Congress 2015 Abstracts and Session Descriptions

Note: Content copied from the Canadian Sociological Association 2015 Conference: Archive Programme. Information correct at the time of publication. They are listed in “Session order” (i.e., CNDS1, CNDS2, CNDS3, etc.).

CNDS/RCED RESEARCH CLUSTER MEETING

The bilingual Canadian Network of Durkheimian Studies/Réseau canadien d’études durkheimienne

(CNDS/RCED) was formed in the spring of 2012, becoming a Research Cluster of the CSA in the fall 0f 2013. The Research Cluster is ecumenical in its approach to Durkheimian sociology as exemplified in the session and paper topics at Congress in 2014 and 2015 that combine empirical, theoretical, historical, and textual research together with considerations about political practice. Its activities are also closely tied with those of the Laboratoire d’études durkheimiennes de L’Université du Québec à Montréal. Our 2015 annual meeting will focus on the selection of a new co-secretary, preparations for 2016 meetings in Montreal and Calgary, communications protocols, research priorities concerning the sociology of the family and education, and possible publication projects for the 100th anniversary of Durkheim’s death in 2017. CNDS/RCED is officially affiliated with: The British Centre for Durkheimian Studies, Oxford University; the Brazilian Centre of Durkheimian Studies, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, at Porto Alegre, Brazil; and LaSociété Française d’Études Durkheimiennes, Paris.

DURKHEIM AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE

Session Code: CNDS1
Session Format: Regular (Presentations and Discussion) Session Language: Bilingual

Session Description: Durkheim’s efforts to develop and articulate a distinctive ontology for sociology, epistemological protocols for empirical and theoretical research while reflexively linking products of sociological research to axiology, count among his most important and enduring contributions to social science. Durkheim’s metatheoretical interventions however, have been the subject of critical investigation, intense debate and elaboration from the start. Divergences among positions articulated by Habermas, Giddens, Aron, Berger and Luckmann, Anne Warfield Rawls, Mike Gane, Warren Schmauss, Susan Stedman Jones, Stephen P. Turner, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Frank Pearce, Bernard Lacroix, Georges Bataille, Julia Kristeva, John O’Neill, Giorgio Agamben and others, highlight the productive and contentious discursive effects of Durkheim’s philosophy of social science. Topics covered include, nominalism, Critical Theory, and utopianism, involving readings of Durkheim, Aron, Honneth, and Mannheim.

This session has been organized by the Canadian Network of Durkheimian Studies clusters.

Session Organizer and Chair: Ronjon Paul Datta, University of Windsor, Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology.

Presenters:

1. La critique aronienne de Durkheim : au-delà du nominalisme de l’un et du sociologisme de l’autre

Geneviève Gendreau-Beauchamp, Université d’Ottawa (doctorante, École d’études anthropologiques et sociologiques)
Cette communication sera l’occasion de revenir sur la lecture qu’a fait Aron de Durkheim. L’hostilité revendiquée d’Aron envers Durkheim confine les deux auteurs à la caricature. Durkheim est vu par Aron comme un métaphysicien, dont il abhorre le sociologisme, fidèle en cela aux inspirations allemandes sur lesquelles se fonde sa sociologie. Aron reconnaît toutefois la présence, chez Durkheim, de manière parfois implicite, d’une véritable distinction entre compréhension et explication. Aron, quant à lui, a souvent été considéré, notamment par les durkheimiens, comme un simple disciple de Weber. Des lectures attentives révèlent à quel point il en est critique, dénonçant sa posture de « nominaliste intégral » pour mieux s’en écarter, notamment sur la question des idéaltypes, dont il présente une version proche du réalisme. La position ontologique d’Aron mérite d’être étudiée, puisque si elle tend vers le nominalisme, elle ne saurait s’y réduire. Aron a en effet constamment cherché à penser l’intelligibilité des ensembles historiques et sociologiques, ainsi que la « société globale », voire la civilisation. Il a également reconnu la prégnance de « l’esprit objectif » sur les individus. Il s’agira ici de relire les œuvres de ces deux sociologues en pensant certains lieux réflexifs communs.

2. Durkheim dans la philosophie sociale d’Axel Honneth.

Jean-Marc Larouche, Département de sociologie Laboratoire d’études durkheimiennes Université du Québec à Montréal
Dans Freedom’s Right. The Social Foundations of Democratic Life (Polity Press, 2014), Axel Honneth vise à coupler une théorie de la justice à l’analyse de la société, soit un procédé de reconstruction normative s’appuyant sur une analyse immanente du social et ce, en actualisant la philosophie hégélienne du droit dans les termes d’une liberté commaunautaire, voire plus précisément sociale. Cette dans la partie sur la liberté sociale, distincte de la liberté négative fondée dans le contrat social (Hobbes) et de la liberté réflexive (Kant et Rousseau), qu’Honneth réfère de manière forte non seulement à Hegel, mais aussi à Durkheim pour dégager trois sphères d’institutionnalisation de cette liberté sociale : celle des relations interpersonnelles (amitié, amour, famille); celles des relations économiques (marché, travail); celles des relations propres à une culture politique démocratique (citoyenneté, espace public, cosmopolitisme, État de droit). Pour la première forme d’institutionnalisation, Honneth note que plus que tout autre social theorist, Durkheim considérait justement la famille comme un lieu dans lequel se forgent les valeurs d’attachement et d’engagement qui sont nécessaires pour la coopération dans les autres sphères de la vie sociale;pour les deux autres sphères, celles du marché et de l’organisation du travail et celle de la culture politique démocratique, Honneth fait de Durkheim une référence majeure de son argumentaire en faveur de la liberté sociale. Ce faisant, la référence à Durkheim est pleinement assumée par Honneth comme levier d’une actualisation de la théorie critique. La communication permettra d’expliciter et d’évaluer cette référence à Durkheim par Honneth.

3. Utopian Ideology: Durkheim’s Multiple Political Orientations

James Lannigan, University of Toronto

I use insights from Mannheim’s Ideology & Utopia (1936) to investigate to what extent a social theorist can exemplify different utopian mentalities simultaneously, and what consequences this may have for interpreting and understanding their work. I use the works and interpretations of the works of Durkheim as a case to argue that he can be interpreted as a conservative theorist, a liberal- humanitarian theorist or even a socialist simultaneously.

Reading Durkheim in this light gives a broader understanding of his theory of social change and his ideas about the relationship between the individual and the collective and the role of the state. I conclude that Mannheim’s utopian mentalities is a useful tool for understanding the breadth of political perspectives that social theorists can employ in their work and that it can function as an entry point for more open dialogue within sociology around issues of political orientation.

NEW DURKHEIMIAN ANALYSES OF CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL PHENOMENA

Session Code: CNDS2
Session Format: Regular (Presentations and Discussion) Session Language: English

Session Description: In recent decades, Durkheimian sociology and social theory has sparked new debates, provoked new controversies, informed and inspired new research pertinent to a wide range of contemporary social phenomena. These developments are fitting, for in pursuing and promoting an array of substantive and comparative studies Durkheim and his allies treated theory- building and research as inseparable. This session will showcase contemporary research into social life and transformation which meaningfully engages with Durkheimian or neo-Durkheimian theoretical work. We invite papers from researchers applying Durkheimian insights (including those of Mauss, Hubert, Halbwachs, Hertz, Davy, etc.) in diverse fields that could include (by example only):

: political crisis and transformation, political culture and symbolism, de-democratization, insurrection, post-politics
: economic orders, practices and consequences; consumption, co-operation, reciprocity, precarity, fatalism

: sovereignty and state-formation, governance and institutional orders, justice, rights and states of exception; corporatization; the commons
: social or cultural transformation, disruption or destruction, social movements, terrorism
: collective emotions, global currents, new solidarities, community/immunity, civic ritual, collective memory, and memorialization, reconciliation

: symbolic representation, performance, spectacle, new media
: religion (including civil or implicit religion), narrative, category-formation, the sacred, purity : personhood, identity, subject-formation, individualism, post-individualism
: embodiment, sexualities, desire, moral regulation
: personal or institutional violence, sacrifice, trauma
This session has been organized by the Canadian Network of Durkheimian Studies cluster.

Session Organizers: Tara Milbrandt, University of Alberta, Augustana Faculty and William Ramp, University of Lethbridge, Sociology

Presenters:

1. Solidarity in our contemporary postmodern society

Bernard Bertrand, Université du Québec à Montréal Laboratoire d’études Durkheimiennes de l’UQÀM
The present presentation will try to map out the multiple changes that have occurred on the structures of solidarity in light of the recent transformations of our society from modern to postmodern. By basing myself of the constitution of postmodernism theorized by Michel Freitag, this presentation will attempt try to understand the type and state of solidarity in our present society. To do so, by following Durkheim conceptualization, this paper will take a closer look at the contemporary state of the legal system to hence understand the forms and state of solidarity in modern society. In a nutshell, this paper will focus on the modifications of the legal system that were occurred by the arrival of a postmodern society and link them with the transformations of solidarity.

2. The World in Windsor? Durkheim, Realism, and Cosmopolitanism From Below

Ronjon Paul Datta, The University of Windsor
Several important recent explications of Durkheim’s approach to cosmopolitanism (cf. Inglis and Robertson) are extended by making reference to the emergence of ethnic clubs in post-war Windsor, Ontario, their interconnections, and their effects on civic morality. Critical theoretical work on the potential of Durkheim’s sociology of cosmopolitanism is explored to develop a realist explanatory model of the emergence of transformative normative coordinates in society, with specific reference being made to Windsor. This form of realism stresses the morphological and mobilities dimensions of social change, illustrating a productive Durkheimian innovation thatcombined Saint-Simonian and Kantian sensibilities. The paper culminates in articulating a radical Durkheimian normative position on cosmopolitanism providing means for a realist critique of ethnic essentialisms and identitarianisms.

3. Beauty Pageants: Rituals of hegemonic femininity

Katie Flood, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Feminism is defined as a collection of movements, ideologies, discourses and symbols which aims to establish equality in political, economic, and social aspects, as well as equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Feminist theory emerged from several feminist movements which aimed to empower women and to understand the “nature of gender inequality by examining women’s social roles and lived experience” (Gelb, 1989). Two main themes of Emile Durkeheim, both of them controversial, can be used to examine the social rituals involved in beauty pageants. The first is the priority of the social over the individual, and the second is the idea that society can be studied scientifically. His ultimate goal, in what was probably his greatest work, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, was to explain “how individuals are shaped by social facts” (Ritzer, 2008, p.206). Religious ceremony and festivals, including those that celebrate female beauty are collective assemblies that emphasize the practice of traditional public rituals (Datta & Milbrandt, 2014, p.495). These rituals provide an instrument for a cohesive social attachment to the group and its values. Another theorist, Bataille, examines another idea of community as “the loss of the self in festivals” (Hegarty, 2000, p.12).

DURKHEIM, THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY

Session Code: CNDS3
Session Format: Regular (Presentations and Discussion) Session Language: Bilingual

Session Description: This session attends to how Durkheim and contemporary Durkheimian sociologists analyse the constitution and place of individuals in society. Durkheim’s sociology offered a substantial challenge to the conventionally opposed poles of “the individual” and “society” characteristic of much social thought and social science. His sociology provided means for understanding the socio-historical emergence of individuality, individualism (e.g., the “cult of the individual”), personhood, and respect for the person. In doing so, Durkheim developed theoretical tools for grasping the constitution of people as both individualized and social beings. These are famously represented in his sociology of suicide and sociology of religion (e.g., his theory of the “soul” and identity). The session contains both theoretically and empirically oriented papers dealing with Durkheim, Mead, the “cult of the individual,” and the sociology of suicide in the cases of veterans, and aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Co-sponsored by the Canadian Durkheimian Studies Network and the Social Theory Research Clusters

Session Organizer and Chair: Ronjon Paul Datta, University of Windsor, Sociology, Anthropology, Presenters:

1. Entre Mead et Durkheim: la notion de respect

Lysandre Champagne, UQAM LED
Dans nos sociétés basées sur la reconnaissance du talent et du potentiel des individus à travers l’éthique du travail, les inégalités de fait trouvent écho dans les formes de solidarité. Selon Richard Sennett, la question qui se pose est de savoir ce que la société fait avec l’envie et les inégalités. Les fonctions de l’État, de la communauté et de l’individu vis-à-vis l’institutionnalisation des inégalités transforment les liens sociaux et les modalités de cohésion sociale. Depuis la fin du capitalisme primitif, les institutions structurantes d’ordre bureaucratique émergentes, en se développant, tant au niveau entrepreneurial qu’étatique, ont progressivement élaboré un modèle de hiérarchie sociale de pair avec des protections sociales. De fait, la mobilité sociale a un coût social et la force perverse et séductrice de l’inégalité a fait son chemin, venant modifier une notion première des relations sociales, le respect de soi et d’autrui. À partir de cette notion de respect, ma conférence portera sur la mise en perspective comparée des postures épistémologiques meadienne et durkheimienne. Je vais ainsi démontrer la contemporanéité de ces penseurs, leurs limites, mais surtout rendre compte de l’étonnante complétude de leurs théories en regard de leurs contextes socio-historiques respectifs.

2. Identités d’ordre primaire et secondaire dans le culte de l’individu de Durkheim : Un nouveau regard sur la philosophie de la religion de Durkheim dans la perspective de la modernité

Paul Carls, Université de Montreal, Département de Science Politique
Tard dans sa vie, Durkheim annonce l’existence du culte de l’individu, une religion laïque qui remplace le christianisme dans l’Occident comme point de référence universel et guaranteur de l’unité sociale. Le culte de l’individu tient l’individu comme son objet sacré, construit une moralité autour des droits de l’humanité, et utilise la science moderne comme sa cosmologie.

Le culte de l’individu promeut la diversité dans la société, et il est possible de dire qu’il promeut une multitude d’identités et de valeurs. Cependant, la coexistence de ces identités différentes est fondée sur l’allégeance de tous aux valeurs du culte de l’individu. On peut parler ainsi d’identités d’ordre primaire et secondaire: les individus peuvent maintenir une pluralité d’identités d’ordre secondaire, donné qu’ils partagent tous l’identité d’ordre primaire du culte de l’individu.

Pourtant, selon Durkheim, toutes les religions créent des identités d’ordre primaire. La question s’impose : Quelle est la place de la religion traditionnelle dans le culte de l’individu si on veut éviter les conflits? Ce papier va défendre l’idée que les religions traditionnelles doivent accepter un statut d’ordre secondaire si les sociétés laïques de l’Occident vont pouvoir être cohésives.

3. Finding Moral Purpose: a study of suicidal ideation among Canadian Veterans of Afghanistan in transition to civilian life

Steve Rose, Queen’s University
The concept of moral injury is gaining traction in recent psychological literature on the mental health of combat Veterans and has been linked to an increased risk of suicide. In this literature, the concept of ‘morality’ is based on philosophies of ‘rightness’ because it is defined as a perceived transgression. However, the literature on moral injury neglects philosophies of ‘goodness’. This research builds on the concept of moral injury by drawing on Durkheim’s sociological concept of morality, Aristotle’s concept of ‘the good life’, and Charles Taylor’s moral horizons and self-identity. Beyond perceived acts of transgression in combat, Veterans experience a form of moral trauma caused by the transition from deployment to civilian life. This form of trauma is a result of the anomic transitional conditions produced by these radically juxtaposing moral contexts and the lack of institutional support during this transition. This research employs semi-structured qualitative in- depth interviews with 35 Canadian male combat Veterans of Afghanistan. The interviews inquire into individuals’ experiences reintegrating into civilian occupations by focusing on suicidal ideation as it relates to the loss of a highly integrated and regulated military moral community, as well as the self-identity it provides. The concept of ‘moral purpose’ is developed to highlight the contemporary relevance of Durkheim’s sociology of morality for the concept of moral injury as a social transitional trauma.

4. Aboriginal Suicide: Through a Durkheimian Analysis

Helena Amorim, McMaster Graduate Studies
In 1897, Emile Durkheim published Le Suicide, a fundamental sociological work that revolutionized the way society conceptualized suicide. Decades later, this essay will contextualize the Durkheimian analysis through a modern Canadian lens, applying it to the exceedingly high suicide rate among the Canadian indigenous populations. The rate of indigenous suicides is a sociological phenomenon that cannot be ignored. This essay will establish the successful application of indigenous suicide through Durkheim’s three predominant categorical suicides: egoistic, altruistic, and anomic. Given the dynamic nature of suicide, one may theorize such a phenomenon as being a multifaceted social issue. Thus, this framework will establish that there is a socio-cultural system, located outside the individual (or indigenous bands) that plays a primary and fundamental role in conceptualizing the suicide rate within a population (Carsten, 2000: 310). Furthermore, despite the empirical limitations of Durkheim’s analysis, it nevertheless provides a sufficient theoretical framework as a means of contextualizing Canadian indigenous suicide rates.

DURKHEIM STUDIES- TEXTUAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSES FOCUSING ON THE DURKHEIMIAN CORPUS.
Session Code: CNDS4
Session Format: Regular (presentations and discussion)

Session Language: Bilingual

La séance sera l’’occasion pour les chercheurs de présenter leurs travaux visant à clarifier le sens de la théorie et des concepts durkheimiens par l’’étude du contenu ou du contexte de l’’œuvre. Les écrits d’’Émile Durkheim occupent une place privilégiée dans l’’appareil référentiel des sociologues contemporains. Cette sur-utilisation des théories du premier sociologue universitaire français laisse place à plusieurs écarts et confère une certaine ambigüité à plusieurs de ses éléments. L’’étude du contexte intellectuel, politique, culturel ou institutionnel dans le cadre duquel se développe la sociologie durkheimienne éclaire le sens des concepts et les les préoccupations partagées par Durkheim et ses contemporains. L’’analyse textuelle du corpus, quant à elle, est fondamentale en ce qu’’elle rend possible la description lexicale nécessaire à la circonscription d’’un objet d’étude particulier au sein du vaste corpus durkheimien et l’’analyse de sa place dans la logique théorique qui se déploie. Cette double appréhension de la théorie durkheimienne (textuelle et socio-historique) s’’inscrit résolument dans l’’histoire sociale des sciences sociales en ce qu’’elle sonde sociologiquement le passé théorique de manière à éclairer la théorie sociologique contemporaine.

Presenters:

1. State, Nature and Citizenship in Durkheim’s Cosmovision

Katy Maloney, Université du Québec à Montréal, Francois Pizzarro-Noel, Université du Québec à Montréal
At the turn of the 21st century, new forms of constitutional arrangements were implemented in Bolivia and Ecuador. As a result of years of heavily decried neoliberal policies, a certain resurgence of the Left in Latin America, encouraged by the rise of the indigenous rights movements, led to constitutions being rewritten to take into account indigenous worldviews (or “cosmovisions”). The concept of “Buen Vivir”, frequently used to describe this new normative system, is evoked in both the bolivian and equadorian constitutions, and contributes to formalize a new social consensus around the notion of “living well”, rather than “living better”, the latter being associated with the idea of progress as it is generally theorized in liberal and neoliberal ideologies. Along with a different conception of the common good, the cosmovision promoted by “Buen Vivir” advocates giving rights to nature – or to Mother Nature (“ la Pachamama”), more specifically – inscribing pre- modern, symbolic conceptions of nature into a political system that is resolutely modern: the nation-state. Our premise is to question whether the inclusion of such a worldview (“cosmovision”) is possible/viable in the context of a nation-state, or if it just creates an irreconcilable paradox: can an indigenous normative and symbolic system be included within the framework of a “legal state” system, itself a corollary of the greater liberal “cosmovision” introduced with modernity? From this perceived problem, we believe that durkheimian theory can help shed some light on the issue. As such, we see an interest in re-theorizing Durkheim’s works as an occidental theory of society that pleads for the development of a cosmovision that would be equivalent to those that underlie the different pre-modern ontologies. In other words, by considering Durkheim as one of the rare theorists that didn’t completely assume the Nature/Culture divide, our sociological intuition leads us to believe that his theory of social organisation is more apt at describing the dynamics of “Buen Vivir” than any other.

2. Analyse du concept de wilderness dans une perspective durkheimienne

Marie-Josee Bourgeois, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Depuis la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle, la détermination d’aires protégées est devenue une action politique et le principal outil de conservation de la nature. Le nombre de kilomètres carrés consacré à la création d’aires protégées continu à augmenter année après année. Pourtant, dans certains pays, la création d’aires protégées implique des déplacements de population puisque, n’ayant plus le droit de modifier l’environnement à leur gré, les gens qui habitent les lieux sont contraints à se déplacer vers les villes en espérant y survivre. (Guha, 1989) Le processus de création des aires protégées est donc remis en question, de l’idée créatrice du départ à l’impact direct de cette création sur les populations autochtones de plusieurs régions du monde. (Colchester, 2003) La création d’aires protégées serait la manifestation d’un courant de pensée étasunien, soutenu par le concept de wilderness, qui s’étend dans le monde entier et qui déploierait de grands efforts pour développer et promouvoir une philosophie occidentale, ce qui entre en contradiction avec le mode de vie des populations du tiers-monde. (Guha, 1989) À la défense de la création d’aires protégées, on estime qu’elle assure la protection de la biodiversité et qu’il est justifié de prioriser la protection de la valeur intrinsèque de la nature au détriment des besoins humains, même si cela implique de laisser des gens mourir de faim. (Rolston, 1996) Il sera donc intéressant d’analyser dans une perspective durkheimienne ce courant de pensée étasunien, ce concept de wilderness, compris comme extérieur à la nature en soi à l’image des représentations collectives telles que définies par Émile Durkheim, bien que déterminant dans la prise de décisions politiques.

3. To add and to Superadd [Surajouter]: Collective Representations and the Closure of Metaphysics in The Elementary Forms.

Colm Kelly, Department of Sociology – St. Thomas University
Following Wittgenstein’s claim that “every sentence in our language ‘is in order as it is” Hutchinson, Read and Sharrock in 2007 argued that social theory and social science are a sort of bewitching category mistake which we are tempted to repeat over and over. In a different tradition, Jacques Derrida had argued that the ‘human sciences’ unwittingly repeat central themes of the ‘metaphysics of presence,’ as this tradition reaches its ‘closure.’ Both inspired by and wary of these two approaches, the paper will present a Derrida-inspired (cf. especially Derrida on Rousseau) close reading of the language of those passages of The Elementary Forms where Durkheim specifies repeatedly that both collective representations and the sacred are “superadded [surajouter]” to matter and nature. Collective representations are superadded in the sense that they superimpose themselves on reality and make reality what it is: more than an ordinary supplement, they make or complete that to which they are superadded. But they are also superadded in the sense that they are artificially added, added to the power of two or hyper-added, having no inherent connection to what they are added. It is this very disconnection from material reality that gives the collective representations their idealizing power over it and also their capacity to dissipate themselves, to superadd themselves superfluously. The contradictory tensions of this ‘superadded’ would be the closure of the metaphysics of presence as it leaves its mark in the oeuvre of Durkheim. Returning to Wittgenstein and Derrida, I will conclude by asking the audience and myself – in an entirely un- cynical and un-rhetorical fashion — what ‘form of life’ would ask us or require us to repeat and continue that which already one hundred years ago was wearing itself down?

4. State, Nature and Citizenship in Durkheim’s Cosmovision (2)

Francois Pizarro Noel, Université du Québec à Montréal
At the turn of the 21st century, new forms of constitutional arrangements were implemented in Bolivia and Ecuador. As a result of years of heavily decried neoliberal policies, a certain resurgence of the Left in Latin America, encouraged by the rise of the indigenous rights movements, led to constitutions being rewritten to take into account indigenous worldviews (or “cosmovisions”). The concept of “Buen Vivir”, frequently used to describe this new normative system, is evoked in both the bolivian and equadorian constitutions, and contributes to formalize a new social consensus around the notion of “living well”, rather than “living better”, the latter being associated with the idea of progress as it is generally theorized in liberal and neoliberal ideologies. Along with a different conception of the common good, the cosmovision promoted by “Buen Vivir” advocates giving rights to nature – or to Mother Nature (“ la Pachamama”), more specifically – inscribing pre- modern, symbolic conceptions of nature into a political system that is resolutely modern: the nation-state. Our premise is to question whether the inclusion of such a worldview (“cosmovision”) is possible/viable in the context of a nation-state, or if it just creates an irreconcilable paradox: can an indigenous normative and symbolic system be included within the framework of a “legal state” system, itself a corollary of the greater liberal “cosmovision” introduced with modernity? From this perceived problem, we believe that durkheimian theory can help shed some light on the issue. As such, we see an interest in re-theorizing Durkheim’s works as an occidental theory of society that pleads for the development of a cosmovision that would be equivalent to those that underlie the different pre-modern ontologies. In other words, by considering Durkheim as one of the rare theorists that didn’t completely assume the Nature/Culture divide, our sociological intuition leads us to believe that his theory of social organisation is more apt at describing the dynamics of “Buen Vivir” than any other.

RELIGION: DURKHEIMIAN CONSIDERATIONS

Session Code: CNDS5
Session Format: Regular (presentations and discussion) Session Language: Bilingual

Session Description: This session features new work reflective of the range and contemporary applicability of Durkheimian approaches to the sociology and theory of religion. These encompass the implication of religion in the definition and possibility of society; the (im)possibility of the terms of religious speech in contemporary life; reconfigurations of the sacred and religious change; and a rethinking of the idea of a future ‘religion of humanity’.

Session Organizers: Tara Milbrandt, University of Alberta and William Ramp, University of Lethbridge
This session has been co-sponsored by the Canadian Network of Durkheimian Studies research cluster.

Presenters:

1. Shifting the Sacred: Rob Bell and the Progressive Evangelical Turn

Robin Willey, University of Alberta Department of Sociology
For sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the ‘sacred’ constitutes all those things “set apart and forbidden.” Sacred items or ideas are set in relationship to other sacred things within religious contexts. Within Evangelical Christianity, and to a lesser degree Protestantism in general, the sacred has arguably centred on the individual believer and her/his personal relationship with God and scripture. Recently, however, a growing movement within Evangelical Christianity has emphasized the sacred nature of relationships and community, culminating in the mantra “God is love.” This shift has set community above the personal in the hierarchy of sacred Evangelical things. The work of Rob Bell, who is the Evangelical author, pastor, and Oprah Network star, possibly best exemplifies this change and its ramifications, which extend from a post-colonial critique of mission work and evangelism to a move to more inclusive and even Universalist soteriology. Such efforts that have left Bell labeled as a heretic in some Evangelical circles. The author of this paper on Bell and the Evangelicals uses two years of ethnographic research collected from Evangelical communities across North America to explicate further the effects of this movement.

2. The “Religion of the Earth” from a Durkheimian Standpoint: an Hypothesis for Radical Ecology

Jean-Francois Filion, Département de sociologie Université du Québec à Montréal
Le présent exposé vise à présenter l’hypothèse suivant laquelle la conception durkheimienne de la religion renferme un potentiel critique dans le contexte actuel de la crise écologique. Celle-ci nous oblige à entrevoir la nécessité de limiter l’activité humaine contrairement à l’ethos libéral. Or, cette limitation pourrait consister en une soustraction de domaines de la nature vis-à-vis des activités profanes de l’économie. Par exemple, le généticien David Suzuki ne parle-t-il pas d’un «équilibre sacré» à instaurer avec la nature? Une telle voie conforme avec conception durkheimmienne de religion pourrait devenir une alternative au pessimisme écologique développé par le philosophe Hans Jonas, qui déplorait l’incapacité de la démocratie libérale à affronter les catastrophes environnementales. Néanmoins, les constats de Hans Jonas mènent à une impasse politique en admettant que la limitation de l’activité humaine doit s’inspirer de l’autoritarisme soviétique. L’actualisation écologiste d’une perspective durkheimienne permettrait d’éviter les périls écofascistes, car l’imposition de limites éthico-politiques devrait s’effectuer à travers la médiation de groupes intermédiaires ainsi que par la médiation d’une «religion de la Terre» révélant que la pratique quotidienne du «culte de l’individu» ne peut s’effectuer que dans une habitat compatible avec la vie humaine.

3. Religion, representation and speech: Tarde, Durkheim, Latour

William Ramp, University of Lethbridge
This paper will examine a few central presuppositions of a Durkheimian theory of religion through a critical reading of Bruno Latour’s Rejoicing: Or the Torments of Religious Speech. This, perhaps Latour’s most personal and explicitly ‘religious’ effort, nonetheless accords with the trajectory of his more well-known work on science and modernity. Like these, it embodies Latour’s sympathetic interpretation of what one might call a certain sort of anti-representationalism in the writing of Durkheim’s great opponent, Gabriel Tarde. In the spirit of Latour’s Rejoicing, which emphasizes instead religion as a practice of speech and as encounter, this paper will ask what central features might mark an encounter between religion and sociology which does something other than objectify ‘religion’ as a topic of study. Moreover, in what sense, if any, could sociologie religieuse be said, in Durkheimian terms, to be in dialogue with religious speech and practice, or to be itself a ‘religious’ intervention? If this is possible to say this, what then can be made of Durkheim’s characterization of religion and its constitutive features, as social facts? And how might Latour – and/or the ghost of Tarde – respond to the ‘torture’ of encountering a paper such as this one?

 

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