Mediating the Sacred: Thinking Through Religious Experience in the Classics and Beyond

Michal Pagis, Daniel Winchester

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Starting from the triumvirate of Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, this chapter examines the various ways the category of “experience” operates in classical theoretical understandings and explanations of religion. Despite important differences, we argue that what the classical forebearers share is an understanding of “religious experience” as a product of a sociocultural mediation between situated subjectivities and transcendent meaning structures. We then take these early proto-theorizations of religious experience and connect them to more contemporary studies, illustrating how the passage between subjectivity and symbolism is itself mediated via complex configurations of interpretive forms, bodily practices and techniques, and material artifacts. Religious experience, in this view, is neither completely individualistic nor culturally universal, but can be theorized as socially and culturally assembled via its passage through various material, corporeal, and interpretive media. Building from but also extending the classics, we advocate for a revived sociology of religious experience that approaches the phenomena in medias res. We argue that such an approach not only helps reclaim the category of “religious experience” for sociological analysis, but also opens up new questions and lines of inquiry for the sociology of religion more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Experience
  • Mediation
  • Religion
  • Sociological theory
  • Subjectivity


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