443.1 Phenomenology as method in the sociology of religion

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
James SPICKARD , University of Redlands, CA
This paper outlines a rigorous phenomenological approach to the study of religious experience.  Based in the work of Husserl, Schutz, and Giorgi, it separates experience as it presents itself to consciousness from culturally generated interpretations of this experience.  This allows the sociology of religion to expand its investigatory range, especially while studying those religious events not dominated by conceptual thought.  These include the sociology of meditative experiences and the unfolding of rituals in time, among others.

The paper accomplishes three things.   First, it outlines a protocol for capturing subjective experiences—including their interpretive elements—then distilling them to identify their essential and non-essential characteristics.  Second, it describes the result of one such investigation: into the experience of time in Catholic Worker rituals, which focused on how that experience sustains its participants’ sense of community and commitment to socio-political struggle.  Third, it distinguishes this empirical phenomenology from other self-described “phenomenologies” that muddy the relationship between religious experiences and theological interpretation.  Such phenomenologies fail to focus on experience-as-lived, most often by conflating experiences with the conclusions that people draw from them.