Religion – Knowledge – Discourse

Franziska Voss

PhD project


Between theology and sociology: the theological reception of Émile Durkheims Elementary Forms of Religious Life

My dissertation explores the theological reception of Émile Durkheims major work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Since its publication in 1912, this ambitious study has become one of the 'classics' within the sociology of religion and has thereby gained decisive influence beyond the boundaries of French sociology. So far, the critical contributions to Durkheim’s theory of religion have received relatively little attention, even though they allow for rewarding insights into the formative context of the work. The main objective of my research is the reappraisal of the theological critique of Durkheim’s work from 1912 to 1930, with focus on the French speaking context. As part of this historical-critical study, particular attention is paid to prevailing discourses and debates within French theology at that time. This historical context not only influenced the way in which the text was received but also had a substantial impact on Durkheim’s work itself.





Franziska Voss completed the masters programme 'Religion and Culture' (M.A.) at Humboldt University Berlin and King’s College London after studying religious studies and socio-cultural anthropology in Göttingen. In her master thesis she discussed Durkheims epistemology with regards to the relationship between science and religion. She also worked at Wissenschaft im Dialog in a pan-European project to promote the inclusion of science and research in political decision-making processes. She holds a PhD scholarship from the Claussen-Simon-Stiftung.