Durkheim in Dialogue

Durkheim in Dialogue: A Centenary Celebration ofThe Elementary Forms of Religious Life

Edited by Sondra L. Hausner
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcv93
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  • Book Info
    Durkheim in Dialogue
    Book Description:

    One hundred years after the publication of the great sociological treatise,The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, this new volume shows how aptly Durkheim¹s theories still resonate with the study of contemporary and historical religious societies. The volume applies the Durkheimian model to multiple cases, probing its resilience, wondering where it might be tweaked, and asking which aspects have best stood the test of time. A dialogue between theory and ethnography, this book shows how Durkheimian sociology has become a mainstay of social thought and theory, pointing to multiple ways in which Durkheim¹s work on religion remains relevant to our thinking about culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-022-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction. DURKHEIM IN DISCIPLINARY DIALOGUE
    (pp. 1-16)
    Sondra L. Hausner

    Emile Durkheim’s claim to being the father of sociology lies in his insistence that a model developed on the basis of one set of data may then be applied to many – ideally all – others. From the time Durkheim’s most mature work,The Elementary Forms of Religious Life(Les Formes Élémentaires de la Vie Religieuse), was published in 1912, this premise has been the basis of social science. Even though we are not ‘pure’ scientists, social theorists posit hypotheses that must be tested in the face of emerging empirical evidence. These models either stand the test of time, as it were,...

  6. Part I. Commencement
    • Chapter 1 THE NOTION OF SOUL AND SCIENCE POSITIVE: A RETRIEVAL OF DURKHEIM’S METHOD
      (pp. 19-44)
      Karen E. Fields

      I begin with a puzzle. In August 2010, the Atlanta Red Cross appealed to potential donors among students at the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically black colleges, in these words:

      African American donors provide the best chance of survival for patients of color with rare blood types or those who must have repeated transfusions for sickle cell anemia, heart disease, kidney disease or trauma. Blood from a donor with a similar ethnic background to that of the patient is less likely to be rejected or cause complications or illness.¹

      Were those statements true? Had up to date research...

  7. Part II. Social Forms
    • Chapter 2 RETURN TO DURKHEIM: CIVIL RELIGION AND THE MORAL RECONSTRUCTION OF CHINA
      (pp. 47-66)
      Ji Zhe

      Every concept has its destiny. In 1967, Robert N. Bellah published ‘Civil Religion in America’, which would strongly influence the contemporary sociology of religion. In this article, he took up anew the term ‘civil religion’, which had first appeared two hundred years earlier in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’sOn the Social Contract,and coined it as a new concept for bringing out the religious dimension of American political discourse and public life. In the following two decades, this concept led social scientists in the United States into heated debate over the origins, definitions and functions of civil religion (Gehrig 1981; Mathisen 1989)....

    • Chapter 3 ELEMENTARY FORMS OF WAR: PERFORMATIVE ASPECTS OF YOUTH MILITIA IN SIERRA LEONE
      (pp. 67-85)
      Paul Richards

      Durkheim’s teaching inElementary Forms of Religious Life(Durkheim 1995 [1912]) scandalized certain sections of French society. Rightwing students demonstrated against their teacher. Professor Durkheim, it was charged, had introduced savages into the Sorbonne, threatening the very basis of French culture and civilization (Richman 2002). Durkheim’s work can indeed be seen as a radical alternative to a notion of culture based on the privileged transmission of a literary canon. For Durkheim, culture (or belief) is epiphenomenal. The causal phenomenon is a universal tendency to engage in group ritual action. In the Durkheimian account of religion, prayer causes belief, not the...

    • Chapter 4 ELEMENTARY FORMS VERSUS PSYCHOLOGY IN CONTEMPORARY CINEMA
      (pp. 86-106)
      Louise Child

      How can Durkheim’sElementary Forms of Religious Lifecontribute to the study of film and television? Recent scholarly debates have questioned whether film should merely be seen as another form of ideological hegemony, or as a place where filmgoers have potentially more creative and subtle engagements with questions of power. These engagements raise questions about tensions between social and individuated personhood that suggest that conceptions of religion and the supernatural, far from being transcended, remain important to the ways in which we negotiate the world.

      Lyden goes so far as suggesting that the practice of film viewing can be understood...

  8. Part III. Collective Minds
    • Chapter 5 DURKHEIM’S SACRED/PROFANE OPPOSITION: WHAT SHOULD WE MAKE OF IT?
      (pp. 109-123)
      N.J. Allen

      Durkheim the theorist has always been difficult to pigeonhole. In the subtitle toThe Elementary Forms of Religious Life,¹ the reference to Australian Aborigines connotes evolutionism (I prefer the label ‘world-historical’ – but no matter); yet the famous four-line italicized definition of religion (1968 [1912]: 65) points in two other theoretical directions. It ends with religious beliefs and practices uniting adherents into a single moral community – this is functionalism. But it starts with the beliefs and practices forming a system relating to sacred things, that is, to things that are set apart (i.e., from profane things) and forbidden or tabooed. The...

    • Chapter 6 DURKHEIM AND THE PRIMITIVE MIND: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL RETROSPECTIVE
      (pp. 124-142)
      Clive Gamble

      Durkheim’s impact on archaeology, and in particular its earliest branch – the Palaeolithic – is only now starting to be felt, 100 years after the publication ofThe Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.Given his sustained impact on the fields of sociology and anthropology, the decision of his archaeological contemporaries and their successors to proceed with very few nods in his direction is worth investigation. In this chapter I explore the proposition that archaeologists have managed to live without him for so long because they were wedded to the un-Durkheimian view that religion is a separate and different type of social...

    • Chapter 7 DURKHEIM, ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE QUESTION OF THE CATEGORIES IN LES FORMES ÉLÉMENTAIRES DE LA VIE RELIGIEUSE
      (pp. 143-164)
      Susan Stedman Jones

      Durkheim’sLes Formes Élémentaires de la vie Religieuse(hereafter calledLes Formes) has exerted and continues to exert a fascination and a profound influence on subsequent sociological and anthropological thought. His influence was explicitly acknowledged by the twentieth-century founders of anthropology as we know it today, Malinowsi and Radcliffe-Brown, and indeed, Durkheim has been identified with these two thinkers as one of the early proponents of functionalism and structural functionalism. Elsewhere, I have challenged the crude identification of Durkheim with the adherents of structural functionalism (Stedman Jones 2001): his views on structure and function are more complicated than this unitary...

  9. Part IV. Effervescence
    • Chapter 8 IS INDIVIDUAL TO COLLECTIVE AS FREUD IS TO DURKHEIM?
      (pp. 167-179)
      Sondra L. Hausner

      In contemporary social theory circles, Durkheim is thought of as distinctly old-fashioned: he is not the universal hero revered in the pages of this volume. It is troubling to think that Durkheim has simply fallen out of fashion in anthropological thinking, or among students of method in religion, especially because these are the very fields whose current manifestations were arguably enabled byElementary Forms.It appears that a Durkheimian approach to religion is simplypassé; it would seem that my generation has failed to see the perfect logic inElementary Forms.And yet in the last decade, we have a...

    • Chapter 9 COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATIONS, DISCOURSES OF POWER AND PERSONAL AGENCY: THREE INCOMMENSURATE HISTORIES OF A COLLABORATOR’S REBELLION IN THE COLONIAL SUDAN
      (pp. 180-205)
      Gerd Baumann

      Durkheim’s stepchild, the vacuously vague notion of ‘collective representations’, was and remains widely suspect as a blanket defence against Marxian ‘ideological’ influences on the social sciences, flagged up just when sociology wanted to establish itself as a non-dangerous academic discipline. This chapter starts from the same historical reading. Can this toothless notion, signifying nothing more than ‘shared ideas’, mean anything to people familiar with what we have become aware of since: the rediscovery of ideology, the different paths opened by the sociology of knowledge, the distinction between dominant versus demotic discourses, and the alleged power of discourse regardless of personal...

    • Chapter 10 ACTANTS AMASSING (AA): BEYOND COLLECTIVE EFFERVESCENCE AND THE SOCIAL
      (pp. 206-230)
      Adam Yuet Chau

      In this chapter I propose a critique of the anthropocentric and socio-centric perspective prevalent in Durkheim’sThe Elementary Forms of Religious Lifeand subsequent studies of ritual life. Drawing insights from Bruno Latour’s actor network theory and Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblage (agencement), I present a multi-actant ethnography of a temple festival in northern Taiwan that gives a proper place and voice (i.e.actancy) to non-human actants.

      Bruno Latour has launched a persistent attack on the Durkheimian fetishization of the social, which in his view has unnecessarily limited the scope of investigation and misled the so-calledsocialsciences down...

  10. Part V. Fin
    • Chapter 11 THE CREATION AND PROBLEMATIC ACHIEVEMENT OF LES FORMES ÉLÉMENTAIRES
      (pp. 233-256)
      W. Watts Miller

      It is possible to distinguish two basic approaches to Durkheim. Interest in his present-day relevance might be described as concern with a ‘living’ Durkheim. Interest in his life, work and times might be described as concern with the ‘historical’ Durkheim. One of the distinction’s complications is how successive waves of interpretation – in the 1930s, 1950s, 1970s and so on – join the past, to become part of a complex history of ‘Durkheim after Durkheim’ in different countries, at different periods and on different issues. Another point, however, is that fresh explorations of his ideas and their relevance require anchorage in continuing...

  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 257-259)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 260-267)