Gray spacing and the Sacralizaton of Urban landscape: The Reconstruction of the Lababidi Mosque in Acre
Faculty lunch-lecture, School of Geography, UCD
Modern urban planning, characterized by a rational, centralistic and superimposed approach to urban design, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to gray spaces and informal activities (Roy and AlSayyad, 2004; Roy, 2005, 2009; Yiftachel, 2009a). Rapid urban growth is gradually transforming many cities around the world. In this socio-spatial process, various minority groups whose voices were formerly weak or silent in the modern urban politics are challenging the landscapes, and through them to speak and to emerge as more powerful local players (Castell, 1983). These groups are voicing their claims against the power of neo-liberal logic that is paramount in contemporary urban planning based primarily on maximizing growth, cost efficiency and accumulation (Harvey, 1989). In this context, religion is becoming a preferable platform that serves to mobilize such groups within the urban sphere (AlSayyad and Massoumi, 2010; Beaumont and Barker, 2011; Tong and Kong, 2000; Garbin, 2012). Religion provides a useful framework for competing narratives and spatial logics as well as for the construction of new political geographies in the city. Thus, various distinct groups weave new patterns in urban space as ways of claiming the city through religiously based identity politics (Hervieu-Leger, 2002, Orsi, 1985). To uncover this phenomenon, in this lecture I ask: How does religion serve as a driver for claiming city spaces and urban transformation? I explore how religious practices, discourse and buildings are used by religious minorities to claim the city and to participate more fully in the urban sphere. In contrast to Simmel’s (1903) and Webers’ (1921) conceptualization of the “modern city” as a shared rationalized space, characterized by a “gathering of strangers,” most of whom are muted, unheard and marginalized by strong formal, bureaucratic forces, I demonstrate that in current cities, religion serves as identity tool for different groups, a force that enables citizens to define, and express their home and presence via gray spaces (Perera, 2009). To explain how this trend is preformed, I analyze the case of the Lababidi mosque in the city of Acre in northern Israel. Additionally, I want to narrate the reinscribing of the Lababidi mosque unto the urban landscape against the background of my on-going research project with Prof. Nurit Stadler: “Enchanted Places on the Margins” (http://sacredplaces.huji.ac.il/).