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Religion, Space, and Place

The Spatial Turn in Research on Religion

Kim Knott

Following a consideration of the impact of the late twentieth-century spatial turn on the study of religion by geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and religious studies scholars, two trends are distinguished: the poetics of place and the sacred; and politics, religion, and the contestation of space. Discussion of these reveals substantially different approaches to religion, space, and place—one phenomenological, the other social constructivist. The spatial turn has been extremely fruitful for research on religion, bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines, and connecting not only to traditional areas such as sacred space and pilgrimage, but to new ones such as embodiment, gender, practice and religious-secular engagements.

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Michael Sheridan

Boundary plants lie at the intersections of landscape ecology, social structure, and cultural meaning-making. They typically relate resource rights to social groups and cultural identities, and make these connections meaningful and legitimate. Landscape boundaries such as hedges and fence lines are often repositories for social identities and cultural meanings, and tools for the negotiations and struggles that comprise them. This article surveys botanical boundaries in classic ethnography, outlines social science approaches to boundary objects, and describes new theoretical work on space, place, and agency. It also introduces the concepts of monomarcation and polymarcation to delineate the contrast between technologically simple and socially complex forms of marking land. Three case studies, concerning the social lives of Dracaena in sub- Saharan Africa and Cordyline in the Caribbean, illustrate how boundary plants have a particular sort of vegetative agency to turn space into place in culture-specific ways.

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Introduction

Understanding Mobilities in a Dangerous World

Gail Adams-Hutcheson, Holly Thorpe and Catharine Coleborne

The mobilities framework offers a particularly informative and potent paradigm through which to draw together interdisciplinary scholarship about the present world. In this introduction—and indeed, derived from a symposia on mobilities in a dangerous world—we explore the dynamics of contemporary mobilities through a critical focus on “dangerous” spaces and places. We discuss the potential of a sustained dialogue between mobilities studies and our focus on risk, adversity, and perceptions of danger. Although disasters link to four of the articles, ideas are expanded to draw on the multiple scales of risk and danger in everyday life within and across an array of international contexts. In this special issue, dynamic mobilities are facilitated by ships, skateboards, buildings, art, and cities; they are also encountered in darkness, in light, and through bodies as well as physical and imagined movements.

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Jewish Dating or Niche-making?

A Topographical Representation of Youth Culture

Alina Gromova

In this article I am approaching the topic of Jewish dating among the young Russian-speaking Jews who live in Berlin. Using the analytical concept of space and applying grounded theory, I am presenting data I collected in 2010 using the methods of ethnographic interviews and participant observation. The article is organised around three main questions. Firstly, I am interested in the motivation of my interviewees, who are generally children of inter-ethnic and inter-religious couples, to find a solely Jewish partner. Secondly, I am asking for existing strategies applied within a relatively small Jewish community of around thirty to fifty thousand in Berlin in order to find a Jewish partner. Thirdly, I am looking for the concrete spaces and places used or constructed for the purpose of finding a Jewish girlfriend or boyfriend. Beside these empirical results, I am introducing the theoretical idea of Jewish niches, which is discussed against the background of 'Jewish space' as promulgated by Diana Pinto.

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(Un)seen Seas

Technological Mediation, Oceanic Imaginaries, and Future Depths

Stephanie Ratté

Remote technologies and digitally mediated representations now serve as a central mode of interaction with hard-to-reach sea spaces and places. This article reviews the literature on varied scholarly engagements with the sea and on the oceanic application of technologies—among them geographic information systems, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles—that allow people to envision and engage with deep and distant oceanic spaces. I focus on the extension of a digital and disembodied human presence in the oceans and the persistence of frontier fictions, in which the sea figures as a site of future-oriented possibilities. Finally, I ask what the emphasis on “seeing” through technological mediation means for how we imagine vast spaces, and consider how these elements of the oceanic imaginary can be productively complicated by drawing attention to the materiality of the oceans and the scalar politics of dynamic spaces.

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Editorial

South to a New Place

Suzanne W. Jones and Sharon Monteith

In 1971 Albert Murray published South To A Very Old Place. Commissioned by the editor of Harper’s magazine, Willie Morris, to write about ‘home’ in a series of articles, the African American writer produced much more: South To A Very Old Place is memoir, travelogue, social commentary. Orchestrated as a jazz and blues composition, it is a meditation on the American South. Taking his title as our starting point, in this issue of Critical Survey we have gathered contributors who continue the work of critically and creatively mapping the American South, a region that exasperates as it inspires definition(s). Murray’s blues forms are open-ended and improvised so the blues metaphor and the jazz form are key in a collection called ‘South To A New Place’. It begins to chart connections with ‘other’ Souths in ways that open up spaces and places from which we might read the South as a site of exchange – the South of Italy in Michael Kreyling’s essay; the South as shaped and commodified by the best-selling magazine Southern Living in Amy Elias’s essay; and the literary South of Walker Percy and Richard Ford’s making in Martyn Bone’s essay, for example.