Sessions at 2010 Annual Meeting

  • Space, Place, and Religious Meaning Consultation
Saturday 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Location: Marriott Marquis - A702

This panel challenges the demarcation of “sacred” and “secular” or “profane” space by reconsidering the relation of the inner experience of sacred space to specific physical place. It does this by exploring three distinct practices of space amid contemporary globalization. Undistinguished commercial buildings in Singapore are transformed, temporarily, into sacred spaces for devotional ritual in which devotees are led to visualize sacred space within the self. Mapping media and techniques inscribe spaces deliberately transformed and secularized by Israeli authorities into Palestinian spaces charged with memory and sacred meaning. Airports, secular and bureaucratic nodes in global transportation, demarcate nondescript spaces for religious ritual and reflection by travelers and local workers. Together, these papers question whether the demarcation of sacred and secular is still present (or relevant) in these spaces and explore how people engage in spatial practices to make homes and cross boundaries.

  • David Simonowitz, Pepperdine University
  • Joanne Punzo Waghorne, Syracuse University
    Space without Place: Borderless “Spirituality” within a Global City in Asia

    During a year of research on guru-centered movements in Singapore, I attended many gatherings in rented halls in undistinguished commercials buildings where the devotees would roll down rugs, set up the guru’s portrait, create a temporary altar and then commence a weekly or monthly program of meditation, chanting and singing. The closed-eyes, the focus on imagination and meditation, seemed at once to create a vast inner space connected to the universe and yet disconnected to any sacred place.

    This disjunction of space from place in global guru movements with their turn towards an inner space resonates with many academic assessments of an increasingly wobbly urban experience. Some celebrate these dislocations of old certainties and welcome the opening of a new space for a new commonality made real by an interlinked cosmopolitan world. Increasingly those who write on this cosmopolitan consciousness, move from discussions of an ever more borderless world to descriptions of our incongruous inner selves “no longer inspired by a single culture that is coherent, intergraded and organic.” The loss of both place and the singleness of culture in a cosmopolitan consciousness then seem concurrent with a move inward, and I will suggest, with a loosening of the very categories of “sacred” in relation to “secular.”

  • Alain Epp Weaver, University of Chicago
    Palestinian Refugee Cartography and the Sacralization of Space

    Through an analysis of Palestinian discourse about refugee return to villages and towns destroyed in 1948, I explore how both particular sites and the right of refugee return itself are sacralized, with particular focus on the role of cartography in not only erasing Palestinian spaces but also in reinscribing them into national consciousness and into political contestations over territory. I pay particular attention to the work of Palestinian cartographer and refugee rights activist Salman Abu-Sitta. Through numerous publications, ranging wall maps to historial atlases to travel guides for Palestinian refugees seeking to make return visits to village sites, Abu-Sitta has sought to render Palestinian spaces visible on maps. I draw upon the theoretical understandings of cartography developed by J.B. Harley and Henri Lefebvre to explore how Abu-Sitta’s mappings are part of the construction, construed as a retrieval, of Palestinian national space. I conclude with a critical examination of Abu-Sitta’s repeated claim that Palestinian refugee return is “sacred, legal, possible,” in order to ask if a type of “return” is possible in which space is not understood in terms of the smooth spaces of nationalist cartographies but instead as a palimpsest in which particular sites reveal and embrace and multiplicity of histories and identities.

  • Daniel Sack, University of Chicago
    Prayer at the Crossroads: The O’Hare Airport Chapel as Religious Space

    Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is the world’s second-busiest airport, a temple of modernity, dedicated to system, bureaucracy, technology, and globalization. Just above its center, however, is the airport chapel, a room dedicated to religious specificity. Chapels like the one at O’Hare are unusual religious spaces. They are carved out of large, government- or business-owned buildings and dedicated to broadly religious uses. Unlike churches or synagogues, they do not serve a regular constituency. In some cases they do not host formal religious services. They are used by people with a broad range of beliefs (or unbelief), each with a particular purpose for coming. They show people practicing private religion in public. With few exception they are utilitarian rather than sacred. Nevertheless, they serve a variety of religious needs for travelers and employees.

    This presentation, the beginning of a larger project on airport chapels, will contribute to the larger discussion about religious space and place. It will throw light on places designated for religious use in the midst of otherwise very secular institutions—including hospitals and businesses. Drawing on the theory of Thomas Tweed, this presentation will help reevaluate the relationship of sacred and profane when it comes to space.

  • David Bains, Samford University
Business Meeting
  • Jeanne Halgren Kilde, University of Minnesota
  • Leonard Norman Primiano, Cabrini College



Islam and Sacred Space in America: Zeroing in on the Park51 Controversy

  • Study of Islam Section
  • Contemporary Islam Group
  • Space, Place, and Religious Meaning Consultation
Sunday 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Location: Hyatt Regency - Centennial II-IV

The controversy concerning the Cultural/Islamic Center near Ground Zero throws into sharp relief some key issues germane to the study of religion in general and of Islam in particular. This AAR round table draws upon the expertise of a diverse group of Religion and Islam scholars to explore different dimensions of the controversy. The table will pay attention to contestations over worship and memorial sites in the context of American religious history as well as to how cultural melancholia and mourning inform the current controversy especially given the approach of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Moreover, discussants will illuminate the many interconnections between race, immigration, religion and politics embedded in the controversy. The round table also addresses challenges, in light of the controversy, as regards Muslim American outreach and inter-faith work since 9/11. For those engaged with “Islam pedagogies,” a salient issue the table takes up is how, if at all, this controversy shapes the current teaching of Islam at the college and/or university level in the U.S.

  • Ruqayya Khan, Trinity University
  • Rosemary R. Hicks, Tufts University
    Immigration, Pluralism and Religion: Challenges in Muslim-American Identities and Outreach Work

  • Edward Curtis, Indiana University-Purdue University
    Religion, Politics and Race; Challenges to Islam Pedagogies

  • Nathan Carlin, University of Texas Medical School
    Mourning, Memorials, and Religion

  • Jeanne Halgren Kilde, University of Minnesota
    Worship Sites as Contested Spaces: Memorialization, Religion and Politics

Space and Place in Catholic America

  • Space, Place, and Religious Meaning Consultation
  • Roman Catholic Studies Group
Sunday 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Location: Marriott Marquis - L404

A Christian theological perspective on space holds that the God of creation can be found in all available spaces, and that God is not bound by any special restrictions or constraints. Such a lack of restriction can also be said about how Catholics have converted a variety of spaces and places for their own public and private needs throughout America. These four papers examine a variety of perspectives on the historical and contemporary creation of unique Catholic spaces in the context of the United States. From the privacy of Cathusian living environments in rural Vermont to the feelings of necessary racial and religious divisions in the development of the city of New Orleans and from the popularization and display of Michelangelo’s Pieta in the 1960s to the imprint the new Los Angeles Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels has made on image-conscious Los Angeles, the consideration of space and place in Catholic America opens rich possibilities for vital considerations of how place is linked to history, to memory, to representation, and to power.

  • Jeanne Halgren Kilde, University of Minnesota
  • Judith Dupre, Yale University
    The Collision of Hollywood and Heaven at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

    The tendency to subsume history into a single, dominant narrative is exacerbated in Los Angeles, which, as the capital of the entertainment industry, depends on the creation of an idealized, homogenized image of America for global export. In this luxe narrative, there are no starring roles for the poor, disenfranchised, or newly arrived—the people, many of them Latin American immigrants, whom the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (2002) seeks to reach. The collision of old and new Los Angeles is most evident in the cathedral’s design, which blends ecclesiastical and big-box retail structural typologies; its highly visible location on the Hollywood Freeway, which blurs traditional private/public and religious/secular boundaries; and in its art program, which melds ethnographic and cinematic iconography. Its design and siting marries the light, illusion, and pageantry associated with consumer and entertainment culture to the rituals and familial bonds that characterize traditional Latino piety. This paper examines Hispanic pilgrimage and Angeleno car culture, the axial views established between the cathedral and the city’s cultural and entertainment landmarks, and the layered symbolism of the cathedral’s art program to reveal the multiple ways in which a religious site becomes politicized and, conversely, the sacred imagination is projected onto the secular urban realm.

  • J. Terry Todd, Drew University
    Making the Madonna a Star: Michelangelo’s Pieta at the New York World’s Fair, 1964–1965

    One of the most popular attractions at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair was Michelangelo’s Pieta. This paper uses archival sources and contemporary published works to examine the Pieta exhibition as a case study of the process Ernest Ellis Cashmore calls “celebrification” – the transformation of a person (or in this instance, a work of art) into a celebrity. Can a work of art be a celebrity? My paper answers the question affirmatively. A number of factors made such celebrification possible, including the development of the blockbuster show, the publication of Irving Stone’s 1961 historical novel The Agony and the Ecstasy and a 1965 movie version, media reports of the Pieta’s installation, and the design of the statue’s space-age gallery. At a time of unsettling change, many Catholics might have needed a symbol to mediate the past and the future. If only for a moment, the Pieta exhibition turned a renaissance-era masterwork into a celebrity as well as a devotional image of modern Catholicism.

  • Bernadette McNary-Zak, Rhodes College
    Remembering in Silence: An American Carthusian Community

    Contemporary Roman Catholic hermits, continuing in the tradition set by the examples of Elijah, Jesus, Abba Antony and others, respond to the call to dwell “in the desert,” in the silent presence of God, serving in solitude. Their ability to participate as members of a lineage of holy persons occurs through the construction of spaces that hearken to the past as alive and relevant in the present. The Charterhouse of the Transfiguration (Arlington, Vermont) is the first and only Carthusian Monastery in the United States. This paper examines Carthusian Statutes and Charterhouse architecture in order to consider how the members of this community are defining a distinctive form of Christian eremitic practice in the United States.

  • Stephanie Bilinsky, Arizona State University
    Creating New Orleans: Race, Religion, Rhetoric, and the Louisiana Purchase

    This paper will examine the ways in which place-making processes shaped rhetoric surrounding the Louisiana Purchase. In particular, it focuses on the ways in which interested parties used place-making processes in their rhetoric and what their strategies reveal about their particular agendas and viewpoints regarding race and religion in the United States and New Orleans. Some scholars have written about the intersections of race and religion in early nineteenth-century New Orleans; however, none have focused specifically on place as an aspect of discourse surrounding race and religion. This paper raises the question of how place has factored into American religious history, especially in reference to religious and racial others, in this instance Catholics and blacks. By centering my analysis on place, I am also able to explore issues of national identity at work in the Second Great Awakening, demonstrating the role of race and religion in forging the (white Protestant) New Republic.

  • Leonard Norman Primiano, Cabrini College

Sacred and Religious Sites of Atlanta Tour

  • Tours
Monday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Location: Offsite - Buses pick up at Hyatt Regency Baker Street Exit

Sponsored by the Space, Place, and Religious Meaning Consultation

Covering historic and new buildings reflecting the diversity and innovation of religion in Atlanta today, this motor-coach tour will journey from Downtown north to Midtown and Buckhead to visit four Atlanta religious sites:

  • Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Home of the oldest Catholic congregation in the city, dating to the 1840s, this Gothic-style building is a restoration of the 1873 church, which was gutted by fire in 1982.

  • Buckhead Church, established in 2001, is an urban satellite of evangelical minister Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church, a well-known megachurch.

  • Peachtree Reform Temple is the home of the oldest Jewish congregation in the city (dating to 1860) and site of a 1958 racially motivated bombing. This neoclassical building was erected in 1931.

  • Al-Farooq Masjid. One of several mosques in the Atlanta area, this diverse congregation was established in 1980 and includes primarily Middle Eastern, South Asian (primarily Pakistani), and African American Muslims.

Tour fee: $25

  • Jeanne Halgren Kilde, University of Minnesota
  • David Bains, Samford University
  • Hazem Ziada, Southern Polytechnic State University
Subpages (1): Tour Atlanta 2010
David Bains,
Nov 7, 2010, 4:33 PM