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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P215)

The interplay of dominant and marginalized belief systems in urban place making: material and immaterial dimensions

Location Block 1, Piso 1, Room 44
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 14:30

Convenors

Victoria Hegner (Göttingen University) email
Andrea Vetter (Humboldt University) email
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Short Abstract

We invite papers that focus on dominant or marginalized belief systems and discuss the interdependence of religion, urban space and place making. How does the specific urban culture inscribe itself into religious practices and thus into place making? Can we trace general characteristics of urbanism?

Long Abstract

It has long been acknowledged that today’s cities are innovative headquarters for a wide range of belief systems and their practitioners. However, the particular interdependence between religion, urban space, and place making remains under-theorized. The panel – placed within the sub-theme ‘Shaping Lives’ – will bring together studies seeking to fill this theoretical vacuum through ethnographically based research.

Focusing on major and marginalized belief systems, the panel aims for a comparative perspective, drawing attention to the interplay between diverse belief systems in appropriating and transforming urban places.

The panel welcomes studies that concentrate on practitioners' religious rituals and daily routines. How do the specific urban (material) culture and the urban imaginary inscribe themselves into rituals and other performative acts and thus into place making? What role does the city’s architectural structure play? How does material appearance interact with religious – immaterial – cosmologies? How is it integrated into them? What role does memory of urban pasts play, whether shared or contested? What is the significance of the body as an agent of creation of places (i.e. ritual movements, dress codes, visualizing emotions)? Is it possible to trace general characteristics of urbanism in the construction of (sacred) places in the city? The panel will also promote methodological reflection on ethnographic applications of new concepts of the city (urban imaginary, city as a whole, city’s habitus) and aims to publish successful panel contributions in a volume of our institute’s series.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

New Christian religions in Lisbon: configurations of the landscape and dynamics of the public space

Author: Claudia Swatowiski (State University of Rio de Janeiro)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper has the objective of examining the distribution of cult places of marginalized religions in relation to dominant religion in a specific area of Lisbon, emphasizing how minority Christian groups daily negotiate their social place.

Long Abstract

In this paper, I present an analysis of the the religious scenery Ajuda parish, Lisbon, emphasizing the configuration of the landscape and the tensions that permeate the public space. Based on a fieldwork realized among three religious groups - the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Filadélfia Evangelical Church and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God -, I sketch the context where the ethnography was accomplished and how different cult places are inserted in the landscape. Through a diachronic presentation of socio-cultural dynamics of Ajuda, strongly marked by the presence of the Catholic Church, it is possible to discuss how this area of Lisbon city has been configured throughout the time - pointing to social processes that are imbricate with the insertion of different cult places (imigration, e.g.). They are hierarchically distributed through the parish; they have different logics of presenting themselves. They find different ways to be at the public space dominated by catholic values and practices. Tensions emerge from the proselitism face to face of the Jehovah's Witnesses, from the expectation of moral conversion of the evangelic gypsy at the Filadelfia Church and from the Universal Church's investments on its own visibility. Exposing the specific dynamics of each religious institution, the complexity of the thematic in question is revealed.

Being migrants and missionaries: Guinean Evangelical Christians in Lisbon

Author: Ambra Formenti (FCSH/NOVA )  email
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Short Abstract

The contribution will focus on Evangelical Churches attended by migrants coming from Guinea-Bissau in the peripheral areas of the Greater Lisbon. It will investigate the way in which churches and believers appropriate and transform the urban space in which they live.

Long Abstract

In recent years, migrants coming from Africa and Latin America gave birth to new configurations of Christianity in European urban spaces, contributing to a progressive pluralisation of the religious landscape. The metropolitan area of the Greater Lisbon, where the foreign population living in Portugal is concentred, is the scene of a religious contact between Catholicism and these new forms of Christianity.

The contribution will focus on Evangelical Churches attended by migrants coming from Guinea-Bissau in this context. In particular, it will investigate the way in which churches and believers appropriate and transform the urban space in which they live, often the suburbs of the city. The meaning of being a "church of migrants" will be explored, as well as the role of the churches in the neighbourhoods in which they are settled.

'Placing' religion, performing belongings: Kimbanguist women in Lisbon

Author: Joana Santos (ICS - UL )  email
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Short Abstract

I intend to emphasize how kimbanguist women ascribe meaning to ‘places’ and express their way of being in the world, highlighting how these meanings are the outcome of diverse intersections between religious allegiance and other social and cultural perceptions of belonging, underpinned by notions of Africa, Europe and womanhood.

Long Abstract

Marching downtown Lisbon is an important moment for the kimbanguists while celebrating Christmas. They intend not only to announce the presence of this religious faith to the Portuguese society, but overall to bring God's word, purify and publicize salvation through the faith in Simon Kimbangu. Based on twelve months of fieldwork with the Kimbanguist Church in Portugal, I intend to highlight how kimbanguist women conceptualize 'space', where different senses of belonging to Africa and Portugal, co-exist, overflow and juxtapose themselves.

The meaning and appropriation of 'place' shift as the women that dwell in this community create specific senses of belonging and invoke (in different manners) domains such as religion, kinship, conjugality, social networks and community, thus inviting us to reflect on notions related to recognition, citizenship, identity, embodiment and performance and how these are expressed through religious and quotidian levels of experience.

Orixás: God's cultural manifestation. A study of the 'enculturated' masses with elements of the Afro-Brazilian religions

Author: Rosenilton Oliveira (Universidade de São Paulo)  email
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Short Abstract

The aim of this research is to discuss the opening process of the catholic church, in Brazil, to Afro- Brazilian religions. I will focus on the "enculturated" liturgies (afro masses, baptisms and marriages) in which elements from Afro- Brazilian religions (mainly from Candomblé) are adopted.

Long Abstract

Although the use of symbols in liturgic actions has always been a constant in the ritual of the Catholic mass; from the second half of the XXth century and with the development of the Theology of Liberation, several elements from the people's everyday, which kept a close relationship with other religious codes, came to be incorporated in the liturgy. It is the central question this text: how some Afro-Brazilian religious symbols participate in the "enculturated" Catholic liturgy, what meanings they assume, and what are its contributions to the dialogue that this two religious systems have been establishing? In São Paulo, for example, the icon of those celebrations is the "mass of the black mother", which happens in March and approximates Catholic imaginaries (such as Nossa Senhora Aparecida) to the heritage of readings about the mother and the woman during slavery. The research is been performed in two churches, in the city of São Paulo: Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos, in the Largo do Paissandú and Nossa Senhora Achiropita in Bela Vista. These churches are emblematic: the former would represent the "appropriation" of the Catholicism by the black, and the later the "appropriation" of Afro religions by Catholicism. Thus, the Catholic Church would be delivering itself, in the liturgical and theological space of the church to a process of "culturalization" of these religions. This can be verified in the national society in a wider mode.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.