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Émile Durkheim on Religion

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor Sondra Hausner (University of Oxford) explores Émile Durkheim’s writings about religion. In the first lecture, we introduce some key underpinnings of Durkheim’s work, such as his emphasis on the scientific method, his primary interest in understanding how societies cohere, and his definition of religion. In the second lecture, we consider a key aspect of that definition – that religion comprises beliefs and practices “relative to sacred things” – as well as Durkheim’s understanding of the distinction between the sacred and profane. Next, we think about “collective effervescence”, a concept Durkheim developed to explain how religious practices are essential to the formation of social groups. In the fourth and final lecture, we conclude with a discussion of Durkheim’s idea of the “moral community” as a central element to his definition of both religion and society.

About the Lecturer

Professor Sondra Hausner is Professor of Anthropology of Religion and Director of the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies at the University of Oxford. She specialises in the anthropology of religion and culture in South Asia and the thought of Émile Durkheim. Her publications include Wandering with Sadhus: Ascetics in the Hindu Himalayas (2007), The Spirits of Crossbones Graveyard: Time, Ritual, and Sexual Commerce in London (2016), and Durkheim in Dialogue: A Centenary Celebration of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (2013, editor). She has published numerous articles on Durkheim's work, including for the Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology, and she is on the International Board of Durkheimian Studies.