Speaking of Habitus

By: Rachelle Reinhart  

My empirical research validates Catherine Bell’s claims that the gravitational pull of one form of liturgical authority shapes the kind of community that envelops around it. I conducted 41 interviews with young adults ages 22-34 actively involved in one of three organizationally distinct Roman Catholic churches in downtown Boston: St. Cecilia parish church, operated by the Archdiocese of Boston; St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, operated by a liturgical order of devout priests and brothers; and The Paulist Center operated by a religious order of evangelical missionaries. I find that young adults who regularly attend the traditional-conservative devotional church typically express their religious habitus primarily in terms of ritual and prayer – non-discursive actions focused inward. Those attending the liberal-progressive diocesan parish express their religious habitus in terms of ritual and social connection – non-discursive actions focused outward. And those attending the liberal-progressive missionary church were most likely to express their religious habitus in terms of volunteer work and social relationships - discursive actions focused outward. Thus, this research suggests that we perhaps think of habitus in epistemological terms rather than praxeological ones, that is as embodied practices inculcated early that are continually expressed both passively and strategically (through action), non-discursively (e.g. ritual action) and discursively (narrative speech and reflexive questioning) throughout the life course.

Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Rachelle Reinhart

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Boston University, United States
MA, United States

Rachelle Reinhart is a final-year doctoral candidate in sociology at Boston University. Her dissertation, "Placing Faith: Community Commitment Among Millennial Catholics" examines how young, urban Catholics in downtown Boston experience religious faith, identity, and community attachment within differing liberal and traditional forms of institutional authority. Her theoretical work attempts to expand Bourdieu's concept of habitus to a broader epistemological frame drawn from dominant themes in feminist theory.