Publication Type:

Conference papers


Raphael Susewind


Religion and Social Theory: Developing a New Agenda for the Sociology of Religion (Sociology of Religion Study Group, BSA), April 11-13, Birmingham (2011)




What is belonging, what is religious belonging, how do we recognize it when we see it? Many studies confirm that identities have bearing on human agency: how we act and what we do is influenced by our perceptions, which are in turn framed by situational contingencies, by material conditions and last but not least by our identities. While frames are not identical with the pictures they frame, they do delimit boundaries and enable appreciation. Similarly, social institutions like (religious) belonging don’t determine agency, but both restrain and enable us to act. To see this, however, we need an adequate theory of religious belonging and methods which operationalize it. This paper suggests such a conceptualization in fruitful dialogue with, but also challenging and moving beyond, existing literature. It argues that religious belonging consists of a) common experiences and assumptions of commonness as well as difference, b) practices of reciprocity, solidarity and exclusion, and c) a feeling of spatial or material affinity as well as detachment between the three subjects of an individual, those deemed coreligionists (in either emic or etic categories), and the numinous. How these heuristic categories could be researched best is open for discussion...