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Социология религии. Социолого-религиоведческий портал

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Sociology of Religion, Volume 75, Issue 2, 1 June 2014, Pages 189–207,https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/sru013
Published: 12 March 2014


This address is a contribution to the study of “lived religion,” that is, the embodied and enacted forms of spirituality that occur in everyday life. Like the children's books that ask “where's Waldo,” sociologists are invited to think about the many ways in which we need to refocus our work in order to see the religion that often appears in unexpected places. As the discipline has broadened its geographical and cultural vision, it also must broaden its understanding of what religion is. Religion is neither an all-or-nothing category nor a phenomenon that is confined to a single institutional sphere. Understanding the multilayered nature of everyday reality and the permeability of all social boundaries makes a more nuanced study of religion possible. Using data from the “Spiritual Narratives in Everyday Life” project, it is suggested that religion can be found in the conversational spaces—both in religious organizations and beyond—where sacred and mundane dimensions of life are produced and negotiated.

Those of you who have spent any time with a young child in the last 25 years are probably familiar with a certain red-and-white-stripe-wearing lad named Waldo (Handford 1988). Perhaps you have snuggled up next to a curious youngster poring over elaborate scenes and asked each other, “Where's Waldo?” There are all sorts of reasons that Waldo may be frustratingly invisible, but he is always there. What I want to suggest in this lecture is that our discipline has often been just about as perplexed in its study of religion as the five year old looking for Waldo. A variety of things have kept sociologists from seeing the manifestations of religion in everyday social life, but I hope to provide here at least a few ideas about how we might sharpen our analytical focus and find Waldo1 more easily.


The religion I want to talk about here is of the “lived religion” variety. While belief and membership—two of our staples for identifying Waldo—are certainly a part of what lived religion entails, instead of starting from official organizations and formal membership, I want to begin with everyday practice; instead of taking the experts and official theology as definitive, I will join the lived religion scholars in arguing that we need a broader lens that includes but goes beyond those things.2

The lived religion we will be looking for is closely related to “popular religion,” which is usually taken to mean the religion of the ordinary people that happens beyond the bounds and often without the approval of religious authorities. Students of popular religion have turned our attention to festivals and shrines, ritual healing practices, and stories of miracles, for instance. Lived religion does often happen on the margins between orthodox prescriptions and innovative experiences, but religion does not have to be marginal to be “lived.” What happens inside religious organizations counts, too. Those who wish to “de-center” congregations and other traditional religious communities will miss a great deal of where religion is lived if those spaces are excluded from our research endeavor. Lived religion is not, then, identical to popular religion. Both approved traditional practices and new innovations may be “lived.” Waldo may be placing flowers on the spontaneous shrine in the marketplace, but he may also be at shul.

Looking for lived religion does mean that we look for the material, embodied aspects of religion as they occur in everyday life, in addition to listening for how people explain themselves. It includes both the experiences of the body and the mind. There is now a considerable literature that makes clear the peculiar Protestant lineage of our sociological preoccupation with belief, and lived religion is a category that attempts to overcome that constraint.3 The study of lived religion includes attention to how and what people eat, how they dress, how they deal with birth and death and sexuality and nature, even how they modify hair and body through tattoos or dreadlocks. Lived religion may include the spaces people inhabit, as well—the construction of shrines in homes or in public places, for instance. And it includes the physical and artistic things people do together, such as singing, dancing, and other folk or community traditions that enact a spiritual sense of solidarity and transcendence. Some of these rituals and traditions may be widely recognized as religious and named as such, but research on lived religion also includes activities that might not immediately be seen as spiritual or religious by outsiders, but are treated as such by the people engaged in them. In other words, the Waldo we should be looking for is wearing a wide variety of expressions of connection to spiritual life. Finding religion in everyday life means looking wherever and however we find people invoking a sacred presence.



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