Living Spirit, Living Practice

Poetics, Politics, Epistemology

Living Spirit, Living Practice

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: Published: March 2004

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Religious Studies, Sociology

In Living Spirit, Living Practice, the well-known cultural studies scholar Ruth Frankenberg turns her attention to the remarkably diverse nature of religious practice within the United States today. Frankenberg provides a nuanced consideration of the making and living of religious lives as well as the mystery and poetry of spiritual practice. She undertakes a subtle sociocultural analysis of compelling in-depth interviews with fifty women and men, diverse in race, ethnicity, national origin, class, age, and sexuality. Tracing the complex interweaving of sacred and secular languages in the way interviewees make sense of the everyday and the extraordinary, Frankenberg explores modes of communication with the Divine, the role of the body, the importance of geography, work for progressive social change, and the relation of sex to spirituality.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other practitioners come together here, speaking in terms both familiar and surprising. Whether discussing an Episcopalian deacon, a former Zen Buddhist who is now a rabbi, a Chicano monastic, an immigrant Muslim woman, a Japanese American Tibetan Buddhist, or a gay African American practicing in the Hindu tradition, Frankenberg illuminates the most intimate, local, and singular aspects of individual lives while situating them within the broad, dynamic canvas of the U.S. religious landscape.


“The research of Bellah, Wuthnow, and Frankenberg demonstrates the fruitfulness of conducting open-ended conversations with believers…. But Frankenberg’s approach better illustrates what can happen when interviewees are encouraged to set the agenda…. I recommend it.” — Stephen D. Glazier , American Ethnologist

"An excellent assessment of the challenges of translating faith into everyday life." — Toni Lester , Women's Review of Books

"[Frankenberg] documents a broad diversity of ideas about the nature of religion. . . . Stories from people who relate their religious practices make entertaining reading. . . ." — Library Journal

"Frankenberg has tapped into an understudied area. . . . She has talked to people from a variety of faiths and spiritual groupings and this is creditable. . . . This is a book for our times." — Maria Way , Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

"The book has many merits. Among these are the clarity of method with which Frankenberg has approached her subject, the engaging but erudite style of her own writing, and the fidelity of reproducing (as much as possible when moving from oral to written communication) the manner of expression of the men and women who told their stories for the book. . . . Frankenberg's volume deserves a wide and varied audience. Its accessible style makes it appropriate for a general reader; however, the discussion of the explosion of spiritual alternatives being practiced today would be of benefit to both the clergy of many faiths in the United States, and to introductory social science students examining the phenomenon of spirituality in America." — Journal of Church and State

"The book is ambitious, and poses many important questions. . . . [P]owerfully evocative. . . . The vivid interview material would engage undergraduates and people outside of the academy who are reflecting on questions about spiritual practice. Graduate students and scholars will also read the book at another level, recognizing this as an important contribution to some of the major questions in our field." — Mary Jo Neitz , Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

“Many Americans say ‘faith is an important aspect of my life,’ but Ruth Frankenberg’s fascinating book shows us in much depth and variety what that may mean. We see how individuals re-interpret their faith consciously and unconsciously, how they move across faith boundaries, how they blend, edit, and expand faith practices to generate meaningful selves, lives, and worlds.” — Susan Harding, author of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics

“The interviews and analysis in Living Spirit, Living Practice plumb the depths of spiritual practice and experience. Ruth Frankenberg simultaneously addresses the greater issues of religious identity, the meaning of ‘spirit,’ and the nature of the spiritual journey. This book makes visible the larger presence of Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, which are now helping to alter the American religious landscape. — Kenneth K. Tanaka, coeditor of The Faces of Buddhism in America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ruth Frankenberg is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness and editor of Displacing Whiteness: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism, published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: On Rivers, Mountains, and Secrets 1

1. Talking to God—and God Talking Back 33

2. Mind Embodied: Spiritual Practice and Consciousness 77

3. Place and the Making of Religious Practice 133

4. The Spirit of the Work: Challenging Oppression, Nurturing Diversity 174

5. Conscious Sex, Sacred Celibacy: Sexuality and the Spiritual Path 212

Epilogue 265

Appendix 1. Biographical Summaries 271

Appendix 2. Demographic Profile 277

Notes 281

Bibliography 291

Index 299
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3295-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3257-2
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