Dissertation Abstracts

Can you feel the spirit? Towards a sensory sociology of religion

Author: Beth L Dougherty, beth.laurel@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Loyola University Chicago, United States
Supervisor: Rhys H Williams
Year of completion: 2018
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Ritual , Senses , Organization , Religion
Areas of Research: Theory , Religion , Senses and Society


This mixed-methods dissertation focuses on the ways individuals, ritual coordinators, and larger organizations use and understand the senses and embodiment as tools for and output from ritual encounters. Through establishing an understanding of the role of the sensory in sociological literature and the historical shifts in the sociology of religion, I build an analysis that models ways that the sensory can be used to understand and analyze religious rituals. Using ethnographic and content analysis of rituals in Pagan, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Unitarian Universalist traditions alongside data from the National Congregations Survey set, I look at US based religious organizations in both the US and UK. My analysis looks specifically at the ways that individual, local, and organizational elements articulate in interaction, highlighting areas where ritual may (temporarily) fail or be adjusted to better suit the local populations. I utilize the term articulation to refer to the ways in which the complex local, individual, and organizational forces intersect and interact. With this data, a theoretical model for understanding and addressing ritual mis-articulation is developed. This model will assist local religious communities, as well as larger national organizations, in considering some of the ways that ritual can be modified to better reach disarticulated populations and individuals.

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