Spatialisation is the process in which actors or groups construct or claim a space for themselves, for instance to perform rituals, hold events or trade. The spatialisation of social, religious or other groups indicates a wish for a more permanent presence, as they constitute the attempt to connect an identifiable space associated with a given group. Groups can indicate a space as theirs through symbols or rituals, for instance by adding objects to a room to indicate that it belongs to them. In these cases, the temporal aspects of spatialisation are especially important, as some of them were short-lived or ephemeral. Spatialisation can be connected to a violent event, but can also be undertaken in a peaceful or subtle manner.

The term is connected to the “spatial turn”, which argues that space is dynamic, relational and socially constructed. In this understanding, actors or groups of actors create, appropriate and construct space. This approach goes back to important sociologists, such as Simmel, Lefebvre or Durkheim. Edward Soja has applied Spatialisation in a modern context to describe the post-modern, post-historical and post-fordistic tendencies visible in the USA after the 1930s.

However, there is no single definition of “spatialisation” and neither is it linked to just one thinker. It is therefore a concept that scholars have applied in a range of ways. This open-endedness makes the concept malleable and easy to connect to other processes, such as materialisation or temporalisation.

UrbRel Application

The KFG argues that urbanity can be created through processes of spatialization, where religious factors and actors play an important role. In urban contexts, the presence of multiple confessional or religious groups led to conflicts and compromises when it came to spatializations, for instance in shared cemeteries. The presence of a multiplicity of religious symbols and rituals led to a greater differentiation of religious groups, but also to exchanges. Through a future focus on mercantilisation, the KFG will explore how merchants and traders used spatialisations and how this related to the placement of places of worship, for instance when a mosque was built in relation to a bazar or a church in relation to major thoroughfare. Moreover, the focus on group formation will show how different groups claimed urban spaces.

UrbRel Bibliography

Rau, Susanne. 2017. Räume. Konzepte – Wahrnehmungen – Nutzungen. Historische Einführungen 14. Frankfurt am Main.

Rau, Susanne. 2020. ‘Urbanity (urbanitas, Urbanität, urbanité, urbanità, urbanidad…) — An Essay.‘ Religion and Urbanity Online, edited by Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

General references
Kajetzke, Laura and Markus Schroer. 2010. ‘Sozialer Raum: Verräumlichung‘. In “Raum. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch, ed. by Stephan Günzel”, pp. 192-204.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1996. Writings on Cities. Hoboken, New Jersey.

Soja, Edward W. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford: OUP

Cite this blog post
Martin Christ (2022, December 5). Spatialisation. Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from

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