A cultural sociology of religion: New directions

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In this article, I review three contemporary streams of scholarship that are revitalizing the cultural analysis of religion, an approach that dates to the discipline's founding. Research from an institutional field perspective focuses on the institutions that shape religious belief, practice, and mobilization. Work on lived religion, including neo-Durkheimian approaches, focuses on religious experience and contested practices of sacralization. Scholarship on religious cultural tools and symbolic boundaries analyzes religion as symbolic legitimation. These three approaches avoid serious problems associated with both market and secularization accounts, in part because of the way they conceptualize religious authority and religious identity, and in part because of their broader scope of inquiry. In the conclusion, I combine the insights from these approaches to articulate a promising agenda for future research, offering a set of focus questions that are relevant to both classical and contemporary concerns about religion's role in modern societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-265
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Cultural tools
  • Culture
  • Institutional field
  • Lived religion
  • Religion
  • Symbolic boundaries


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