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Emerging-Strong-Program-TIF

Emerging-Strong-Program-TIF - THE EMERGING STRONG PROGRAM...

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T HE E MERGING S TRONG P ROGRAM IN THE S OCIOLOGY OF R ELIGION BY D AVID S MILDE & M ATTHEW M AY UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA | DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY F EBRUARY 8, 2010 T HE AUTHORS WOULD LIKE TO THANK J ONATHAN V AN A NTWERPEN AND C RAIG C ALHOUN FOR THE INVITATION TO WRITE THIS PAPER , AND C OURTNEY B ENDER , W ENDY C ADGE , P ENNY E DGELL , J OHN E VANS , C HARLES G ELMAN , J OHN T ORPEY , R HYS W ILLIAMS , J ONATHAN V AN A NTWERPEN , AND G ENEVIEVE Z UBRZYCKI FOR COMMENTING ON DRAFTS .
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Introduction After a long period of neglect, sociologists have rediscovered the study of religion in recent decades […] the field has been transformed from a relatively isolated, sometimes stagnant intellectual area to a vibrant, exciting subfield that is open to, and well connected with, other areas of inquiry. Christopher Ellison and Darren Sherkat, “The Sociology of Religion in the 21 st Century: Introduction” (2008) My own sense is that the sociological study of religion has now entered an ill-defined transition phase in which many scholars are moving beyond some of the field’s burning concerns of recent years but have not yet clearly redefined the major issues, challenges and goals for the future. Christian Smith, “Future Directions in the Sociology of Religion” (2008) The study of religion is in a state of crisis. Sociology of religion, and other disciplines, have neither anticipated nor plausibly explained the resurgence of religion we have witnessed over the last decades. We work with diverse concepts of religion that are basically incompatible with each other and with theories that at best have exhausted their potential and at worst seem to confirm our preconceptions rather than explain the world in which we live. Therefore, it seems to be an opportune moment to reflect on the presuppositions, concepts, and theories which should inform the study of religion. Martin Riesebrodt, “Theses on a Theory of Religion” (2008) The sociology of religion is experiencing a period of renewed vitality yet, at the same time, one of critical paradigmatic reflection. Whether the current situation appears as an opportunity, transition, or crisis depends on your point of view. But it is clear that over the past two decades scholarly, media, and societal interest in religious phenomena has increased at the same time that considerable renewal of the concepts and methods used by the sub-discipline has occurred. This renewal within the sociology of religion was spurred by reframing the debate on secularization, even challenging the concept, as well as a move towards active, agentive concepts of religious practice that could capture the richness and vitality of religious manifestations in the late 20 th century. These trends were codified by Stephen Warner in his 1993 article on the emergence of a “new paradigm” in the study of religion (Warner 1993). Warner argued that in the “old paradigm,” based on the European experience of secularization, scholars saw meaning as the main function of religion, and predicted that in modern pluralistic contexts religion would become increasingly abstract and privatistic. In
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