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Véronique Altglas

Photo of Veronique Altglas

PhD, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris, Sorbonne).
Lecturer in Sociology
Room 1.14, 3 College Park East
Ext: 3581; Email: v.altglas@qub.ac.uk

BA Sociology (Université Paris V-René Descartes)
MA Anthropology (Hons) (Université Paris X-Nanterre)
PhD Social Sciences (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

My main research interests lie in the globalisation of religion, new religious movements, religious exoticism, responses to cultural and religious diversity in Britain and France, and anti-Semitism.

I completed my PhD at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) in 2004, on the ways in which practices such as yoga and meditation have spread beyond Indian frontiers and been appropriated by westerners. I showed that the transnational diffusion of neo-Hindu movements was closely associated with a process of westernisation, because of their adaptive strategies and the way in which Western disciples appropriated neo-Hindu practices and values. In addition, this interpretation of the religious interactions between Western Europe and the ‘East’ revealed attitudes towards religion in contemporary western societies and contributed to a sociological understanding of processes of globalisation.

Through ethnographic and documentary research in Britain, France, Brazil and Israel, I have recently explored the Kabbalah Centre, a fast-growing and controversial religious organisation rooted in Judaism. By comparing the diffusion of Kabbalah with the dissemination of Hindu religions in the West, I currently analyse the popularisation of ‘exotic’ religious resources in western societies. Overall, this popularisation entailed their partial detachment from their particular Hindu/Jewish roots. This research also addresses the sociological argument according to which nowadays people exert self-authority, ‘choose’ their religion and combine freely various religious resources: my findings show that the eclectic nature of these religious trajectories is often overstated. Furthermore, by choosing vedantic or kabbalistic teachings that emphasise personal growth, rather than rejecting norms individuals respond to social pressure for constant self-actualisation. Finally, this research analyses the paramount importance, for the studied religious movements and their members, of self-actualisation, working on oneself and ‘being spiritual’. This points out the affinities of these religious values and incentives with neoliberal society, in particular its human model (the owner of a ‘potential’ that they constantly have to develop) and its way of governing individuals by shaping the self.

My interest in cultural and religious diversity is also reflected in a rather new research field for me: the sociological analysis of anti-Semitism. I have begun to reflect on anti-Semitism through an interpretation of its manifestation of contemporary France but also through an analysis of the construction of Jewish identity of Kabbalah Centre students.

 

Research Awards

2007-2011 ESRC Research Fellow, Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies, University of Cambridge, “Globalisation and New Religious Movements. Kabbalah Centres in Britain, France, Israel and Brazil” (RES-063-27-0041).

2006-2007 Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick: Grant Programme for the Study and Combating of Racism and Anti-Semitism in Europe, funded by Ford and Hanadiv Charitable Foundations. “The Jew as outsider: postnational political community and European anti-Semitism 1990 to the present” (Principal Investigator: Prof. Robert Fine).

2005-2006 ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, “Responses to religious diversity in France and England: The case of Neo-Hinduism” (PTA-026-27-0864).

 

Professional Activities and Affiliations

Member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2010-

Member of the ESRC Virtual Sift Panel and the Commissioning Panel for the Future Research Leaders Grant call, 2013

Review of grant applications for the AHRC and the British Academy.

Editor of Social Compass for the International Society for the Sociology of Religion

Member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, French representative on the Council 2005-2013

Member of the European Sociological Association, Chair of Research Network 31 “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism” 2010-2012

Member of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités, French National Centre of Scientific Research since 1996

Member of the Association Française de Sciences Sociales des Religions

 

Teaching and supervision interests
Globalisation of religion and culture; Sociology of Religion; Political responses to religious diversity; Racism and Anti-Semitism; Qualitative Methods and Ethics in Social Sciences.

 

Course convenor

Understanding Society (SOC1001)

The Sociology of Religion (SOC2030)

 

Other teachings

Society and Social inequalities SOC2002

 

Postgraduate Research supervision

Peter Doak, 'Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013: A sociological analysis'

Merit Korbe, 'De l’évasion à l’engagement : les Occidentaux à la recherche du lien social à travers la pratique du yoga' (University Paris V, Sorbonne)

 

PhD examination

Chris Bunn, 'Faith, Works and Welfare: for a Sociology of Movement' (University of Cambridge)

 

Publications

Books

 

Book - From Yoga to Kabbalah
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

2014 From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

 

The popularization of Buddhism, yoga and meditation, public curiosity about shamanism and Sufism, and the recent craze for Kabbalah all demonstrate the appeal of foreign religious traditions to a wide audience in advanced industrial societies. Strange and enticing, their perceived otherness seems to lend them authenticity and to nourish hopes for the discovery of mysteries and hidden truths. Yet this exoticism in the religious sphere, as such, has never been sociologically investigated. Rather, sociologists of religion considered this fascination was evidence of the fact that individuals increasingly craft their religious life and identity by picking and mixing from a wide range of religious traditions. This book shows that this understanding of bricolage with foreign religions over-estimates its eclecticism, takes for granted the availability of religious resources, and misunderstands religious individualism. Ultimately, it uncovers the historical and socio-cultural logics that organize practices of bricolage.

 

 

2010 Editor of Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies, four volumes. London: Routledge.

This four-volume collection from Routledge brings together all the key texts on globalization and religion in one easy-to-use ‘mini library’. The first volume brings together the best scholarship on religion and space in its global context. Volume II entitled 'Westernization of Religion and its Counter-Trends' looks at the debates surrounding the westernization of religion including the transnational diffusion and local expressions of Christianity and counter-trends to the westernization of religion. Volume III features articles concerning the theories and case-studies on the religious responses to globalization. The final volume looks at the new challenges, epistemological and transnational faced by religion and politics in their global context.

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Le nouvel hindouisme occidental (New Western Hinduism). Paris: Éditions du CNRS.

Long after the Beatles flew to Rishikesh to discover meditation in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian gurus continue to be successful in attracting western disciples in India as well as disseminating their teachings all around the world. These gurus are a major force in the diffusion of Asian religious ideas and practices, such as reincarnation, yoga and meditation, which have become increasingly popular, but have modern gurus really brought about a ‘meditation revolution’ as one of them claimed? On the basis of two case-studies, Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres, this book provides an original analysis of the transnational diffusion of practices and beliefs related to Hinduism in Britain and France.

 

 

 

Peer-reviewed articles

2012 Anti-Semitism in France. European Societies, 14(2): 259-274.

2011 The Challenges of Universalizing Religions: the Kabbalah Centre in France and Britain. Nova Religio, 15(1): 22-43.

2010 Laïcité is what Laïcité does: rethinking the French Cult Controversy. Current Sociology, 58(3): 1-22.

2010 (with Matthew Wood) Reflexivity, Scientificity and the Sociology of Religion: Pierre Bourdieu in Debate, Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23(1): 9-26.

2008 (with L. Amiotte-Suchet) Sectes, controverses et pluralisme : une sociologie sceptique des religions. Entretien avec le sociologue des religions James A. Beckford (Sects, Controversies and pluralism: a sceptical Sociology of Religion. Interview with sociologist of religion James A. Beckford). Ethnographiques.org, 15.

2007 The Global diffusion and Westernization of Neo-Hindu Movements: Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres. Religion of South Asia, 1(2): 217-237.

2005 « Les mots brûlent ». Sociologie des nouveaux mouvements religieux et déontologie (‘Words can hurt you’: Sociology of New Religious Movements and Ethics). Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 131-132: 165-188.

2000 ‘Living in Harmony’: le pranayama à des fins thérapeutiques (Living in Harmony: Therapeutic use of Pranayama). Ethnologie Française, 30(4): 545-553.

 

Chapters

2012 La religion comme symptôme (‘Religion as Symptom’). In Philippe Gonzalez et Christophe Monnot (eds.) Penser le religieux, le théologique et le social avec Pierre Gisel, Genève, Labor et Fidès, pp. 33-46.

2011 Yoga and Kabbalah as World Religions? A Comparative Perspective on Globalization of Religious Resources. In Boaz Huss (ed.) Kabbalah and Contemporary Spiritual Revival. Beer-Sheva: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press, pp. 233-250.

2010 Introduction. In Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies. London: Routeldge, pp.1-22.

2008 French Cult Controversy at the turn of the New Millennium: Escalation, Dissensions, and new forms of Mobilisations across the Battlefield. In E. Barker (ed.) The Centrality of Religion in Social Life. Essays in honour of James A. Beckford. London: Ashgate, pp.55-68.

2008 Indian Gurus and the Quest for Self-perfection among the Educated Middle-Classes. In J. Stolz (ed.). Salvation Goods and Religious Markets. Theory and Applications. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 211-234.

2007 Siddha Yoga : un cas d’étude de la psychologisation de la religion (Siddha Yoga: a Case-Study of the Psychologisation of Religion). In N. Durish-Gauthier, I. Rossi, J. Stolz, (eds.). Quêtes de santé, entre soins médicaux et guérisons spirituelles. Geneva: Labor et Fidès, pp.  87-99.

2003 De l’orientalisme romantique au yoga sur la 5ème avenue (From Romantic Orientalism to Yoga on Fifth Avenue). In J.-P. Willaime, J.-R. Armogathe, (eds.). Les mutations contemporaines du religieux, Bibliothèque de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, 119. Paris: Brépols, pp. 95-110.

2001 L’implantation du néo-hindouisme en Occident (The Diffusion of Neo-Hinduism in the West). In J.-P. Bastian, F. Champion, K. Rousselet (eds.). La globalisation du religieux. Paris: l’Harmattan, pp. 49-60.

 

Translation

2010 (with Matthew Wood) Sociologists of Belief and Beliefs of Sociologists (translation into English of Pierre Bourdieu, “Sociologues de la croyance et croyances de sociologues”), Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23 (1): 1–7.

 

30 book reviews for the following journals:

L’Homme,
Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions,
Journal of Contemporary Religion,
Nova Religio
Social Anthropology / Anthropologie Sociale.

 

Peer-reviews for the following journals and publishers:

Brill

Indiana University Press

Z Books

Bloomsbury Publishing

Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions

Current Sociology

International Sociology

International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Journal of Contemporary Religion,
Journal of Global Buddhism

Nordic Journal of Religion and Society
Religião e Sociedade
Religions of South Asia
Revue Criminologie
Social Compass
(member of the editorial board since 2009)
Social Sciences and Missions