Book Announcement: A Sociology of Prayer

A Sociology of Prayer
Edited by Giuseppe Giordan, University of Padua, Italy and Linda
Woodhead, University of Lancaster, UK
Ashgate AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Series
Ashgate, July 2015

Prayer is a central aspect of religion. Even amongst those who have
abandoned organized religion levels of prayer remain high. Yet the most
basic questions remain unaddressed: What exactly is prayer? How does it
vary? Why do people pray and in what situations and settings? Does
prayer imply a god, and if so, what sort? A Sociology of Prayer
addresses these fundamental questions and opens up important new debates.

Drawing from religion, sociology of religion, anthropology, and
historical perspectives, the contributors focus on prayer as a social as
well as a personal matter and situate prayer in the conditions of
complex late modern societies worldwide. Presenting fresh empirical data
in relation to original theorising, the volume also examines the
material aspects of prayer, including the objects, bodies, symbols, and
spaces with which it may be integrally connected.


Introduction: You never know. Prayer as enchantment, Giuseppe Giordan;
Prayer as practice: an interpretative proposal, Carlo Genova; For youth,
prayer is relationship, Michael C. Mason; Pentecostal prayer as personal
communication and invisible institutional work, Yannick Fer;
Transcendence and immanence in public and private prayer, Martin
Stringer; Prayer as a tool in Swedish Pentecostalism, Emir Mahieddin;
Contrasting regimes of Sufi prayer and emotion work in the Indonesian
Islamic revival, Julia Day Howell; A socio-anthropological analysis of
forms of prayer among the Amish, Andrea Borella; Filipino Catholic
students and prayer as conversation with God, Jayeel Serrano Cornelio;
The embodiment of prayer in charismatic Christianity, Michael Wilkinson
and Peter Althouse; Prayer requests in an English cathedral, and a new
analytic framework for intercessory prayer, Tania ap Siôn; An analysis
of hospital chapel prayer requests, Peter Collins; Conclusion: Prayer as
changing the subject, Linda Woodhead; Index.

About the Editor:
Giuseppe Giordan is Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at the
University of Padua (Italy). He is Co-Editor of the Annual Review of the
Sociology of Religion (Brill), elected member of the Executive Council
of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and served as General
Secretary of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion
from 2009 to 2013. His books include Identity and Pluralism. The Values
of the Post-Modern Time. New York: Center for Migration Studies, 2004;
Vocation and Social Context (ed.), Leiden: Brill, 2007; Conversion in
the Age of Pluralism (ed.), Leiden: Brill, 2009; Youth and Religion,
Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion (ed.), 1, Leiden Brill, 2010;
Religion, Spirituality and Everyday Practices (ed. with William H.
Swatos, Jr.) New York: Springer, 2011.

Linda Woodhead is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster
University, and Director of the £12m AHRC/ESRC Research Programme on
Religion and Society. Her books include Religion and Change in Modern
Britain, ed. with Rebecca Catto, London: Routledge, 2012; A Sociology of
Religious Emotion, with Ole Riis, Oxford: OUP, 2010; The Spiritual
Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, with Paul
Heelas, Blackwell, 2005; An Introduction to Christianity, Cambridge
University Press, 2004. Edited and co-edited books include Religions in
the Modern World 2nd edition, London: Routledge, 2009; Congregational
Studies in the UK, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004; Predicting Religion:
Christian, Secular and Alternative Futures, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003;
Peter Berger and the Study of Religion, London: Routledge, 2002;
Reinventing Christianity: Nineteenth Century Contexts, Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2001; Religion in Modern Times, Oxford: Blackwell.


‘An astonishing array of insights about something generally neglected
and taken for granted: what are people up to when they pray? The fresh,
empirically-based contributions will engage and inform readers. Most
importantly, the collection helps move forward the only recently-opened
discussion about the sociality and relationality of prayer, a practice
that persists within and on the borders of the sacred and the secular.’
Abby Day, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

‘Insightfully, in her conclusion, Linda Woodhead considers prayer as
“changing the subject”. The chapters brought together in this book help
us to understand why. Each of them makes a distinctive contribution to a
topic that is insufficiently understood by sociologists.’
Grace Davie, University of Exeter, UK

‘For those living within western cultures, prayer remains one of the
most perplexing of religious phenomena. This collection of essays
approaches prayer as a social fact, as patterns of behaviour that confer
meaning within the lives of individuals and communities across the
globe. It takes seriously the ways in which acts of prayer are shaped by
their social context, and as such, challenges the assumption that prayer
is always individual and self-serving, instead highlighting its social
consequences, such as the cultivation of relationships and civic
responsibility, and the reinforcement of community boundaries. These
essays are international in scope, and offer an important contribution
to the international sociology of religion. Those who want to understand
better why prayer endures as a social phenomenon would do well to engage
seriously with this book.’
Mathew Guest, University of Durham, UK