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Religious and Spiritual Capital: Reproducing, Overcoming or Going Beyond Inequality? ISA Yokohama 2014



Religious and Spiritual Capital:

Reproducing, Overcoming or Going Beyond Inequality?

Scholars exploring the function of religion and spirituality do not seem to reach agreement regarding the issue of inequality: some researchers identify religion and/or spirituality as factor/s in reproducing existing patterns of inequality, whereas other authors argue the opposite, that religion/spirituality contribute to overcoming social inequality. A third position is possible in this debate, expressed by a minority of authors who argue that religion/spirituality go beyond the issue of inequality because they point to something other than social order. These authors often interpret religion and spirituality in terms of gift.

This panel will focus on the understanding of religion/spirituality as forms of “capital” or gift, and will therefore investigate religious/spiritual capital in relation to inequality. We invite papers which approach these issues both theoretically and empirically.

Furthermore, we would like to draw attention to the fact that an increasing body of literature distinguishes between religion and spirituality as two opposing instances. Within journalism a kind of tradition has been developed in which “spirituality” is most often used with positive connotations when “religion” is used with negative implications. This reflects the developing wider societal reflex to regard religion as restrictive, whilst spirituality offers more open engagement with existential questions (e.g. with a popular slogan that one’s orientation could be “spiritual but not religious”). In theology “religion” most often still describes traditional dogmatological and institutional concerns, whereas “spirituality” refers to the wider and deeper, that is more experiential and more intuitive, aspects of religiosity. Recent developments in religious studies have shown that “religion” is in decline, whereas “spirituality” is on the rise.

Surprisingly, this differentiation is not entirely clear when it comes to identifying specific capital-type resources religion/spirituality give rise to. Much of the literature about religious/spiritual capital uses these terms interchangeably and fails adequately to explain the content underpinning the concepts. We encourage papers which can contribute to addressing specificities of religious and spiritual capital and relate them to the issue of inequality.



Session Chairs

Christo Lombaard teaches Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. His 2012 volume The Old Testament and Christian Spirituality (Atlanta, Georgia: Society of Biblical

Literature) has been awarded the 2013 Krister Stendahl prize by the Graduate Theological Federation, USA.

Maria Hämmerli is sociologist of religion and currently researches Orthodox Churches and their migration to traditionally non-Orthodox countries. She is currently editing a volume about Orthodox Identities in Contemporary Western Europe. Additionally, she takes great interest in broader issues related to religion and spirituality (see publication Religion and Spirituality between Capital and Gift). Maria Hämmerli is based at the Insitute of sociology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and at Religious studies department of the University of Fribourg.

Maria Hämmerli


Institut de sociologie

Université de Neuchâtel

Faubourg de l’Hôpital 27

CH-2000 Neuchâtel


+ 41 79 282 83 25<