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CFP: “Crafting a Nuanced Sociology of Religious Experiences: Realities, Sensed-Experiences, Discourses”

33rd ISSR Conference: “Sensing Religion” Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), 2-5th July, 2015

STS03 “Crafting a Nuanced Sociology of Religious Experiences: Realities, Sensed-Experiences, Discourses”

Organized by:

  • – James SPICKARD, University of Redlands (USA)
  • Géraldine MOSSIÈRE, Université de Montréal (Canada)

Sociologists and other scholars often write about ‘religious experiences’ as if these were only private phenomena. That is far from the case; they are social phenomena as well. This session invites sociologists to examine the social nature of religious experiences in any of three modes.

  • First, there is the question of reality: scholars of many types assume that religious experiences are ‘real’ – i.e., that they refer to real events in the outside world, whether those events are in fact ‘religious’ (e.g., real visitations by real angels) or are the by-product of something else (e.g., brain manifestations). We invite papers that explore the social aspects of any of these views.
  • Second, there is the question of experience: How do religious experiences appear to those doing the experiencing, leaving aside the question of their reality? What are their qualities, attributes, and consequences? How are they induced? How can we best grasp these as social experiences, not just as individual ones? Can any of the various schools of phenomenology help us in this task? If so, how?
  • Third, there is the question of symbols and meanings: How do people interpret their experiences and what is the meaning they attach to them? This brings up the issues of language and discourse: How do people report their religious experiences? In which frames? What is the role of cultural, social and political contexts in these narratives? Are there standardized narratives on religious experiences? Finally, we welcome discussions of why people talk so much about religious experience today and why so many people think that the question of whether religious experiences are real is so important.

We invite paper proposals that examine deeply any of these questions on any basis: theoretical, empirical, philosophical, etc.

Please submit your proposal (abstract around 300 words) at the the ISSR website ( ), before December 15, 2014.