Danièle Hervieu-Léger

The Speaker

Danièle Hervieu-Léger graduated from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and then went on to earn a law degree and a PhD in both sociology and human sciences.

As a researcher with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [National Center for Scientific Research] from 1974 to 1993, she received their silver medal in 2001. Since 1993, she has been director of studies at France’s elite institution of advanced studies, l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales [the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences], where she teaches the sociology of religions.

From 1993 to 2004, she was director of the French center for interdisciplinary studies on religions and the editor in chief of the international journal, Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions [Archives of the Social Sciences and Religion].

She has been recognized for her accomplishments in France’s national merit system, and was honored with the decoration of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur [ Knight of the Legion of Honor] for her academic achievement. Until March 2009, she has presided over the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [National Center for Scientific Research].

As a specialist in the sociology of religions, she has devoted the most of her research to the description of sociology and to the theoretical interpretation of religion’s modern manifestations, including secularization, individualization of belief, forms of religiosity and of communalization and institutional transformations. Her studies have also concentrated on modernity’s transmission, conversion and formation of religious identities.

Danièle Hervieu-Léger has published sixteen books that have been translated into several languages, including the following works in French, with a literal translation of each title provided: La religion en miettes ou la question des sectes [Religion’s Break-up, or the Question of Sects] (2001, published by Calmann-Lévy), Sociologies et religion. Approches classiques [Sociologies and Religion, Classic Approaches] (also published in 2001, by University Press in France), and Catholicisme. La fin d'un monde [Catholicism, the End of a World], published in 2003 by Bayard. She has authored over two hundred articles and has co-authored many books.
Her most recent works concentrate on the process of dislocation and the remodeling of the Christian cultural matrix of European societies. She is regularly invited to teach at foreign universities.


Are Religions Gaining or Losing Strength Today? A Comparison between France and the United States

Europe is the only cultural area where the classic prediction of secularization, as forecasted starting in the 19th century by all of sociology’s founding fathers, has held true, though with different degrees from one country to another The crumbling away of religious practice and the receding of religious practice outside public life are particularly noticeable in France, where a model for secularization has turned religion into a private matter. By contrast, the public arena in America and the vitality of religious movements in the United States have shown an active presence of religion, even at the very heart of an ultramodern society.
The lecture will put these two phenomena in perspective and ask which common trends are affecting the religious landscape of both countries.

Secularization and Contemporary Religious Renewal in Europe

Since the end of World War II, the religious scene in the societies of Western Europe has been characterized on the one hand by a general weakening of the role of religious institutions and a decline in religious observances, and, on the other hand, by an increase of new forms of religiosity that give priority to individual spiritual quests and to the sharing of emotional and religious feelings.
The lecture will show in what ways converts (those who have chosen their religions) and pilgrims (those who are on a path leading to greater meaning) help to describe and analyze what is at stake in this massive phenomenon of the individualization of belief.

French Secularization, Put To the Test and Redefined

Starting with the historic perspective of the creation of the French secularization model , this lecture will examine how increasing diversity within the national religious scene questions the basic fundamentals and functioning of this model. The two main examples will include Islam and new religious movements.

She will show the different types of resistance and adaptation that are seen today under this model, in the context of European expansion.

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