Sacred Sites in Contested Regions


Nimrod Luz

Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee

Prof. Nimrod Luz is currently with the Department of Land of Israel Studies at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. His research interests include the cultural-political geography of the Middle East past and present, mainly through the perspectives of Islamic societies and cultures. He is interested in urbanism, minority communities' landscapes, politics of the built environment and the spatial aspects of culture. He studies the multiple and reflexive relations among society, culture (politics) and the built environment.  

He served as the editor of a special edition of the New East journal dedicated to historical and contemporary Jerusalem space and society (2004). He is the author of The Mamluk City in the Middle East. History, Culture, and the Urban Landscape. Published with Cambridge University Press (2014) part of the Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization. His book is an interdisciplinary study of urban history, urban experience, and the nature of urbanism in the region under the rule of the Mamluk Sultanate. The book focuses on the less explored but politically significant cities in the Syrian region and presents a new methodology for understanding historical cities. Drawing on diverse textual sources and intensive field surveys the book sheds new light on the character of the Mamluk City as well as various aspects of urbanism in the region, establishing the pre-modern city of the Middle East as a valid and useful lens through which to study various themes such as architecture, art history, history and the politics of the built environment.

As of 2000 he is engaged in research that examines the socio-spatial and political aspects of sacred Palestinian places as part of various transformations in Palestinian communities in Israel and against the backdrop of Islamic resurgence worldwide. This research project is concerned with issues of politics of identity, resistance of subordinate groups, and self-empowerment through the sacred. It is also a case study of individual and collective approaches to the sacred and to the role of religion in secularizing national states and within conditions of high modernity. Naturally, it directly engages with current understanding of religious resurgence world-wide and with resent developments of Landscapes of Fundamentalism. In this project he wishes to extend his work and study various spatial aspects of sacred places and focus on mostly the socio-political as it is manifested in the spatialities of these places. Among the places explored thus far are the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, Hassan Bey mosque in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Lababidi mosque in Acre, Maqam abu al-Hijja in the Galilee, Maqam Shihab al-Din in Nazareth. Thus far he has been exploring and surveying. His interdisciplinary approach in the study of these shrines (and more) calls for an examination of the sacred from a re-theorized cultural political geographical approach in contemporary societies and particular among subordinate groups. 


Nimrod at