Lived Religion: Presentation

Lived Religion

Part of the LERMA programme on Experiencing Modernity


Lived religion: experiencing, witnessing and transmitting

In English-speaking countries, the last decade has seen a significant development of research around the concept of lived religion. This innovative topic spans the fields of history, sociology and literary analysis; its prism gradually reshapes the contours of religious studies and adds some revealing new shades. By focusing on practices rather than ideas, on experience rather than prescribed theory, this approach moves away from the traditional top-down perspective, the limits of which are now recognized, in order to envision the religious from the bottom-up, or “from the pew”, as Christopher Marsh put it. The picture which then emerges is not a finished product claiming perfect completeness but rather a kaleidoscopic and fragmented picture of religious experience. It tells the story, not Churches or institutions, but of the men and women who compose them, of their beliefs, their practices, their feelings, and of the expression of their experiences. The theme of lived religion includes the study of deviance and of the bypassing of the rules imposed by religious institutions; it emphasizes the creativity of both individuals and communities, and questions the interactions between margins and center. As such, “lived religion” offers a degree of continuity with the concepts explored by the LERMA over the past four years. By adopting this innovative theme, our research centre will take on a pioneering role on a national scale since, in France, this approach has barely been touched upon by a few historians and remains largely unexplored in the field of anglophone studies.

[1] Christopher Marsh, ‘ “Common Prayer” in England 1560-1640: The View from the Pew’, Past and Present 171 (2001): 66-94; ‘Sacred Space in England, 1560-1640: The View from the Pew’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53 (2002): 286-311; ‘Order and Place in England, 1580–1640: The View from the Pew’, Journal of British Studies 44/1 (2005): 3-26.

[2] Laurence Croq and David Garrioch (dir.), La religion vécue.  Les laïcs dans l’Europe moderne (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013).