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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access October 18, 2018

What is a rite? Émile Durkheim, a hundred years later

Lorenzo D’Orsi and Fabio Dei
From the journal Open Information Science

Abstract

This paper is focused on the anthropological concept of ritual, starting from Emile Durkheim's approach in Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse (1912). We discuss three different aspects of the Durkheimian perspective on religion and rituals: a) the sacred/profane dichotomy; b) the concept of collective representations - which establishes a substantial continuity between religious and scientific thought; c) a ‟practical” and performative interpretation of rites as the basis of social bond. During the twentieth century, these aspects have influenced different and sometimes opposing theoretical approaches (including ‟symbolist” and ‟neo-intellectualist” theories and Victor Turner's ‟anthropology of experience”). We briefly review each of them, arguing for the importance of reconsidering them into a unitary perspective, centred on religious phenomena as basically moral experiences and as the language of social relations. In the conclusions, we will show how such unitary approach helps us understand the transformations as well as the continuities of rituality in the individualized and secularized societies of what we call nowadays the Western world.

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Received: 2018-02-13
Accepted: 2018-07-27
Published Online: 2018-10-18
Published in Print: 2018-10-01

© by Lorenzo D’Orsi and Fabio Dei, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

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