Urban Place-Making and Religiosity

Mary Hancock
History and Anthropology
UC Santa Barbara

Smriti Srinivas
UC Davis

This research collaboration seeks to theorize the ways in which communities inhabit and make cities through the practices, sub-cultures, discourses, media, and materialities that together constitute “religion.” Through workshops and site visits that build on the theme of the UCHRI-funded Working Group, “Spaces for the Future: Religion and Urban Place-Making” (2012-13), this group provided opportunities for developing a sustained interdisciplinary appraisal of religiosity’s articulation with urban places and their mutual contribution to the formation of “post-secular” imaginaries. The research agenda recognizes that even as cities are tagged as sites of pathology and dystopia, they have also persistently connoted possibility, renewal, and hope, as places where pasts can be shed and new modalities of cultural being created. Examples include the insurgent citizenship of the Occupy movement and the Arab uprisings, experiments with intentional communities, urban gardens, civic performances, or transversal collaborations between urban actors. A primary aim is to intervene in and resituate debates regarding urban place-making by interrogating the tendency (in the social sciences) to define the city as either the preeminent space of the secular or as the site of religion’s violent return, by attending to alternate and emergent ways in which religion is imbricated in urban landscapes and socialities.