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Religion and Urbanity Online

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Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke

Religion and Urbanity Online (R&U) will present important research contributions on the subject of the interplay between religious change, on the one hand, and, on the other, changes in urban spaces and urban forms of life, as well as on practices of and discourses on urbanness in Europe, the circum-Mediterranean region, and South Asia. It will provide historians, anthropologists, and sociologists of cities and of religion with research articles as well as overviews. Case studies focusing on particular cities or urban networks, or on specific phenomena and processes, will help to build a reservoir of knowledge relevant to two overarching questions: What role did religious actors, practices, and ideas play in the emergence and ongoing development of cities and ‘urbanity’? What role did urban actors, spaces, and practices, and the discourse on urbanity, play in the emergence and ongoing development of religious groups and ‘religion’?

Why do we think that such an enterprise is timely? Problems of urbanity and urban religion are not just phenomena and problems of the present. On the contrary, these issues have recurred time and again throughout history. What do cities such as Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, Wittenberg, Geneva, Mecca, Medina,

Varanasi, Sarnath or Pataliputra/Patna have in common with each other? They are all cities that have been the locus for decisive changes in the history of religion – namely the formations negotiated as Judaism and Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and the many strands summarised as Hinduism. At the same time, these places and other pilgrimage cities – but also port cities such as Surat and Hamburg or trading centres such as Lyon and Amritsar – owe their cityscapes and the ways of life cultivated and constantly changing within them to religious actors, practices and ideas. This relationship was reciprocal, for development of new forms of urban publicity also changed religious practices or caused new practices to come into being, as we can see with the construction of theatres in antiquity, the transformation of churchyards into squares in the sixteenth century, or the transformation of cinemas into Pentecostal churches in the twenty-first century. Spaces such as places of worship or cemeteries change the topography of urban areas and the streams of people that flow through them, from short-term city visitors to residents with generations of family history to only occasionally present rulers. These effects can be caused by such diverse phenomena as the erection of central sanctuaries, the closure of neighbourhoods through the creation of dead ends in the streets of ancient Greco-Roman or Islamic cities, or the demands on rulers to be present in centrally located temples or cathedrals. And such spatial changes did not remain without consequences for rituals such as religious ideas and institutionalisations. These in turn changed urban practices, urban orders, and reflections on what constitutes the urban. In Religion & Urbanity, we propose to investigate these interactions in a comparative historical context by first bringing together previous research and then identifying and developing research tasks from a comparative perspective. We conceptualise the two different clusters of factors as ‘religion’ and ‘urbanity’. It is the interaction of both which is the object of this online resource.

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