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An Affective (U-)Turn in the Sociology of Religion? : Religious Emotions and Native Narratives

Abstract : The concept of emotion appears to work in the sociology of religion as a pre-notion linked with processes of (dis)qualification and distinction. These processes determine the scientific (and social) classification of “emotional” religious actors. They also shed light on the role that sociologists themselves play as “ranking agents ranked by their own ranking” (Bourdieu, 1979: back cover). Through the distinctions they make, they reveal the position they occupy with- in the scientific field and the relations they have with the religious field. I open the chapter by asking why the French sociology of religion has mostly ignored the affective turn and the theoretical challenges it raises, seeming to prefer the established – we could say canonical – interpretations of classical authors over empirical research. These canonical interpretations closely link the issue of religious emotions with a set of pivotal concepts of the disciplinary doxa, such as legitimacy, institution, charisma, or modernity. The dominant understanding of religious emotions is not simply a blind spot in sociological analysis; rather, it constitutes the cornerstone of an intellectual construction which, in the eyes of many sociologists in this field, “engage everything which defines their own idea of themselves,” to quote the epigraph of this chapter. Then referring to the specific case of Pentecostalism – usually described as an “emotional religion” – I go on to consider how these canonical interpretations go hand-in-hand with strategies of categorisation and (dis)qualification. As I show, these strategies are intertwined with interests in the academic or religious field and with social relationships of domination. They highlight the social distance between the academic position (and the intellectual figure, classically associated with reason) and the religious “emotional” field. They also point to classification struggles between religious actors themselves. Finally, I suggest how to disentangle the sociology of religious emotions from the influence of beliefs, distinction effects, and academic doxa and connect this field of research to wider social dynamics, such as the evolution of the relationships between individual and institution, the contemporary ideology of the “society of communication” (Neveu, 2001), and the norms of self-control in relation to the body.
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Contributor : Yannick Fer <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - 5:56:20 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:06:34 AM


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Yannick Fer. An Affective (U-)Turn in the Sociology of Religion? : Religious Emotions and Native Narratives. Véronique Altglas; Matthew Wood. Bringing Back the Social into the Sociology of Religion. Critical Approaches., Brill, pp.142-158, 2018. ⟨halshs-01867960⟩



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