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Urban Religions: Ethnographic Explorations, AAA 2014

AAA 2014 (Washington DC)
Panel for the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2014

Call for Papers


The study of urban religions, urban religious cultures, immigrant religions, and the role of religion, religiosities, and religious practices in the lives of ordinary urban dwellers has gained momentum since the 1990s. Anthropologists have in recent years taken a keen interest in urban religion, and the contribution of faith-based organizations to urban cultures. They identified religion as an urban dynamic and relevant cultural field, and insisted that religion is not only in, but very crucially of the city. They argued that religion, religiosities, and religious practices are dynamic components in the negotiation of increasingly globalized cityscapes. In recent years, anthropologists asked questions about the role of religion in cities, reflected about the neglected role of space in the study of religion, and analyzed place-making aspects of religious practices. Examining especially the expanding landscapes of immigrant faith-based organizations, researchers voiced doubts about the (imagined) secular nature of, in particular, US and European cities. The religious “turn”
is not a new phenomenon, but represents the renewed and more self-conscious acts of religiously inspired actors and faith-based institutions which have always existed in urban contexts, but have gained new prominence in recent years.

This panel explores the role of faith-based organizations in contemporary cities. Based on ethnographic studies, papers explore the complexities of urban religious communities, and their everyday practices, negotiations, and experiences. Individual papers examine the spiritual, social, and cultural landscape of urban religious associations in cities of the Global North and South. Examining concrete faith-based associations, the papers explore these groups/associations’
histories, activities, and participation in cities. Papers focus on issues of place-making, civic participation, or broader themes of inclusion/exclusion of faith-based activities, voices, and communities.

A number of questions frame the papers of this panel: Who are central actors/institutions in the respective faith-based contexts? How does communal life unfold in these associations? What spaces do they use? Do associations face opposition when they try to configure communal spaces, lives, practices, and forms of civic participation? How has the recent proliferation of new religions communities challenged and changed secular urban politics, spaces, discourses and practices? In other words, how have these faith-based dynamics and the ethnography that explores them been central to the production of the post-secular city?

If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send an abstract (no more than 250 words), or questions, before April 8 to

Petra Kuppinger
( or
Janet Bauer (