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Infrastructuring Religion: Materiality and Meaning in Ordinary Urbanism

Marian Burchardt (Uni Leipzig)

In my lecture, I draw on the infrastructural turn in urban studies in order to explore the profane materialities that enable particular forms of urban religion. Assuming that cities are configurations of spaces, actors and materialities characterized by dominant modes of belonging, hegemonic definitions of public space, and hierarchical orderings of spatial uses, infrastructures are a central element of cities’ material bases. Based on these assumptions, I compare practices of infrastructuring religion in Cape Town and Barcelona. In both cases, I am interested in infrastructuring as a collective practice, focusing on a process “in the making” rather than a readymade outcome. In the case of Barcelona, I explore practices of infrastructuring “from above” illuminating how at the urban level states are converting the complex administrative apparatus of licensing, permission, authorization and approval that has formed around questions of planning and zoning into a central political technology of the spatial governance of religious diversity. In the case of Cape Town, by contrast, I focus on infrastructuring “from below”. Here, I am interested in the material set-ups of places of worship that people produce mainly by means of improvisation. The outcome is often buildings that resemble a modularized arrangement that is open to vastly different uses and re-enchantments. I suggest that practices of brokerage and mediation of all kinds constantly amend infrastructural regulations and other elements of ordinary urbanism.


December 18, 2019

+++Change of venue+++

Classen-Kappelmann-Str. 24
Room S 251 (ground floor)
50931 Köln