Abstract: This paper examines how Utah’s 1947 This Is The Place Monument functioned in two contradictory ways: First, it confirmed the Mormon narrative of their entry into the Salt Lake Valley as a mythic narrative about a chosen people entering into their promised land. Second, it reinforced Mormonism as one among many traditions participating in the civil religion of Utah and the American West. In its exploration of these contradictory impulses, the paper examines the intersections of historical memory and the creation of sacred space.
Abstract: Due to deep-seated political tensions and intermittent violence between various streams of the city’s three major religions, Jerusalem’s sacred landscape is in the midst of significant change. One of the most salient expressions of this phenomenon is the renaissance of female saint shrines, most notably the Tomb of Mary and the proximate Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch. At these sites, female symbols, imagery rituals, and materiality have become powerful tools for asserting political claims that pertain to land and belonging. I will take stock of this phenomenon through the lens of different ethno-religious groups in Israel/Palestine that are availing themselves of female symbols (such as fertility, suffering, and maternal care) to advance various objectives. I find that these symbols have charged valences within minority communities. For members of the country’s hegemonic denominations, Rachel is the Jewish people’s “eternal mother” as well as a national symbol of the “return of the exiles” to their homeland. At the same time, local Catholic and Orthodox Christians view Mary to be “the mother of minorities” who suffered on behalf of and continues to provide succor for the weak. As a minority, Christians in Israel/Palestine employ this image of the Virgin as part of their effort to struggle with their weakening grip over the territories. Viewing the Virgin as a protector of minority groups is a departure from the vast majority of the Christian world, where Mary constitutes a national symbol that reinforces social belonging. In sum, I show how, amid the ongoing religious struggle, both female icons and their respective sacred venues are mobilized by different groups for the sake of challenging the political order and reshaping the landscape.
Abstract: Building on the recent ‘auditory turn’ in ethnomusicology and on recent anthropological approaches to pilgrimage, this article considers how the soundscapes and vocal practices of European and American Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem’s Old City shape the practices and experiences of pilgrimage. Sounds colour the ethical comportment of pilgrims; listening, both voluntarily and involuntarily, intervenes in their interactions with others in the pilgrimage environment, provoking a range of public and private responses. Focusing attention on the auditory landscape provides compelling insights into the practices and politics of pilgrimage, in particular revealing moments of tension as pilgrims seek to realise personal and communal ideals in a crowded, shared space.
Abstract: Festivals, parades and other public cultural spectacles are important sites in which communities demarcate their boundaries and attempt to expand them by claiming public space. This article draws from ethnographic fieldwork at Toronto’s Jesus in the City parade, an annual event in which Toronto-area Christians take their message to the city’s downtown in a Carnival-style procession, to explore what Amanda Weidman has called the ‘politics of voice’ in the parade: how religious participants create, contest and negotiate various affiliations in the public sphere through their musical performance of congregational songs. Exploring what sounds are produced and why reveals how parade participants use musical performance on the city stage in their quest to define what it means to be a Christian, an ethnic minority and a Canadian in the twenty-first century.
Abstract: In Hong Kong, over half of the Protestant churches are located in the upper-floor units in commercial and residential buildings. Because of their physical locations, these churches are sometimes dubbed ‘upper-floor churches’. Unlike those that occupy stand-alone religious buildings or dwell in church-run schools and social service centres, these are often invisible in the landscapes of the city. Through analysis of a case study, this paper aims to explore the spatial practices that a Protestant community has adopted in acquiring, representing, and ritualising a business unit in a residential high-rise for building up their church. Our analysis of the case study shows that in a metropolis like contemporary Hong Kong, the construction of sacred space is full of tensions between utilitarian calculations and concerns of human relations and religious values. While the congregation had been very creative in transforming a commercial unit into a religious site, it did not show much awareness of the oppressive powers of the capitalist market and had a strong tendency to represent its spatial practices as commodities for consumption.