Beyond discipline: Discipline and lenience in religious practice. Introduction.

Maya Mayblin, Diego Maria Malara

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Questions of discipline matter today as much as they ever did. Discipline seems to appear as no less ubiquitous, no less penetrating, no less a driver of subjectivity than when under Foucault’s famous gaze. However, this introduction endeavours to reappraise religious discipline by training a lens on lenience. By exploring meanings and practices of lenience - as tolerance, mercy, clemency, grace, kindness and compassion - we argue that that discipline and lenience are not exclusive possibilities, but that the lenience is discipline’s under-theorized counterpart. Recent anthropological work has produced fine-grained accounts of the ways in which individuals strive and achieve a sense of religious meaning and of the disciplinary hiccups, religious failures, and expressions of moral inadequacy involved in this process. We propose to zoom-out, taking a systemic vantage point in order to reveal how indiscipline, failure and inadequacy are anticipated, absorbed and encompassed by various religious systems through their inbuilt lenient times, spaces and practices of disciplinary relaxation or suspension. Thus, we argue, lenience provides religious systems with a vital flexibility necessary to their survival, adaptation and capacity of inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalSocial Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


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