Spaces of Modernity: Religion and the Urban in Asia and Africa


This article introduces a symposium on religion and the formation of modern urban space in Asia and Africa. Both the spread of new religious movements and the articulations between religion, globalization and neoliberalism have prompted new analyses of the shifting geographic and social boundaries between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ institutions, practices and discourses, and about the meaning of ‘religion’ itself. We reinscribe work on urban religion within a discussion of ‘modernity’ by dealing with the socio‐spatial mediation of religion and its role in redefining public spaces, practices, norms and discourses in contemporary cities. Individual articles map the spaces engendered by religious imaginaries and the forms of mobility and networks that religion relies on and constitutes, and they identify and analyze the roles played by mass media in religious practice and institution building, as well as the embodied nature of urban religious experience. They demonstrate how urban studies can be ‘pluralized’ and ‘vernacularized’ through analyses of how the urban realm is constituted in part through religious practice and meaning. Our attention to the articulation of religion with cities in Asia and Africa will also help to foster a new theoretical vocabulary within religious studies that is attentive to the historical, cultural and spatial contingencies of religion as a category of analysis.