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Émile Durkheim on Religion

2. The Relationship Between the Sacred and the Profane

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this lecture, we think about a key component of Durkheim’s definition of religion – that it comprises beliefs and practices “relative to sacred things”, focusing in particular on: (i) Durkheim’s understanding of the sacred as things which are “set apart” from the profane, and of religion not as sacred things themselves, but rather beliefs and practices “relative to” those things; (ii) his concept of the profane as each individuals’ everyday life, and of the distinction between the sacred and the profane as the dynamic which produces religion; (iii) the centrality of this interplay to social life – it is when people move from profane activity to collectively honour sacred things that they come together as a social group.

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.

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.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hausner, S. (2022, February 15). Émile Durkheim on Religion - The Relationship Between the Sacred and the Profane [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/emile-durkheim-on-religion/the-relationship-between-the-sacred-and-the-profane

MLA style

Hausner, S. "Émile Durkheim on Religion – The Relationship Between the Sacred and the Profane." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Feb 2022, https://www.massolit.io/courses/emile-durkheim-on-religion/the-relationship-between-the-sacred-and-the-profane

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