rise to society, culture and science? Marcel Mauss provides another answer by pointing to the different rhythms of social relationships and the human effort to synchronise them. The seasonal cycle of the Eskimo [Inuit], Mauss argues, is in accord with their game; hence people disperse in summer to pursue economic activities in small bands, while they congregate in dense house-complexes in winter and engage in ritual. It would appear that Mauss draws heavily on Boas’s contrast between the Kwakiutl winter celebrations and their ‘uninitiated’ livelihood in summer. These insights have traction for medical anthropologists who are interested in finding an anthropological explanation for the efficaciousness of ‘traditional’ medicines or ‘indigenous’ healing techniques.
Effervescence as the Key to Understanding Morality
My main aim is to show that Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse is a crucial work for understanding Durkheim's moral theory. A fundamental point is that he locates the 'ideal' at the core of morality. Accordingly, explaining the genesis of morality depends on establishing how he conceptualizes the ideal and traces its origins. Searching for the deepest roots of the ideal - basically understood as a sacred idea - takes us to the work's key concern with effervescence, and to issues it raises in the case of the modern world.
Ritual, Social Change and Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse
The article begins by examining Durkheim’s editorial role in the creation of Hubert and Mauss’s essay on sacrifice, published in his new journal, the Année sociologique, in 1899. It then brings out how, in Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, Durkheim operated both with an ‘official’ and a more or less ‘hidden’ theory of sacrifice, the first based on the approach in Hubert and Mauss’s essay, the second rooted in Durkheim’s earlier views and critical editorial comments on Hubert and Mauss’s ideas. In the process it brings out, through a detailed analysis of the work’s chapters specifically on sacrifice but also on piacular rites, tensions, ambiguities and cross-purposes in the work as a whole. These especially turn round Durkheim’s approach to violence and to the sacrificial offering or gift, and are also evident in his concern with different types of effervescence, the foundational and commemorative, as well as the ‘joyous’ and piacular. The article concludes by linking these tensions with issues at stake in Durkheim’s interest in the French Revolution and account of the role of effervescence in moments of rupture and fundamental social change.
Durkheim and Mauss's Intervention into the History of Philosophy
Erhard Schüttpelz and Martin Zillinger
Between 1900 and 1912, Durkheim, Mauss and other contributors of the L’Année Sociologique developed the most ambitious philosophical project of modern anthropology: a comparative and worldwide social history of philosophical categories. This article briefly summarises three phases of the ‘Category Project’ and gives a preliminary characterisation of its Hegelian ambitions. Further, it points out the common denominator in the diverse success stories of the Category Project, namely the reference to the human body as the site of collective consciousness. In a second step, the article traces the intricate genesis and after-life of the most important category of bodily efficacy and epistemological insight provided by Durkheim and Mauss: the elaboration of ‘effervescence’ and its manifestation of ‘totality’.
Irène Eulriet and William Watts Miller
‘The Dualism of Human Nature’ was made available some time ago in English, and this undoubtedly helped to stimulate the mass of commentary that has grown around the essay and made it well-known. But it is time to replace the old translation, since it is so inadequate and fault-ridden. For example, it involves a systematic impulse to change a Durkheimian collective noun such as our will into English individualized plurals, such as ‘our wills’. Or it often cuts things out. Thus it eliminates Durkheim’s key talk of creative effervescence, which merely becomes ‘creativity’. An opposite tendency is to add things in.
Toing and Froing the Social
Understandably, one would think, the social is the heartland of ritual studies. What is ritual, if not the Durkheimian effervescence of the social? Still, a number of the essays in this volume move towards the borders of the social. Perhaps this has occurred because the contributors were asked to think of ritual in its own right, thereby freeing them from the so deeply embedded anthropological stricture that ritual is social because it must be attached to, relate to, or service some group. Ritual is created by groups and expressive of groups, otherwise it is insignificant. This complicity of ritual and groupness implicitly demands that rite have meaning or function for the social, the raison d’être of ritual’s existence. Thus, the structures, dynamics, and processes of ritual are immediately oriented to the social. Rarely considered is that taking this tack eliminates other possibilities in which thinking on ritual ignores the borders of the social.
William Watts Miller
To mark the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Durkheim’s birth, a number of conferences were held during 2008 – beginning at Epinal, his hometown, then at Oxford, Paris, São Paolo, Warsaw and Berlin. As part of the effort to record this effervescence of activity, with its many different lines of research, the present issue of our journal includes a selection of articles based on contributions to these conferences, while others are planned for inclusion in the next issue. At the same time, preparations are under way for the publication of collections on specific themes – on Durkheim’s roots, drawing on the conference at Epinal; on interpretations and applications of Durkheimian sociology in Brazil, drawing on the conference at São Paolo; and on the issue of solidarity, drawing on contributions to the conferences at Oxford and Berlin.
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?
Affective Continuities across Muslim and Christian Settings in Berlin
Omar Kasmani and Dominik Mattes
illustrate how affect, particularly arranged, contributes to realizing “collective effervescence, togetherness, a single trajectory among many bodies” ( Brahinsky 2012: 215 ), and, ultimately, to instilling a sense of (trans)local belonging ( Mattes et al