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religion, geography of

  A sub-field of cultural geography, and variously concerned with the description and interpretation of the spatial relationships, landscapes, and places of sacred phenomena and religious practices (Park, 1994). The geography of religion is consequently most fully developed where cultural geography is also prominent, notably the United States and Germany. However, this pattern is changing, as the cultural turn has led to the broader diffusion of interest in all manner of cultural phenomena and institutions, including religion and spirituality. At the same time the geographical study of religion is also beginning to engage the sociology of religion and indeed social theory more generally. In this respect, as will be noted below, there are also some important initiatives by theologians to undertake critical assessments of epistemology and theory in the social sciences.

Earlier reviews noted both a \'lack of coherence\' (Sopher, 1981) and that the sub-field is \'in disarray\' (Tuan, 1976). The earliest and still the largest number of studies are concerned with the patterning of religious phenomena, either as map distributions or as morphological features of the cultural landscape. The distribution of religious denominations in the United States, for example, has been used to demarcate cultural regions (Zelinsky, 1961), while descriptive studies have itemized such visible landscape elements as cemeteries, sacred places, or the landscapes of distinctive groups such as the Mormons. Much of this work is descriptive, idiographic in nature, and with limited attempts at explanation or theorization. Its concept of culture is \'superorganic\', that is of a monolithic and pre-existing entity that incorporates a weak sense of human agency. More analytical or interpretive studies of religious adherence (Doeppers, 1976), or of a religious event such as the diffusion of the Reformation (Hannemann, 1975), are indicative of more ambitious attempts to place religious phenomena in a wider explanatory context.

An important question for human geographers who seek more than a descriptive approach to the geography of religion is both knowledge of the literature of religious studies and also familiarity with the nature of religious experience (Buttner, 1980). Tuan (1976) has pressed this position further, arguing for a phenomenology of religious experience, a humanistic perspective to which he has made important contributions. Sharing this orientation is Tanaka\'s (1977) detailed interpretation of the symbolic meaning of 36 landscape elements of Buddhist religious sites, an effort that may be replicated in other places, such as palaces or classical gardens. Also concerned with sacred places, but at a less experiential level, is work on pilgrimages (Sopher, 1968), and Ben-Arieh\'s (1984) immense historical geography of Jerusalem (cf. sacred and profane space).

Such work is closely related to studies exploring the relationship between religious cosmology or world-view and the meaning of the land. The cities of early civilizations were frequently laid out as a microcosm of the cosmological order, with the king\'s palace a mimetic representation of the holy of holies at the centre of the universe (Wheatley, 1971; Duncan, 1990). Cosmologies also present a strong symbolic bond to the land; the belief in the promised land, such a central tenet of Judaism (Houston, 1978), has propelled the twentieth-century reinvention of the Jewish state. Not least, and controversial, has been the debate over the implications of the Judaeo-Christian traditions in the constitution of nature. The earlier emphasis on a dominion mandate and its destructive implications for environmental use, is now much tempered, as a countervailing argument has identified the ethic of environmental stewardship in Biblical sources (Kay, 1989). Discussions of this type are likely to grow with the rising normative interest in ethics in human geography. A related development has occurred in the literature on missionary endeavours, where an earlier critical (indeed sometimes hostile) genre of work that fully implicated the church with the project of empire has more recently been revised to a more nuanced view of the differential impact of national and even denominational missions, some of which practised not only significant humanitarian works in education and health care and intervened to block the grosser intrusions of imperialism, but also held a view of \'the native\' at odds with the hierarchical tropes of Eurocentrism (Sanneh, 1993; cf. Comaroff and Comaroff, 1991, 1997).

A productive literature has explored the role of religious belief and practice in the construction of local geographies. Too little of this work, as yet, has been institutional, though informative exceptions include an assessment of the church as a landholder (Hamnett, 1987) and as a service provider (Pacione, 1990). With the immense international migrations of recent decades, another promising field is examination of the role of the immigrant church, temple, and gurdwara in providing services and also in staking out models for cultural integration and thereby for the remaking of Identities (cf. assimilation). More common than this institutional perspective has been examination of the practices of adherents as a group and their contribution to a distinctive sense of place. A Catholic predisposition to wine-making, for example, has introduced marked variations in agricultural land use between adjacent Catholic and Protestant parishes (Geipel, 1978), whereas in Belfast similar ethnic characteristics demarcate the boundaries of mutually hostile territories (Boal, 1969). In plural societies, religious adherence sometimes marks the division between more or less entitled citizens; the status of Jew and Arab (whether Muslim or Christian) is a case in point (Romann and Weingrod, 1991). A significant group of studies has considered the effects of religious dietary practices and associated regimes of agriculture (Simoons, 1960).

The recent interest in cultural politics has led to several innovative studies. Harvey\'s (1979) materialist reading of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur in Paris regards the building as a political symbol intended to restore a conservative politics, following the insurrection of the Paris Commune. This attempt to achieve hegemony through the built environment was resisted by Republican Parisians. In a quite different setting, and with an alternative set of heuristics, Duncan (1990) has told much the same story. In pre-colonial Sri Lanka, the monarchy of the Kandyan kingdom sought to expand and legitimate its control in a series of ritualized building programmes. The new construction followed specific protocols laid out in sacred texts. The designs were intended to rebuild the cosmological order in microcosm, but the larger political imperative was to legitimate the rule of the king. In a seminal volume, Duncan has made several advances, and brought new intellectual vitality to the task of recording the presence of religious phenomena in the landscape. Religious traits are not merely described morphologically, but are read as symbolic entries, authored by identifiable agents from a received tradition, and directed by them to a larger political purpose. To accomplish this objective, the study includes a sophisticated knowledge of the sacred texts themselves as well as a literary strategy of intertextuality that relates the holy books to the landscape, itself conceived as a text.

A final genre of work was labelled by Sopher (1981) as confessional, that is, it offered geographical interpretations premised upon a religious cosmology. While such an interpretation is most usually drawn from the tradition of a religious world-view (Ley, 1974; Aay and Griffioen, 1998; Wallace, 1998), Sopher suggests that it may equally be derived from a secular cosmology, and he cites the conclusion of Harvey (1979), with the author \'coming forward, as it were, for Karl Marx\'. This nexus between knowledge and social interests is one that has been pursued by theologians and a few geographers in examining the treatment of religious themes by secular authors. In an eloquent critique, Livingstone (1998) has demonstrated some particular lacunae in the history of geography, notably the erasure of religious influences, such as natural theology, upon the construction of geographical knowledge. This work connects with an expansive project in the sociology of religion, where John Milbank (1990) has shown how repeatedly the undeclared work of social science has been to erase and distort religious modes of knowledge, to engage in an unstated metaphysical move against metaphysics. This revelation of the policing of the domains of religion by social science is only one of a number of recent interventions by sociologists of religion and theologians that are opening up some extremely interesting lines of engagement around theoretical and epistemological concerns. Other examples include Thiselton\'s (1992) review of hermeneutics that bridges the humanities, theology and the social sciences, and Pasewark\'s (1993) theological challenge to a Foucauldian view of power as domination (also Milbank, 1990). This is part of a broader unease with the entire edifice of the poststructural hermeneutics of suspicion, and the posing of other starting points, such as a hermeneutics of trust.

Such work projects the geography of religion into far more refined intellectual spaces. It provides the intellectual counterpart to the historical revitalization of religious questions occasioned by such developments as the rise of militant forms of Islam, the role of the Catholic Church in democracy movements in Latin America and elsewhere, the political mobilization of conservative Christians in the USA, and globalization forces which are creating far more heterogeneous national religious communities. In short, the emergence of religious forces which significantly constitute new regional geographies coincides with theoretical and epistemological advances. Together they provide considerable momentum to press forward Kong\'s (1990) hope for \'more room for geographical exploration (of religion) than has thus far been attempted\'. (DL)

References Aay, H. and Griffioen, S., eds, 1998: Geography and worldview: a Christian reconnaissance. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Ben-Arieh, Y. 1984: Jerusalem in the nineteenth century. New York: St. Martin\'s Press. Boal, F. 1969:Territoriality on the Shankill-Falls divide, Belfast. Irish Geography 6: 30-50. Buttner, M. 1980: On the history and philosophy of the geography of religion in Germany. Religion 10: 86-119. Comaroff, J. and Comaroff, J. 1991, 1997: Of revelation and revolution: Christianity, colonialism and consciousness in South Africa, 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Doeppers, D. 1976: The evolution of the geography of religious adherence in the Philippines before 1898. Journal of Historical Geography 2: 95-110. Duncan, J. 1990: The city as text: the politics of landscape interpretation in the Kandyan kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Geipel, R. 1978: The landscape indicators school in German geography. In D. Ley and M. Samuels, eds, Humanistic geography. London: Croom Helm, 155-72. Hamnett, C. 1987: The church\'s many mansions: the changing structure of the Church Commissioners\' land and property holdings. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 12: 465-81. Hanneman, M. 1975: The diffusion of the Reformation in southwestern Germany, 1518-1534. Chicago: University of Chicago, Department of Geography, Research paper no. 167. Harvey, D. 1979: Monument and myth. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69: 362-81. Houston, J. 1978: The concepts of \'place\' and \'land\' in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. In D. Ley and M. Samuels, eds, Humanistic geography. London: Croom Helm, 224-37. Kay, J. 1989: Human dominion over nature in the Hebrew Bible. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 79: 213-32. Kong, L. 1990: Geography and religion: trends and prospects. Progress in Human Geography 14: 355-71. Ley, D. 1974: The city and good and evil: reflections on Christian and Marxian interpretations. Antipode 6: 66-74. Livingstone, D. 1998: Geography and the natural theology imperative. In H. Aay and S. Griffioen, eds, Geography and worldview: a Christian reconnaissance. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1-17. Milbank, J. 1990: Theology and social theory: beyond secular reason. Oxford: Blackwell. Pacione, M. 1990: The ecclesiastical community of interest as a response to urban poverty and deprivation. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 15: 193-204. Park, C. 1994: Sacred worlds: an introduction to geography and religion. London: Routledge. Pasewark, K. 1993: A theology of power: being beyond domination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Romann, M. and Weingrod, A. 1991: Living together separately: Arabs and Jews in centemporary Jerusalem. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sanneh, L. 1993: Encountering the west: Christianity and the global cultural process. London: Marshall Pickering. Simoons, F. 1960: Eat not this flesh. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Sopher, D. 1968: Pilgrim circulation in Gujarat. Geographical Review 58: 392-425. Sopher, D. 1981: Geography and religions. Progress in Human Geography 5: 510-24. Tanaka, H. 1977: Geographic expression of Buddhist pilgrim places in Shikoku Island, Japan. Canadian Geographer 21: 111-32. Thiselton, A. 1992: New horizons in hermeneutics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Tuan, Y.-F. 1976: Humanistic geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 66: 266-76. Wallace, I. 1998: A Christian reading of the global economy. In H. Aay and S. Griffioen, eds, Geography and worldview: a Christian reconnaissance. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Wheatley, P. 1971: The pivot of the four corners. Chicago: Aldine. Zelinsky, W. 1961: An approach to the religious geography of the United States: patterns of church membership in 1952. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 51: 139-93.

Suggested Reading Kong (1990). Milbank (1990). Social Compass: International Review of Sociology of Religion, 1993: The geography of religions. 40 (2), whole issue.



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