Step into liquid: Rites, transcendence and transgression in the modern construction of the social sacred

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6 Scopus citations


This essay looks at the construction and transformation of the notion of sacred space in the twentieth century. The notions of transgression and lived moments (or everyday rites), as put forth by numerous writers and architects, are examined as an alternative vision of the sacred and spatial ontology that relies upon material conditions and relations as its source. In particular, it focuses on the emergence of this social spatial category through the work of the College de Sociologie a group of ethnologists, philosophers, writers and artists (Georges Bataille was a founder) who convened bi-weekly at a Paris cafe between 1937 and 1939 in the hope of constructing a sacred sociology. This group's activity provides the groundwork for understanding how the social sacred emerges as a category of spatial practice in the late twentieth century, and how the categories of events and rites are explored by the youthful avant-garde in architecture that emerge from the 1960s. In particular, the architect Bernard Tschumi's writings on transgression and event provide a direct link to the sacred sociology of the College as he is a close reader of Bataille's, and the work of the European radical avant-garde in architecture from the late 1960s and early 1970s helps to elucidate how the Collegians call for a sacred sociology is manifest in what I call the sacred social. I proposes this new category of the 'social sacred' to explain a spatial category which emerges in the twentieth century, and which we can use to understand how space, architecture, and urbanism help to define and engender this new sacred category.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalCulture and Religion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • rites
  • ritual
  • sacred space
  • social sacred
  • the everyday
  • transgression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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