Alexander Tristan Riley. Godless Intellectuals? The Intellectual Pursuit of the Sacred Reinvented, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010, 298 pp.
Ronjon Paul Datta
Between Capital and Community
In the autumn of 2011 and the spring of 2012, the Occupy London protests, informed by the ideal of a moral, territorially defined community, caught the imagination of British and global publics. For a short while, this moral imaginary was mobilized to contest some of the most glaring contradictions of the neo-liberal city. I argue that the Occupy protests in London registered a sense of public outrage at the violation of certain 'sacred' norms associated with what it means to live with others. More concretely, I contend that Occupy London was an experiment initiated to open out questions of community, morality, and politics and to consider how these notions might be put to work. These questions were not merely articulated intellectually among expert interlocutors. They were lived out through the spatially and temporally embodied occupation of urban space.
Notes on the Filiation Bond in Emile Durkheim
This essay asks why Durkheim was so opposed to free consensual unions, in a support for marriage and the family. But it is above all an attempt to explore the theoretical sources of his insistent and even dogmatic opposition to 'free unions'. Accordingly, it involves Durkheim's thinking about the sacred in two key areas. One centres round issues of filiation, and involves his account of totems, clans and the individual's social identity. The other centres round his view that individualism grows along with the increasing activity of the state, and involves interrelated questions of property, inheritance, the contract and the role of civil law. The result is a tension in his thought between an emphasis on the sacred as the origin of things and a more secular concern with the importance in modern life of moral relations expressed and regulated by civil law. Although his opposition to free unions has roots in 'children of the totem', it is suggested it is above all a modern concern with 'children of the law'.
Roy Rappaport and Jeffrey C. Alexander
Durkheim's 'second program of research' above all refers to his project as developed in Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse. This essay examines how it has in turn been developed and taken up nowadays in the work of Roy Rappaport and Jeffrey Alexander. Both of them are concerned with the centrality of ritual and the sacred as active, constitutive elements not just of religion but of all social life, not least modern social life. However, a key difference between them can be found in the issue of the internal dimension of ritual and of the individual's participation in public performance of this. Rappaport emphasizes some sort of general notion of acceptance, in an effort to open up things and get away from the particular epistemological as well as theological commitments of the idea of belief. Alexander still appears to work with the modernist epistemology and 'Protestant' theology of belief. His project of a new Durkheimian cultural sociology has nonetheless itself opened up all kinds of things, and is one of the most creative and dynamic research programs in sociology nowadays.
Research Notes on the Use of Science by Adherents of New Spiritualities in Poland
The essay presents exemplary cases for the use of scientific accessories, such as a specialist vocabulary and sophisticated technical tools, in Polish holistic milieus. It analyses editorials published in the esoteric monthly Nieznany Świat, and refers to materials gathered during ethnographic fieldwork among vendors and customers of alternative medicine fairs and esoteric shops in Warsaw, as well as visitors to the Węsiory village, considered to be one of Earth's 'power places'. The work goes on the claim that references to science, and especially to various measurements, besides their legitimating function, appeal to sensitivity related to traditional folk religiosity. Therefore, the Nieznany Świat magazine might be considered a continuer of the folk tradition.
Repatriation and the Trajectories of Inalienable Possessions
Since the formation of museum anthropology, scholars have been interested in collecting Native American objects of religious and spiritual significance. For many years, these objects predominately served scientific inquiry and public curiosity, but over the last three decades scholars have become increasingly aware of how indigenous communities continue to value these objects despite their radical recontextualization. This article seeks to bring together two concepts—Arjun Appadurai's “trajectories” and Annette Weiner's “inalienable possessions”—to examine how objects come to express particular forms of sacredness. By following the cultural routes of the Zuni Ahayu:da (War Gods), in part through the lens of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, we can trace what Appadurai calls “diversion” and what Wiener terms the “dilemma of loss.” Diversion and loss caused by antiquities dealers, collectors, and curators have been particularly troublesome for Zunis because the War Gods constitute a unique form of sacred object, a singular type of possession that is intrinsically sacred. Understanding the trajectories of the things taken, returned, and still held by museums will better enable scholars and tribal communities to articulate how sacred objects in museums continue to have power and salience.
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.
Like their German colleagues the French rabbis enthusiastically supported the war effort. They even seemed to move away from the French style of patriotism, concerned with reason and universalism, to associate themselves with the prevalent nationalism by acknowledging in their sermons the tones of Maurice Barrès, the apostle of anti-Semitism, who, for the first time, included the Jews amongst the great French families. Contrary to the 'barbarians' from across the Rhine, who made obeisance to their new Pharaoh, the French Jews found themselves summoned to sacrifice themselves for the fatherland. The death of Rabbi Abraham Bloch, the report of which affirms that he was killed while bringing a crucifix to a dying Catholic soldier, symbolizes this now supposedly permanent unity of the religions.
Modernity believed that processes of secularization and rationalization are universally applicable. What is taking place in the 21st century, however, suggests that the reverse, a process of de-secularization, is becoming the hallmark of the present age. In the case of Islamic civilization, in which law is shari'a, the challenge to secularization takes the form of a process of shari'atization. This is not the traditional or inherited shari'a, restricted to civil matters and to a penal code, but an invented shari'a, one which also claims to be a constitutional law. Moreover, the constructed shari'atized constitutional law, in conflict with secular constitutionalism and appearing to offer no middle way, has been universalized to engender an international conflict between secularization and de-secularization. Since, for most Muslims, Islam without shari'a is unthinkable, this article examines the potential for religious reform of the shari'a in the direction of cultural change, freedom and democratic constitutionalism.
Walking and Looking in Ken Cockburn and Alec Finlay’s The Road North
Alice Tarbuck and Simone Kotva
the sacred and open up to moments of transcendence within the topography of immanence traversed by its modern-day pilgrims. Likewise, for Finlay and Cockburn too, landscape traversed in The Road North hosts traces of archaic transcendence, offering