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Émile Durkheim on Religion

3. Collective Effervescence

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In this lecture, we think about Durkheim’s notion of “collective effervescence”, focusing in particular on: (i) Durkheim’s conceptualisation of collective effervescence as the emotional and physiological effect of individuals’ coming together to perform shared rituals in honour of the sacred; (ii) Durkheim’s primary example of this – totemic rituals amongst Aboriginal Australian clans; (iii) the importance of collective effervescence to Durkheim’s model of society – for Durkheim, the shared feelings produced by ritual activity generate society by affirming people’s sense of collective identity and embedding social solidarity; (iv) Durkheim’s consequent understanding that society is religion, and that it is through religion that societies come to exist.


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.


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.

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APA style

Hausner, S. (2022, February 15). Émile Durkheim on Religion - Collective Effervescence [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hausner, S. "Émile Durkheim on Religion – Collective Effervescence." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Feb 2022,

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