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How Do Religions End?

Theorizing Religious Traditions from the Point of View of How They Disappear

Joel Robbins

What does it mean for a new religion to arise or take hold among a group of people? What does it mean for a religious tradition to endure? These are questions that are quite commonly addressed, at least implicitly, in the study of religion. Less frequently asked is the question of what it means for a religious tradition to come to an end. This article addresses this question, paying particular attention to the ways people actively dismantle a religious tradition that previously shaped their lives. I also consider what studying the process of religious disappearance can teach us about what it means for a tradition to arise and endure, arguing that a grasp on processes of religious dissolution is necessary for a fully rounded approach to the study of religious change. Throughout the article, I illustrate my arguments with material from the study of Christianity, Judaism and indigenous religious traditions, particularly from Oceania.

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Dieter Rink

Since about the 1980s shrinkage has become a new normality especially for European cities and urban regions. As a consequence of the shrinking process, new dimensions of wastelands appear in the affected cities. Urban planners have to find solutions for these “holes” in the urban fabric and new visions are needed for open spaces. In the last few years, the wilderness concept has emerged in the planning field and it has become a fashionable term, in particular in urban restructuring in eastern Germany. If wilderness is a usable concept for urban restructuring, can wilderness be a new structuring element for urban planning? This article analyzes the mechanisms of formation of wasteland in shrinking cities, and then focuses on related debates in urban planning as well as the debates in urban ecology and nature conservation research. The article concludes by considering different aspects of these debates and the question of which role wilderness can play in shrinking cities is discussed.

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The Decline of Rome

The Never-Ending Crisis in the Capital

Giada Zampano

The first female mayor in Rome’s history, Virginia Raggi, is faced with a dual challenge. First, she must try to solve the chronic problems of a city mired in debt and struggling with an ongoing emergency caused by chronic traffic problems and chaotic waste disposal. Then the young mayor must experiment with new ways of exercising power to establish the transparency required to restore the reputation of a political class that has led Rome to become known as the “Mafia Capital,” with its own “in-between world” made up of corrupt politicians, business people, and criminals. Since assuming office, Raggi has faced a political impasse, and her administration has suffered an embarrassing string of resignations and judicial scandals that have brought into question the city’s future prospects. Rome is now at a crossroads that may lead to either a much-awaited renaissance or a definitive meltdown.

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“Save the Men!”

Demographic Decline and the Public Response in the Late Soviet Period

Tricia Starks

In 1968, the Soviet economist and demographer Boris Urlanis started a national conversation in the Soviet Union with his article “Beregite muzhchin!” or “Save the Men!” in the popular journal Literaturnaia gazeta. The essay, translated here, points out the increasingly troubling imbalance in male and female health as men were dying, on average, eight years earlier than women. Urlanis calls for attention to accidents and lifestyle problems (smoking and drinking, as featured in propaganda posters) as well as a nationwide set of health institutions centered on male health. The essay precipitated a flood of essays, letters, commentaries, cartoons, and even a movie under the same title.

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Harmut Häußermann

The Soziale Stadt program, was introduced by the Red-Green coalition government in 2000, and has continued until today, despite the change in governing coalition. It is a cooperative program between the federal and Länder governments and has some innovative characteristics: cross-department cooperation at all administrative levels; integrative action plans; tackling social problems of neighborhoods in a new way; novel forms of participation and cooperation. After its first three years, the program is undoubtedly a great success, visibly addressing key issues in the cities and widening the scope for action. This article presents results of an interim evaluation showing that the results of program implementation, however, still remain modest.

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Lucien Gubbay

The Ottomans were descended from one of the many clans of Turkish nomads who swept westwards from the steppes of Central Asia and decisively defeated the enfeebled Byzantine Empire at the battle of Manzikert in 1071. The tribesmen converted to Islam and then slowly expanded their grip on Byzantine territory in Anatolia.

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William W. Darrow

Public health in the United States has lost its edge. It made a significant impact on human well-being, capacities, and potential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now it takes a backseat to biomedical research and therapeutic medicine. Population health with its traditional emphasis on preventing harm has been displaced by an exorbitantly expensive and continually expanding medical care system devoted almost exclusively to restoring or rehabilitating the health of patients – no matter the cost. The failure to control the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the United States can be attributed to adherence to an inadequate biomedical model that ignores the social. Social quality theory, designed to further social justice, solidarity, equal value, and human dignity, can contribute to identifying and correcting deficiencies in biomedical approaches to HIV prevention and other public health problems that continue to plague the people of the United States.

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The Role of Small-Scale Farming in Familial Care

Reducing Work Risks Stemming from the Market Economy in Northeast Thailand

Shinsuke Tomita, Mario Ivan Lopez and Yasuyuki Kono

At present, Thailand’s market economy is placing pressure on familial care within rural households. An increasing amount of people are making their living in the current market economy and moving to urban areas in search of employment. The provisioning of care has come under greater risk, especially for women and couples of working age who are exposed to the possibilities of losing employment opportunities. While caregiving has been a responsibility of the household, shifts in working patterns have weakened its ability to care for children and the elderly. However, the capacity to care in northeast Thailand is still higher than in other regions of the country. This article discusses the balancing act that takes place between a progressive market economy and familial care as provided within households in northeast Thailand to demonstrate the importance that rice farming plays in familial care even if income from farming is limited.

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Tracy K. Harris

This paper examines the current state of Ladino as a spoken everyday language of communication. Research has shown that there are very few competent speakers of the language under the age of sixty throughout the world. Negative language attitudes as well as assimilation into the dominant cultures and choice of the dominant language(s) are contributing factors to this decline. However, this decline in linguistic skills does not reflect the promotional efforts on behalf of Ladino and Sephardic culture which are discussed at length in the paper. The end result is that language loss does not mean the decline of Sephardic ethnicity and culture, which are presently thriving.

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Steven Michels and Derek Hook

Decline of the Public: The Hollowing-out of Citizenship, by David Marquand. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2004. ISBN: 0745629105. Reviewed by Steven Michels

How to be Alone, by Jonathan Franzen. London & New York: Picador, 2004. ISBN: 0312422164. Reviewed by Derek Hook