Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




How do the embodied senses play into ritual efficacy? In this dissertation, I argue that the relationship between ritual and This mixed-methods dissertation focuses on the ways individuals, local ritual coordinators, and larger organizations use and understand the senses and embodiment as tools for shaping and experiential results of ritual encounters. Establishing an understanding of the role of the sensory in sociological literature and the historical shifts in the sociology of religion, I build an analysis that models ways that the sensory can be used to understand and analyze religious rituals. Using ethnographic and content analysis of rituals in Pagan, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Unitarian Universalist traditions alongside data from the National Congregations Survey set, I look at US based religious organizations in both the US and UK.

The embodied and sensory experiential is not just a vehicle for reaching a desired goal but also a part of the coordinated religious experience.This dissertation highlights ways in which embodied sensory experiences are shaped by multiple social structures. Individual lived experiences and bodily histories reflect in religious ritual articulation. Local ritual coordinators, those responsible for arranging ritual experiences, work to navigate the relationship between the individual and the organization, managing the local moods and needs at the same time.

These observations of social structures impacting ritual experience led to developing a theory of religious mis-articulation. Ritual articulation refers to the ways the complex local, individual, and organizational social forces intersect and interact and makes space in the discussion for moments of poor interactions or mis-articulations. I develop a typology here, using study examples, for ways in which ritual mis-articulations might be further understood and addressed. This model may be used assist local religious communities, as well as larger national organizations, in considering some of the ways that ritual can be modified to better reach disarticulated populations and individuals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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