Grounding Religiosity in Urban Space: insights from multicultural Melbourne

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Geographer, 2016, 47, (3), pp. 295-310
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Cities within Western democratic societies have long been regarded as sites where secular visions of modernity and citizenship are enacted. Today, however, ethno-religious diversity has emerged as a deep and vibrant part of urban social life and public culture, shaping place-making practices that nourish ‘post-secular’ belonging and practices of citizenship. Place-making and citizenship practices that are shaped by ethno-religious diversity have the potential to transform public spaces highlighting common humanity and ‘shared vulnerability’ (J. Butler, Precarious Life: The Powersof Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004)). The visibility and embodiment of Islamic religious beliefs, ritual observances, and cultural expressions often circulate feelings of suspicion and unease for non-Muslim co-citizens. In this paper we deviate from this dominant narrative to argue that ‘everyday’ forms of religiosity that underpin and shape social and political actions performed in public space make an important contribution to the multicultural milieu of the nominally ‘Western’ city, shaping public spaces that resonate with hope and shared responsibility. The paper draws on participant observation, photo-ethnography and interviews with Melbourne residents, of Muslim faith, and predominantly of Egyptian, Turkish and Afghani (Hazara) cultural heritage.
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