Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
When God Comes to Town

When God Comes to Town: Religious Traditions in Urban Contexts

Rik Pinxten
Lisa Dikomitis
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 166
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    When God Comes to Town
    Book Description:

    Around 1800 roughly three per cent of the human population lived in urban areas; by 2030 this number is expected to have gone up to some seventy per cent. This poses problems for traditional religions that are all rooted in rural, small-scale societies. The authors in this volume question what the possible appeal of these old religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam could be in the new urban environment and, conversely, what impact global urbanization will have on learning and on the performance and nature of ritual. Anthropologists, historians and political scientists have come together in this volume to analyse attempts made by churches and informal groups to adapt to these changes and, at the same time, to explore new ways to study religions in a largely urbanized environment.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-920-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: When God Comes to Town
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Rik Pinxten and Lisa Dikomitis

    This volume in the seriesCulture and Politicsinvestigates the way the city context and increasing urbanisation influence the styles of conversion, the social processes and the panorama of religions and life stance groups today. The book poses a deep philosophical problem: how does the ‘transfer of recipes on the meaning of life’ change with the global urbanisation of living conditions? Rather than philosophical generalisations, our approach is based on ethnographic and historical detail: how do people cope with this shift at a grassroots level? Examples from the Mediterranean area and elsewhere are elaborated by an interdisciplinary group of historians,...

  5. Part One: Nation Versus State

    • 1 Religion and Nationality: The Tangled Greek Case
      (pp. 3-16)
      Renée Hirschon

      Greece stands out among European societies with regard to the way religion relates to social life. It has been one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe in terms of ethnic and cultural factors and it continues to present itself as such, despite widespread immigration over the past two decades from neighbouring Balkan and Eastern European countries and from the Third World. The continuing entanglement of religious and national identity is a particular feature of the country’s modern history, and has had ramifications in all spheres of life. These features must be understood in the context of Greece’s emergence as...

    • 2. A Church Lost in the Maze of a City Without References
      (pp. 17-30)
      Bruno Drweski

      The Catholic Church occupies a particular place in Poland. Its roots are certainly not as old or as deep as appears at first sight. Catholicism remained a relatively superficial phenomenon until the Counter Reformation when the majority of the population in rural areas distrusted the preachers, resulting in a wave of conversion that was decided by tribal chiefs. Notwithstanding the religious convictions of individual Poles, since the early twentieth century, the Church has constituted a visible element of continuity for people subjected to profound, painful and repeated upheavals. During the course of its history, the Church most certainly was not...

  6. Part Two: Urban Transformations

    • 3. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Urbanism
      (pp. 33-44)
      Simon Coleman

      The city has long been a site of both dangerous temptation and alluring opportunity for pious Protestants. For the Victorians, it offered threats to personal morality alongside landmarks of societal progress. Or, to reach further back into the history of the Protestant imaginary, we may remember that North American ‘pilgrims’ were faced with the task of creating a Christian civilisation – a new Israel – out of the apparent wilderness, while retaining the Puritan vision of a ‘city on a hill’ in their minds’ eyes. The very origins of the evangelical¹ forms of Protestantism I explore in this chapter display powerful links...

    • 4. The Ecology and Economy of Urban Religious Space: A Socio-Historical Account of Quakers in Town
      (pp. 45-62)
      Peter Collins

      A sociological question often emerges along with the discernment of a pattern, or its absence. The starting point for this chapter is a simple, apparently naive, question: why are Quaker meeting houses in town larger than those in rural areas? Naturally, the question I have posed can be aired in a variety of ways. The most obvious response would be merely to present a series of population statistics indicating the sometimes astonishing increase in the urban population in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; however, this would be a crude and analytically uninteresting response. Although it is impossible to...

  7. Part Three: Urban Migration

    • 5. Rural Immigrants and Official Religion in an Urban Religious Festival in Greece
      (pp. 65-78)
      Giorgos Vozikas

      This chapter deals with religious experience in the particular form it takes in the Greek Orthodox religion and as the worship is carried out in an urban context. With reference to the migration and conditions that have shaped economic and social development of Greece, I examine the role of the rural background of the inhabitants in the conceptualisation and application of official religion by a local community in urban space.

      The area on which my interest centres is the locality of St Marina (Aghia Marina), in the Athenian municipality of Ilioupoli. The area owes its existence to theastyphilia, phenomenon...

    • 6. From the City to the Village and Back: Greek Cypriot Refugees Engaging in ‘Pilgrimages’ Across the Border
      (pp. 79-94)
      Lisa Dikomitis

      There were so many questions Kyriacos (forty-nine) wanted to ask when he first returned to his village. After he became a refugee he had travelled all around the world and lived in cities for almost three decades. Now he was back in his own house, which at the same time, was not his house. The air was the same, filled with the smell of jasmine, the old trees in the courtyard were packed with fruits, the pigeonholes he had built with his father remained intact, but everything carried a sense of unfamiliarity. Kyriacos was sitting opposite the present inhabitant of...

  8. Part Four: Impact of Modernity

    • 7. Reading the City Religious: Urban Transformations and Social Reconstruction in Recife, Brazil
      (pp. 97-113)
      Marjo de Theije

      The urban landscape is the stage on which many significant religious transformations took place in recent decades. Urbanisation and religious diversification went hand in hand, and the researchers on religion and religious movements accredited the migration to the cities of millions of poor peasants in Latin America as an important contribution to the growth of new religious groups and identities in the urban environment.¹ The same process occurred in Africa and Asia, where the religious realm has rapidly diversified in recent decades, accompanying the process of modernisation and industrialisation. Nevertheless, in the burgeoning field of urban anthropology, which focuses on...

    • 8 Modernity Contra Tradition? Taijiquan’s Struggle for Survival: A Chinese Case Study
      (pp. 114-144)
      Dan Vercammen

      It is a spring dawn. Merchant ships and ferries slip through the smog over the dark water of Pujiang River. Horns urge the smaller boats to move on quickly. A humming human river of colourful crowds flows fluently over Shanghai’s bund. A chilly wind breathes the foul smell of the city’s artery over the already polluted streets. Islands of onlookers form around solitary figures performing slow, waving motion. Some spectators become engaged in the attractive ritual and small numbers of participants grow into larger groups following a silent master. Further down the sidewalk graceful duets evolve when two people move...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 145-146)
  10. Index
    (pp. 147-152)