On things seen and unseen: enlarging the vision in sociology of religion
Ammerman, Nancy T.
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CitationNT Ammerman. 2017. "On Things Seen and Unseen: Enlarging the Vision in Sociology of Religion."
Our earliest sociological forebears gave us big ideas to think with and often turned their foundational questions to the analysis of religion. Durkheim (1964) asked how the energy of a gathered community became condensed into symbols that endure and bind that community together. Weber (1958) showed us how cultural virtuosi (and the communities that form around them) create meaningful ways of life that can transform the world. Marx (1964) told us to ask how powerful people mystify others into believing their power is justified. DuBois (1989) pointed to the myriad empirical ways the color line fundamentally shapes the social world. Religion was at the heart of their inquiry and therefore foundational to what we do, but the way we ask questions about religion and society has changed in important ways over the last century. After a brief look at how those original foundations were transformed into a "modern" scholarly discipline, this essay will turn to more recent transformations as they point us toward the future. I will argue that seeing the previously unseen has introduced critical new questions into our work.