Experiential careers: The routinization and de-routinization of religious life

Iddo Tavory, Daniel Winchester

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article develops the concept of experiential careers, drawing theoretical attention to the routinization and de-routinization of specific experiences as they unfold over social career trajectories. Based on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in two religious communities, we compare the social-temporal patterning of religious experience among newly religious Orthodox Jews and converted Muslims in two cities in the United States. In both cases, we find that as newly religious people work to transform their previous bodily habits and take on newly prescribed religious acts, the beginning of their religious careers becomes marked by what practitioners describe as potent religious experiences in situations of religious practice. However, over time, these once novel practices become routinized and religious experiences in these situations diminish, thus provoking actors and institutions in both fields to work to re-enchant religious life. Through this ethnographic comparison, we demonstrate the utility of focusing on experiential careers as a sociological unit of analysis. Doing so allows sociologists to use a non-reductive phenomenological approach to chart the shifting manifestations of experiences people deeply care about, along with the patterned enchantments, disenchantments, and possible re-enchantments these social careers entail. As such, this approach contributes to the analysis of social careers and experiences of "becoming" across both religious and non-religious domains.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)351-373
    Number of pages23
    JournalTheory and Society
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 2012


    • Careers
    • Experience
    • Muslims
    • Orthodox Jews
    • Phenomenology
    • Religion
    • Routinization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science


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