Genealogies of Belief in Sociology and Anthropology: Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries

Abby Day

in Believing in Belonging

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577873
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731143 | DOI:
Genealogies of Belief in Sociology and Anthropology: Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries

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Although issues of belief are central to discussions within sociology and anthropology, this is the only analysis and synthesis to date of the often separate debates. It explores belief by examining and juxtaposing theorists as diverse as, for example, Emile Durkheim, Peter Berger, Joel Robbins, Max Weber, Grace Davie, Mary Douglas, Rodney Needham, and Talal Asad. Summaries of key debates and methodologies show how the anthropological and sociological disciplinary paths derived and then diverged from a Durkheimian approach to locating belief in the social, a theme that will be more fully addressed in the following chapters. It draws out the implications for established disciplinary theory in both the European and North American schools of the sociology of religion that assert that most people are ‘unchurched’ while privately maintaining beliefs in God and other ‘spiritual’ phenomena. This chapter argues that orientations to studying belief help explain differences in both the content and relative importance of key disciplinary themes, notably secularisation, ritual, definitions of religion, individualisation, rationality, morality, meaning, transcendence, public and private forms of belief and belonging.

Keywords: belief; anthropology; sociology; religion; secularisation

Chapter.  10516 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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