Alternative Sociologies of Religion: Through Non-Western Eyes


Alternative Sociologies of Religion: Through Non-Western Eyes


Sociology and Anthropology


Th e sociology of religion has long used Western Christianity as a model for all religious life. As a result, the fi eld has tended to highlight certain aspects of religion, such as religious beliefs and formal organizations, while paying less attention to others.

Rather than simply criticizing such limitations, Alternative Sociologies of Religion off ers three fresh and intriguing possibilities. James Spickard imagines what the sociology of religion would look like had it arisen in diff erent cultural contexts. What would sociologists of religion better see, had they been raised in Confucian China? What could they learn about religion from Ibn Khaldūn, the famed 14th century Arab scholar? What would they better understand, had they been born Navajo, whose traditional religion certainly does not revolve around beliefs and organizations? Th rough these thought experiments, Spickard demonstrates how non-Western sociologies would be better prepared to understand such factors as who maintains religious communities, the relationship between religion and ethnicity as forms of social solidarity, and the role of embodied experience in religious rituals. Moreover, he shows how thinking in these ways illuminates characteristics of Western religions that have largely been invisible to sociologists working in the dominant manner. Th e book situates these alternatives in a broader critique of sociology, prompted by scholars from the Global South. It concludes by highlighting the consequences of a Euro-centric view of intellectual life, calling for a more global perspective in the social sciences. Th rough broadening the sociological canon to make room for more voices, the volume off ers a stimulating challenge for the contemporary study of religion.




Publication Date



New York University Press

Place of Publication

New York, NY


sociology of religion, non-western social theory, Navajo, Confucianism, Ibn Khaldun, social theory


Religion | Sociology | Sociology of Religion | Theory, Knowledge and Science

Alternative Sociologies of Religion: Through Non-Western Eyes