Negotiating religious experience in secular urban spaces
(University of Tampere)
Ali Qadir (University of Tampere)
Pia Vuolanto (University of Tampere)
Paper short abstract:
Our paper ethnographically explores a particular form of urban religiosity by focusing on how individuals, who identify themselves as belonging to a certain religious or spiritual tradition, negotiate their religious identities while working in urban secular spaces.
Paper long abstract:
Philosophical anthropologist Charles Taylor famously argued that both scientific rationality and religious expressiveness are part of the symbolic architecture of the modern self. Yet the divide between these two modes of perception is increasingly pronounced in the modern globalized world, particularly in Northern Europe. On the one hand, secular polities and state structures restrict religious experiences to a highly personalized space. Such modern institutions as courts, parliaments, corporations, hospitals, universities, and schools operate as prime sites of secular scientific rationality. On the other hand, New Age movements, urban religious and spirituality groups, as well as migrants' religiosity are pushing religion back into the highly visible domain of urban spaces. However, there is still little understanding of how this divide affects people's daily lives. Attempting to increase our understanding of a particular form of urban religiosity, our paper ethnographically explores how individuals, who identify themselves as belonging to a certain religious or spiritual tradition, negotiate their religious identities and faith, as well as position themselves while working (or studying) in secular spaces such as universities and health clinics. Our argument draws on long-term multi-sited ethnography, including interviews with health practitioners, researchers and students from Lutheran, Orthodox, Muslim and anthroposophy backgrounds. Most our interlocutors reside in a large urban center, where they settled in as result of international or internal migration. Combining insights from anthropology of religion, science studies, neoinstitutionalist approach in sociology of religion, and transnational anthropology, the paper investigates various strategies that boundary individuals use to negotiate the science-religion interface.
Religion on the move: comparative ethnographic accounts of migration and urban religiosity