New Book: History, Space, and Place by Susanne Rau

Susanne Rau, project leader of the KFG, has recently published a book entitled History, Space, and Place (Routledge, 2019). This book offers the first comprehensive introduction to the theory and methodology of historical spatial analysis.

Spaces, too, have a history. And history always takes place in spaces. But what do historians mean when they use the word „spaces“? And how can spaces be historically investigated?

History, Space. and Place by Susanne Rau

Susanne Rau provides a survey of the history of Western concepts of space, opens up interdisciplinary approaches to the phenomenon of space in fields ranging from physics and geography to philosophy and sociology, and explains how historical spatial analysis can be methodologically and conceptually conceived and carried out in practice. The case studies presented in the book come from the fields of urban history, the history of trade, and global history including the history of cartography, but its analysis is equally relevant to other fields of inquiry.

Recently, Susanne Rau has also reviewed a book which might be of interest to readers of this blog. The review concerns the volume La bourgeoisie statutaire de Lyon et ses privilèges. Morale civique, évasion fiscale et cabarets urbains (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles) by Olivier Zeller and can be read here.

Short Review of Hans G. Kippenberg: Regulierungen der Religionsfreiheit

Hans G. Kippenberg, Regulierungen der Religionsfreiheit: Von der Allgemeinen Erklärung der Menschenrechte zu den urteilen des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2019, 190 pp.

Hans G. Kippenberg, former fellow of the Max Weber Centre, Erfurt, has written a book on legal regulations of freedom of religion from 1948 onwards. The book covers the period from the „Universal Declaration of Human Rights“ of 1948 to the „International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights“ of 1966/76. Written with an international perspective, the focus of the book shifts to European developments, the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Commission on Human Rights and the European Court in the second half of the book. Individual cases and legal developments from Italy to the United Kingdom, from Switzerland to Greece and Turkey are analyzed.

The historicization of the process is interesting for the history of religion in general and for the problems of religious beliefs, actions, and institutionalizations in urban contexts and urban religion. The book demonstrates the manifold strands and quick changes in the perspectives on and the contents of legal matters, but it also demonstrates how the trace of such texts and court cases produces lasting changes. The historicization of this process from the point of view of the history of religion is a big asset of the book.

 — Jörg Rüpke


Book Announcement: The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare

Pralay Kanungo, fellow of our Advanced Centre in the Humanities “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”, has just published a co-edited volume. The book is published by Oxford University Press and co-edited with Irfan Ahmad (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen). 

Kanungo, Ahmad (eds.), The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare (OUP, 2019).

The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare. A Long View of India’s 2014 Election explores how the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won the 2014 Parliamentary elections with such an unprecedented majority, and what that victory means for politics in general and Indian politics in particular. It opens up space for new theoretical and methodological reflections on electoral democracy, critically taking on such salient issues as development, terrorism, charisma, media, new mechanisms of mobilization, nationalism, rumour, religion, regionalism, polarisation, space, Muslim vote, and caste. This volume is distinct in its ability to focus squarely on the empirical acts of voting. It sociologically and historically examines the enduring as well as changing institutional, social, political, and cultural landscapes in which voting takes place. Unlike most other studies on elections in India, this book puts human subjectivity at the centre of election studies. The anthropological-sociological perspective the volume places before readers draws on political-social theory whereby the volume also examine the larger and changing contours of modernity, democracy and elections being its key faces. As such the volume situates the 2014 elections in relation to changing nature and forms of elections and democracy globally, in particular in conversation with those in the democratic nation-states in the West.

Besides co-editing the volume, Pralay Kanungo has also contributed the chapter   ‘Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Politics: The Baba Ramdev-BJP Partnership in the 2014 Elections’ (pp.119-142) and written the afterword (pp. 357-375). The book was officially launched at a celebratory roundtable in Delhi on 25 March 2019.

Official Book Launch of The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare in Delhi on 25 March 2019.


Urban Religion at Berggasse 19?

Advertisement for the Freud Museum in Vienna.

Did Sigmund Freud ever get close to the notion of urban religion? Put differently: is it possible to somehow disentangle the father of psychoanalysis from the rank of the early 20th-century cultural and social theorists who prophesized the mutual incompatibility between urban modern and religious life? I found myself pondering over this possibility while walking down the Viennese Berggasse to reach the legendary address of Freud’s home and office.

The answer rests on Freud’s evaluation of the role played by both religion and the city in taming what he called human ‘anti-social drives’ (Freud 2004 [1927], 46), whose eventually humane treatment was the ultimate purpose of psychoanalysis. Popular appropriations of Freud would maintain that religion and the city are completely at odds when it comes to the management of the ‘libidinal economy’ (Lyotard 1974): while the former had long contributed to achieve ‘drive renunciations’ via ‘solemn transfiguration of cultural precepts’ (Freud 2004 [1927], 54) and repression, the latter is a ‘sexually charged’ place where ‘people could free themselves of the repressions and inhibitions that were doing them such physical and emotional harm’ (Orsi 1999, 9). Given the global trend of urbanization, psychoanalysis would then be the urban religion of the future, a non-narcotic and cathartic way of coping with traumas and neuroses resulting from the sacrifices of civilization. The fate of religion will be, at best, that of a rural relic.

Yet Freud’s twofold recognition that (a) religion’s merits in pursuing human morality are dubious and (b) city life’s licentiousness is a hyperbolic story that reflects the bourgeoisie’s legitimate fear of the democratization of libidinal releases might help strengthen our idea that urban religion is neither a contradiction in terms nor, Freud-wise, an item sharing the same illusionary character of its proximate genus, i.e. religion. A ‘most important item in the psychic inventory’ (Freud 2004 [1927], 13) of human culture, religion in/of the city has been persuasively disentangled from its scholarly Freudian understanding as a mistaken set of beliefs which are motivated by wish-fulfillment and operate by curbing drive demands through manic acts of repressions; by the same token, research moving beyond Freud’s contribution to the secularization discourse has disproven the structural irreligiosity of modern cities. An updated psychological take on urban religion must abandon the ‘religion-as-illusion’ paradigm and rather place both religion and urbanity in the pan-human field of culturally nurtured aspirations as ‘forward-looking hopes of achievement’ that inspire individual and collective agency and aim at overcoming issues (Goh and van der Veer 2016, 370).

Berggasse 19, Vienna.

Dialectically intertwined with urban drives and motivations, the religious aspirations of city dwellers are no illusions in the Freudian sense, since their relation with reality is far from being disregarded (see Freud 2004 [1927], 38). Quite the contrary, it is regularly checked out. Just as Freud’s hopes in the secular replacement of religious motivations to act underwent substantial revisions over the last decades, urban religion can be altered, even disposable, when practitioners recognize that it does not pass the test of urban reality. I was about to fail such a test myself. For several minutes had passed before I realized that the Sigmund Freud Museum was currently under renovation and the exhibition relocated from Freud’s former apartment at Berggasse 19 to the anonymous number 13 on the same street.

— Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli

Freud, Sigmund. 2004 (1927). The Future of an Illusion. London: Penguin Books.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 1974. Économie libidinale. Paris: Minuit.

Orsi, Robert. 1999. Gods of the City : Religion and the American Urban Landscape. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Goh, Daniel P.S., van der Veer, Peter. 2016. ‘Introduction: The Sacred and the Urban in Asia’. International Sociology 31, 367-374.

Exhibition on “Life in the Cities” in Hamburg

“Life in the Cities“ is the name of an exhibition currently held in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The exhibition runs until 3 March 2019 and presents photographs by Michael Wolf, which reflect on the living conditions in modern metropolises and megacities. Although there are also images of Paris, technically speaking, Europe does not have any megacities. Therefore, most photographs are of Asian cities, for example Hong Kong and Tokyo, but there are also photographs of cities like Chicago. The images and installations by Wolf not only illustrate how aspects of urban sociology, like density or overpopulation, influence the living conditions of urban dwellers. Some images rather seem like metaphors of density themselves. This is particularly pronounced in the series “Architecture of Density”. Here, I am standing in front of a housewall in the House of Photography myself…

— Susanne Rau 

Susanne Rau in front of a photograph by Michael Wolf