Session 40

M4 Methods for Studying Religions and Religious/Sacred Spaces

Studies of religion have attended to the various ways in which religious communities figure and reconfigure time and space. In places where religious conversions have occurred because of the encounter with other religions, people’s cosmologies are reshaped to accommodate new religious experiences. These cosmologies include the production of new cognitive and material spaces that individuals and communities inhabit. People and communities therefore deploy new linguistic and cognitive resources to remake traditional notions of place and produce new sociospatial realities. Urban as well as rural experiences are necessarily multilocal as individuals and communities constantly navigate between multiple spaces. Some of these spaces are described as religious. Religious spaces can be public or private, formal or informal, temporary or definitive, interdenominational or mono-denominational, contested or legitimated, individual or collective, ancient or new, etc. In some settings, spaces that used to qualify as religious or sacred are de-sacralized and redefined as secular. In other settings, co-existence exists through shared religious spaces and temporal practices. Religious diversity is a major feature of modern urbanity. The multiple ways in which religions inhabit space (sounds and songs, visual display, architecture, space claim, religious dress, visible rituals, religious marching.) make the city a setting for competing claims to religious territorialization, especially for religious minorities. The allocation of space for religious activities therefore becomes a major challenge for urban planners in a context of land scarcity and religious competition for visibility, legitimation and possible power display. The related decisions definitely have political overtones and raise a number of issues about the politics of inclusion and exclusion.

This session is interested in methodological issues related to the study of the social, cultural, economic, religious and political processes of the production and transformation of religious spaces in both urban and rural settings. We invite submission of papers guided but not limited to the following questions: (1) How do religions inhabit urban and rural spaces today? (2) To what extent do urban and rural actors influence the religious space claims? (3) What are the socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-political dynamics that underpin religious spatial realities? (4) What qualifies as religious spaces in today urban and rural settings marked by irreducible religious diversity? (5) Is Durkheim’s classical distinction between the profane and the sacred still useful in the production and reproduction of religious spaces in contemporary societies? (6) What is the difference between a religious space and a sacred space? Where and how is religious diversity taken into account (or not taken into account) in both urban and rural planning? (7) What are the emerging methods of researching religion in an urban diverse setting? (8) How does urban diversity inform methodological approaches in the study of religion? (9) What are the methodological issues arising from studies of religions and/or rural-urban sacred spaces?