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Over the last three decades, lived religion has emerged as a distinct field of study, with an identifiable “canon” of originating sources. With this body of work reaching maturity, a critical assessment is in order. This study analyzes sixty-four journal articles published in English, since 1997, which have used either “lived religion” or “everyday religion” in their titles, abstracts, or keywords. We find that the field has largely been defined by what it excludes. It includes attention to laity, not clergy or elites; to practices rather than beliefs; to practices outside religious institutions rather than inside; and to individual agency and autonomy rather than collectivities or traditions. Substantively, the focus on practice has encompassed dimensions of embodiment, discourse and materiality; and I argue here that these substantive foci can form the analytical structure for expanding the domain of lived religion to include the traditions and institutions that have so far largely been excluded from study. In doing so, lived religion’s attention to gender, power, and previously-excluded voices must be maintained. But that task cannot be accomplished without continuing to expand the field beyond the still-limited geographic and religious terrain it has so far covered.
Although the field of lived religion embraces a wide range of theoretical orientations in its varied focus on embodied religious practices, materiality, and daily discourse, almost all studies of lived religion rely on a spatial contrast between everyday life on the streets and a (less distinctly identified) non-daily view of religion “from above.” How can the methods and approaches cultivated in the sociology of lived religion be used to investigate the so-called “elite” spaces: places of religious and secular power, and other places deemed imaginary, or false, or where religion might be, somehow other-than lived? The paper offers examples of what kinds of questions might be differently engaged by sociologists by taking the case of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unrealized plan for a future city called “Broadacre City” (1935–1959). The article explores this modern secular project’s investments in promoting a particular kind of religious experience as constitutive of the American democratic project, and argues that such sites are increasingly important to sociological demands for understanding contemporary religious and secular life. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of how such an approach might also reinvigorate and reframe a wider range of questions in the study of religion.
This article explores how women active in Islamic organizations in Norway have represented the position of women in Islam between 1991 and 2010. It particularly focuses on the distinction many women make between patriarchal practices in Muslim cultures and a “real” Islam that empowers women. Why is this distinction so widespread? In his much acclaimed work Holy Ignorance (2010), Olivier Roy considers separating religion from culture to be typical for fundamentalism. Based on archival material and qualitative interviews, this article shows that there is no one-to-one correspondence between religious fundamentalism and perceptions of religion as separate from culture. Instead, it demonstrates that Norwegian Muslim women’s essentialist representations of Islam are provoked by representations of Islam in public debate as inherently violent and oppressive towards women. This article introduces the term “diffused Islamic feminism” to grasp Muslim women’s efforts against forced marriages and other misogynistic practices.
This article presents a sketch of the relevance of Islam to violent activism. Drawing on secondary analysis of previous research on Boko Haram (a group that operates in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and predominantly in Nigeria in 2016), it aims to avoid a traditional position singling out Islam as the only element propitious for the emergence and escalation of violence in groups with Islamic orientation. Instead the article suggests, in line with social movement theory perspectives, that Islam – though a very significant resource – is only one among other possible resources that encourage this development. In interaction with other resources and conditions, Islam provides both the ideological framework and the network platform upon which violent elements develop.