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OnderwijsUniversity of Groningen Summer SchoolsReligion in Cities


The summer school programme will start on 20 August 20 at 9 :30 am and end on 24 August at 1pm. We recommend students to arrive before Sunday 3PM so they can participate in the centrally organized welcoming activities.


Religious diversity and municipal governance: Drawing the boundaries of urban “normalcy” – Dr. Julia Martínez-Ariño

Starting out from the example of the burkini ban in French coastal cities in August 2016, this lecture explores how municipal governance practices draw the boundaries between “normal” and “deviant” public religiosity. Are religious groups allowed to use municipal rooms for mourning celebrations? Are municipal employees allow to perform visible religious practices in public while wearing their work uniform? If so, what are the implications for state neutrality ? Are school canteens allowed or obliged to cater to the religious dietary requirements of pupils? Although these can seem small or insignificant issues, negotiations and responses around them carry strong normative assumptions about acceptable and unacceptable public religious practices. Through sociological analysis of empirical material on French cities, I will show how different policy tools designed and implemented in cities establish sometimes clear-cut, sometimes blurry, boundaries between normal and deviant religion. Moreover, the lecture will dig into the symbolic repertoires and practical knowledge that urban actors draw on to discuss and negotiate such issues, showing that the position of municipal and other state authorities, secularist groups and religious groups are not always stable and predictable.

Spatializing Religious Diversity: Urban Administration, Infrastructure and Emplacement - Prof. Dr. Marian Burchardt

Urban sociologists are increasingly aware that religious diversity is not only regulated by law, but also shaped by a whole range of different administrative practices and infrastructures. In fact, it is only through the practices of a diverse set of local actors and urban bureaucracies that the legal governmentality of religion acquires the power to arrange religious identities and expressions in particular ways. In my talk, I address two sets of questions. First, how are legal regulations governing religious diversity enacted through urban administrative practices? What is the role of infrastructural regulations in the way religion is emplaced? And how do administrative practices unfold through the interactions of urban elected officials, bureaucrats, religious communities and residents? Secondly, what are the consequences of administrative practices for religious communities? How do emplacements of religion contribute to the symbolic and affective demarcations of public space? My aim is to identify the complex set of regulatory processes that explain the actual presence of religious expressions The central argument is that at the urban level states have advanced in converting the complex administrative apparatus of licensing, permission, authorization and approval that has formed around questions of planning and zoning into a central political technology of the spatial governance of religious diversity.

Social Position and Place-Protective Action in a New Immigration Context: Understanding Anti-Mosque Campaigns - Dr. Avi Astor

This lecture will examine the structural conditions and cultural narratives underlying the high frequency and intensity of anti-mosque campaigns in the Spanish region of Catalonia. Drawing on Blumer’s theory of prejudice as a sense of group position, as it has been elaborated and extended to multi-ethnic settings by subsequent scholarship, I contend that local reactions to mosques in Catalonia have been shaped by context-specific configurations of identity and urban space. I show how longstanding socio-economic and cultural divisions within Catalonia’s native population, as well as the inscription of these divisions within the spatial ordering of the region, have heightened feelings of threat elicited by the large-scale arrival of Muslim immigrants to working-class neighborhoods in recent years. In advancing this argument, I build on the insights of geographers and urban sociologists to develop a spatially sensitive understanding of social position and perceived group threat that considers the importance of place identities and the interaction between distinct registers of territorial belonging.

Performing religion in the streets: visibility, invisibility and the politics of urban space - Dr. Mar Griera

Why do religious communities take to the streets? What do a Catholic procession, a Sikh festivity, an open-air Evangelical preaching event, a Buddhist meditation on the beach and the celebration of the end of Ramadan in a park have in common? And in what ways are they different? How is the presence of religion in public spaces managed in cities? Although theories of secularization predicted an unpropitious future for religion, today’s contemporary public space is witnessing a rise in religious expressions and manifestations that reflect both the revitalization of religious identities at a global level and the increase in religious pluralism in urban contexts. In this presentation, I will describe and discuss the complexities related to the emplacement of religious diversity in the public spaces of Madrid and Barcelona (Spain). The presentation will especially focus on two main aspects:  the analysis of the strategies of visibility and repertoires of public mobilization of religious communities; b) the examination of the processes of tension, negotiation and adaptability among religious actors, civil society agents and local administrations. The presentation will be based on the ongoing project “Religious Expressions in the Urban Spaces of Madrid and Barcelona” (EREU – MyB).

Making Sense of Religious Diversity in East Asia: Space, Community Networks, and Traditional Systems of Thought - Dr. Stefania Travagnin

This lecture will move out of Europe and give an introduction to religious diversity in Japan and mainland China, with special focus on inter-religious sites and networks in urban Tokyo and Chengdu. As for the case of Tokyo, the lecture will address question such as: what is behind the disposition of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in contemporary Tokyo? How is this diversity mirroring traditional systems of thoughts? How are the relations between different religious sites reflecting the East Asian understanding of the dichotomy/merging of the sacred and the secular? For the case of the city of Chengdu (capital of the Sichuan province in mainland China), we will look at the rather small but extremely diverse district of Qingyang, which includes Buddhist and Daoist temples, Protestant and Catholic churches, and mosques. Following the core idea of my CCKF project on Sichuan religions, we will employ a shift from the understanding of religious diversity as a static reality to the acknowledgment of a more dynamic framework of diversity via the category of religious networks. More specifically, we will look at how space/territory contributed to the formation and shaping of those networks. Methodologically, we will work, among others, on various positions within social network theories and the spatial turn in the study of religion.

Divide and Rule: How Cities govern Religious Diversity through Interreligious Initiatives - Prof. Dr. Alexander Nagel

In 1575 Mughal emperor Jalaludin Akbar inaugurated a "House of Worship" at his court where he gathered dignitaries from several religious traditions. This early instance of interfaith governance had two main rationales: first, to prevent interreligious conflict in the mulfifaith Mughal Empire and, second, to design religious interpretations in correspondence with the reason of state. Today, cities make use of a similar strategy as they reach out to interreligious initiatives to foster social cohesion and address populations that have, so far, been almost inaccessible. The presentation will explore the modalities, conditions and consequences of these new forms of interreligious public-private collaboration, based on a case study in the German Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area. Particular emphasis will be put on the question how blurring the boundary between state departments and civic movements alters the inter- and intrareligious relations in local religious fields.

Religio-political urban activism in Zimbabwe Dr. Joram Tarusarira

Religio-political organisations in Zimbabwe play an important role in advocating democratisation and reconciliation, against acquiescent, silenced or co-opted mainstream churches. In this lecture, I analyse activities of religious organisations that deviate from the position of mainline churches and the political elites with regard to religious participation in political matters, against a background of political conflict and violence. Drawing on detailed case studies my lecture provocatively argues that in the face of an unsatisfactory religious and political culture, religio-political non-conformists emerge seeking to introduce a new ethos even in the face of negative sanctions from dominant religious and political systems.

The Urban Politics of Planning and Religious Diversity: From Conflict to Conflict-Resolution - Richard Gale

This presentation explores the issue of religious diversity and city governance from the perspective of urban planning. Despite the growing cultural diversity of many European cities, planning institutions, as systems of spatial regulation, remain largely blind to issues of religious and ethnic difference. While there are instances in which forms of religious and racialized disadvantage have received high profile treatment by professional planning bodies, in practice, these issues remain marginal to mainstream planning activity. A substantial body of research has revealed the complexities of the interactions between planners and faith groups, emphasising in particular how minority faith groups have been agential in transforming the operation of planning with regards to the development religious facilities (Peach and Gale 2003). Nevertheless, linked in part to the changing climate of urban politics in the UK and elsewhere, recent evidence suggests planning disputes remain a major constraint for faith communities. Drawing on examples from the UK, this presentation embarks on a re-examination of the faith, place and planning nexus, making the case for a practical ethics of community and professional (including academic) engagement, which moves from the analytics of problem-identification towards the pragmatics of problem-resolution.

Last modified:02 October 2018 1.07 p.m.