Religion in Urban Spaces

Religion in Urban Spaces
April 10/11 2014 in Göttingen

Urban spaces have always functioned as innovative laboratories for new religious movements and spiritualities. Studies on the interdependence <> e between religion and urban culture, (socio-cultural) space and place and practitioners were published recently (Orsi 1999, Livezey 2000; metroZones 2011, Pinxten/Dikomitis 2012). Still, religious developments in cities remain a marginal field within qualitative social and cultural research. The relationship between urban settings and religious practices hardly come into analytical focus.

The conference will bring the city to the fore in religious research and foster studies that take the meanings of religiosity within the urban context as a central focus. To that end, we take the interdependent terms of religion and religiosity as broad and deliberately blurred analytical concepts, beyond the boundaries of the traditional institutional religions. ‘Religion’ refers here to new or alternative forms of religion and spirituality. One might consider movements such as Neopaganism, Spiritualism, any forms of Esotericism, as well of new practices within dominant belief systems such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism (e.g. New Age Judaism, Salafism, Pentecostalism, Western Buddhism, etc.). The conference aims for a comparative perspective, drawing attention to the contemporary interplay between diverse practices in appropriating and transforming the urban, and considering the reciprocal influence of the cityscape and pluralist culture on religion.

We welcome researchers from various disciplines, including urban/cultural/social anthropology, European ethnology, migration studies, history, philosophy, architecture, sociology, cultural studies, religious studies, and urban studies.

We are particularly interested in research that explores questions such as:
– How does the specificity of urban culture inscribe itself into new religious and spiritual views and performances?
– How are new forms of religiosity inscribed in urban culture?
-How does religious practice recast the meaning of the urban space?
– What role is played by do urban structure and landscape and architecture?
– How do shared and contested memories of urban pasts figure in the creation of new religious expressions?
– What is the significance of the body as an agent of creation of (sacred) places and spaces within urban settings (i.e. ritual movements, dress codes, singing, visualizing emotions)?
– How do migration, religious self understanding/collective identifications and the city context interrelate?
– Are there any general characteristics of urbanity related to the construction of (sacred) places or religious practices in the city?

The conference will be the basis for an edited volume which will emphasize the need to link studies on present-day cultural religious processes with the study of urbanism to foster a better understanding of contemporary religious and spiritual cosmologies and practices within the urban realm.

The conference will be held on April 10/11, 2014 in Göttingen. Abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted via email to Victoria Hegner and Peter Jan Margry by May 30, 2013. All applicants will be informed regarding the acceptance of their proposals by the end of June 2013. We will apply for funding to cover the travel expenses of the participants. Notification of funding should be due by October 2013. The paper`s outline (1-2 pages) should be submitted by March 15, 2014, so that they can be pre-circulated.

Victoria Hegner, Institute for Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, University of Göttingen

Peter Jan Margry, Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam

A few titles to frame our endeavor:
Livezey, Lowell (ed.), Public religion and urban transformation. Faith in the city. New York: New York University Press 2000. metroZones e.V. (eds.), Urban Prayers. Neue religiöse Bewegungen in der globalen Stadt. Berlin & Hamburg: Assoziation A 2011. Orsi, Robert A. (ed.), Gods of the City. Religion and the American Urban Landscape. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press 1999. Pinxten, Rik & Lisa Dikomitis, When God comes to town. Religious traditions in urban contexts. New York: Berghahn Books 2012.