Title: Spaces for the Future: Religion in Urban Place-Making
Authors: De Boeck, Filip
Kanna, Ahmed
Han, Ju Hui Judy
Simone, Abdou Maliq
Srinivas, Smriti
Hancock, Mary #
Issue Date: 2012
Conference: American Anthropology Association Meeting edition:111 location:San Francisco, USA date:17 November 2012
Abstract: ABSTRACT: Even as cities are tagged as sites of grotesque pathology, danger, and dystopia, they have also persistently connoted cultural possibility, renewal, and hope—as places where pasts are shed and new lives, selves, and modalities of cultural being are created, whether through insurgent citizenship of the Occupy movement and the Arab uprisings, or through experiments with intentional communities or urban farming. This roundtable seeks to bring religiosity to our thinking on urban imaginaries. It takes a comparative approach to the religious mediation of the urban by considering how religious sentiments, practices, and sites associated with various traditions are implicated in what has often been treated as either the preeminent space of the secular or the site of religion’s violent return. It asks instead: how are religious practices, experiences and spaces yoked to the possible futures that urban spaces may embody? What analytics/approaches can contribute to a framing of urban futures– theoretically and methodologically – in ways that integrate the religiosity of urban actors, spaces and practices?
While attention is often drawn to the ways in which the urban is produced by the state, capital or the market, such productions are never total. This roundtable takes as its point of departure the spatial, material, and sensory media with which the religious is enacted within urban life worlds, tracking the imaginations and practices that are formed within and against the globalization/flight of capital, the expansion/collapse of neoliberal policies or the state, and transnational formations. While drawing upon the secular critique of religiosity (e.g., the Immanent Frame web log), we are concerned with the ways that different publics create designs for and of urban life through religious practices that may run parallel to, interrogate, or challenge modernist, liberal, or postcolonial/postsocialist programs and geographies. The illustrative cases that roundtable participants introduce will highlight the importance of four types of intersections between religiosity and the urban that may anchor utopic imaginaries: 1) urban spatial forms made manifest by religious imaginations and practices 2) forms of mobility enacted in religious practice, especially as they relate to urban networks of transport and communication, 3) the ways that religious imagery, sound, and discourse – whether fixed in place or mobile – constitute an urban quotidian, and 4) the role of the body as a site for mediating and constituting religion in urban space.
The central issue in this roundtable is that an anthropology of the present has come to terms with the disappearance of objects of traditional ethnology and the significant appearance of new fields and objects. However, an anthropology of cultural futures−an anthropology that is not simply rooted in a philosophically liberal or secularizing gaze and a future in which the city plays a critical role demographically or economically−requires us to ask how cities may also be mapped, seen, heard and occupied as places of possibility or utopian spaces by, for and with religious practices and imaginative desires.
Roundtable participants and the chair were invited with an eye to regional breadth and with specializations in a range of religious traditions and movements. Each has been asked to deliver brief comments on the issues laid out in the roundtable abstract by drawing on their own research (completed and/or in progress). Co-organizers Smriti Srinivas and Mary Hancock have both worked on the spaces and flows of urban religiosity in southern India and transnationally. They were guest co-editors of a special symposium issue in the International Journal for Urban and Regional Research (2008, Vol. 32 (3): 617-630) on religiosity and the making of urban space in Asia and Africa which brought together case studies by scholars from several disciplines on Accra, Beirut, Delhi, Goa, Simla, and Bangkok. Srinivas will comment on the production of South Asian utopian imaginations emerging out of the “sacrality of urban sprawl,” i.e. the fact that cities and their expanding boundaries are important arenas for the recruitment of devotees, the construction of habitats to house the religious, and new ideas of selfhood. Hancock will discuss a new project on North American evangelical youth mission practice in South Asia and the Middle East and the globalized urban imaginaries that mediate their activities. Chair, Filip de Boeck, has worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa on secondary cities, urban planning, religion and culture and will also provide opening remarks on the place of religion in urban futures. Besides the organizers other invited participants include: Ahmed Kanna (an anthropologist who studies the corporatization of urban space in Dubai; and has a new project on urban sustainability practices in Berlin), Ju Hui Judy Han (a cultural geographer who works on Korean evangelical community formation and transnational mission practice in the US and in Seoul); and AbdouMaliq Simone (a sociologist who has worked widely across Africa and Southeast Asia seeking to understand the ways in which people and communities constitute “infrastructure” and produce cities yet to come).
Description: Organizers: Mary Hancock (University of California, Santa Barbara), Smriti Srinivas (University of California Davis)
Chair: Filip De Boeck (University of Leuven)
Roundtable Presenters: Ahmed I. Kanna (university of the Pacific), Ju Hui Judy Han (university of Toronto Scarborough), Abdou Maliq Simone (Goldsmith's College, University of london), Smriti Srinivas (University of California, Davis), Mary Hancock (University of Calilifornia, Santa Barbara)
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa
# (joint) last author

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