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Habitats and Habitus: Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World Making

in cooperation with the University Utrecht

This is the title under which Birgit Meyer currently develops her research on the transforming role of religion in our contemporary globalized world. Moving beyond the strongly concept- and meaning-oriented approach of religion that has long dominated the study of at least current Christianity, this research program advocates a “material” approach to the study of religion that takes seriously the human practices of forming the world in a concrete sense, whether in buildings and architecture or design, using audio-visual and material culture, or shaping (gendered) bodies, senses and sensibilities. This links up with a theoretical understanding of religion as a medium that operates via particular “sensational forms” that mould religious subjects, shape strong, desired identities and social relationships, and produce a shared environment. Grasping the politics and aesthetics of religious world making requires detailed explorations of the links between religious techniques of the self (building bodies, tuning/honing senses) – the habitus – and the shape of the material environment (home, city, religious spaces, architecture, circulation of images and soundscapes) – the habitats. While a great deal of research on religion in Africa (and beyond) still takes place in distinct research settings that focus either on Islam or Christianity, it is the aim of this program to bring both religious traditions into one conceptual framework. In the context of the program, two PhD projects will each undertake comparative analyses of Islamic and Christian movements in urban African settings.

Overview Poster PDF

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Prof. Birgit Meyer: Habitats and Habitus: Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World Making

Hanna Nieber: Scripture Practices on Zanzibar: Comparing Muslim and Christian Contexts

Murtala Ibrahim: Sensation, Sight and Sound of Nigerian Religious Movements: A Comparative Study of Christ Embassy and Nasrullahi-Fathi Society (NASFAT)

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