Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 47, No 1 (2018)

Urban Pareidolia: Fleeting but Hypermodern Signs of the Sacred?

Lionel Obadia

Abstract


Urban settings have long been considered by scholars in religion as one of the main sites of the weakening of religion in the past decades, if not the main one. Indeed, according to the master narrative of modernity, urban life and the social and cultural mixing it implies, the quick transformations of traditional institutions that used to rule entire societies, changes in the frames and in the forms of social relationships, cultural intermingling and métissages, the diffusion of lay and rationalistic ideals in the urban populations, among many other factors, are supposed to have played a crucial role in what was labelled the “fading away” of ancient religious traditions, or at least, in the “withdrawal” of religion from the so-called “public sphere” and its relocation in a “private sphere” where it is now subject to individualization processes . But the context has dramatically changed in the recent years. Almost unexpectedly, urban settings have become the main site for the return of religion, and have revealed the other side of modernity: the revival of religious beliefs and practices that modern and industrialized societies, from North to South, from the West to the East, have witnessed, has mainly taken place in urban settings – although rural areas, for different reasons, have also been concerned by the “return of the sacred” (the reinvention of rural and remote “sacred sites”, the installation of many new religious movements in the countryside, in a dual location, half urban – half rural).

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.33670

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