De-Centering and Re-Centering: Rethinking Concepts and Methods in the Sociological Study of Religion


  • Note:This article reflects an equal collaboration between these authors. Names are listed alphabetically. Much of the article also draws on collaborative work conducted with Courtney Bender. Financial support from the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University made possible a conference based on these ideas in October 2008 at which we invited scholars working at “the edges” of the sociology of religion to think collectively about these issues. The first half of this article draws heavily on the introductory chapter from the edited volume that resulted from that conference, Religion on the Edge: De-Centering and Re-Centering the Sociology of Religion, currently under review.

Wendy Cadge, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, MS 071, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02454. E-mail:


Four conceptual and methodological edges or areas of study are outlined. They are located near what have been the boundaries between the sociology of religion and other subfields, where we believe a potential exists to encourage a wide range of scholars to revisit some central concepts. Paying attention to these edges—as a means to de-center to re-center our debates in new ways—not only broadens and deepens our knowledge of the “religious,” it encourages us to reexamine long-standing conceptual tools, unquestioned assumptions, and accepted methods in the sociology of religion. We illustrate these edges through a review of recent literature and examples drawn from our current empirical projects.