Thomas Blom Hansen

Questions of religion rarely entered the established canon of urban sociology and urban anthropology. In keeping with broader ideas of secularity and modernity, generations of urban scholars assumed that urban life produced modern individuality, and that the attraction of traditional religion was declining. However, the modern industrial city was always awash with all kinds of religious groupings, institutions, missionaries. This was even more true of the large urban spaces in the colonial and postcolonial world where religion and ethnicity were foundational principles in how space and urban sociality were organised. This lecture charts the pivotal role of religious identity and communities in shaping sociality, aesthetics and space in large postcolonial cities. Hansen suggests that the deep segmentation of urban life along confessional and ethnic lines in the postcolonial city, and the attendant sensibilities regarding the proper use of public space that are typical of such cities, are now becoming a global norm.