Prof Simon Coleman | Lecture 1 - ‘Trivial Religion?: From Liminal to Lateral’

‘Trivial Religion?: From Liminal to Lateral’

[Wednesday 1 May, from 5:15 to 6:45 pm, Harris Lecture Theatre, Oriel College,
to be followed by reception in the Harris Seminar Room, Oriel College]

Two perspectives have dominated social scientific work on religion and ritual. One highlights transcendence, intensity, the spectacular. The other emphasizes immanence, banality, the everyday. I argue that studying pilgrimage suggests the generative possibilities of adopting another point of view: an exploration of initially glancing ritual encounters that may have wider consequences than first appears. Such an approach examines mutually constitutive articulations between backgrounds and foregrounds, ‘looser’ and ‘tighter’ behaviours, adjacencies and immediacies, in tracing how even apparently uncommitted people move through and respond to religious environments. In reflecting on these themes I introduce a key distinction between ‘lateral’ and liminal engagements with ritual practices.