Creating Religious Spaces in Cape Town, Barcelona and Montreal: Perspectives From Cultural Theory on the Re-Figuration of Spaces and Cross-Cultural Comparison

  • Marian Burchardt Universität Leipzig
Keywords: figurational sociology, cross-cultural comparison, sociology of space, spatial analysis, re-figuration of spaces, urban space, religion, place-keeping, Cape Town, Montreal, Barcelona


Engaging with recent social science debates on urbanism, space, and religion, in this article I explore how religious change and the re-figuration of spaces are mutually shaped in cities located on three different continents: Cape Town, Barcelona, and Montreal. I start from the premise that social actors' spatial strategies and existing spatial regimes with regard to urban religion are mediated by the ways in which state and non-state actors draw on and mobilize publicly circulating notions of religious diversity and secularity. My argument is that there are, at the current conjuncture of global religious change, three main processes affecting the re-figuration of spaces: 1. the eventization, 2. the infrastructuration, and 3. the heritagization of religion. While they carry global significance, these processes play out differently in the three cities I analyzed. By identifying these shared developments, I challenge the notion that links between urbanism and religion in the Global South and the Global North are different beyond comparison. Instead, I argue that comparative methodologies in studies on urban religion are indispensable in order to reveal both global structural forces and cultural differences. The article is based on my ethnographic fieldwork carried out in each of the three cities.


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Author Biography

Marian Burchardt, Universität Leipzig

Marian BURCHARDT is professor of sociology at Leipzig University. As a cultural sociologist, he is interested in how power and institutions shape social life in culturally diverse societies. He is a principal investigator in the Collaborative Research Center "Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition" (SFB 1199) and co-director of the Leipzig Lab "Global Health." Marian BURCHARDT is the author of "Faith in the Time of AIDS: Religion, Biopolitics and Modernity in South Africa" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and "Regulating Difference: Religious Diversity and Nationhood in the Secular West" (Rutgers University Press, 2020).

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