— Heinrich Lang

In the context of religion and urbanity mercantilisation refers to the expansion of economic exchange relations into different areas of life which shape society, as well as contrary developments of shrinking. The relevance of economies to societal structures appears as a global phenomenon. However, within the urban world and religious practices economies create particular dynamics on the one hand, religious and urban features underpin economies on the other.

In general, mercantilisation characterises the processes of transforming different features like any kind of objects (items of the material sphere), land (housing, building, agricultural cultuvation), labour (working and production), services (care, education, credit), or money (banking, valuable items) into commodities which could be sold and purchased on markets. Processes of mercantilisation mobilise humans, non-humans and goods within cities, along the (peri-)rural areas bordering cities, and along trade routes linking urban centres.

The triangular relation of economies, religion, and urbanity are to be analysed by approaches from different disciplinary perspectives and across historical epochs and religions to come to a more complex understanding of cities in global history. Our particular interest lays on groups, agents, and frameworks of different religious practices and various groups’ or agents’ way of trading in urban spaces – and the entangling processes.

The focus group “mercantilisation” sets off from the lecture series in 2023 “Global Exchanges – Trade, Knowledge, and Religion” organised by Elisa Iori and Mateusz Jakub Fafinski.


1 – Spaces: How do marketplaces and the sacred interrelate in the urban context? What kind of architectural arrangements were found for different epochs, regions, and religious practices? In what way town planning interfered with economic practices?

2 – Mobility and boundaries: How did economic practices impact on urban and religious spaces? Which boundaries were drawn between and for social and professional groups? How was the urban/non-urban defined through economic practices?

3 – Constitution of markets: Who did interact to create urban markets? How did interaction constitute markets? How was defined what could be sold and what could not be sold and by whom?

4 – Markets and governance: How did the governance of markets evolve? How did religious and urban authorities regulate trade in urban space?

5 – Mercantilisation and values: How did religious actors conceptualise and negotiate economic practices? How are religious and economic practices interrelated in urban contexts? How did specific trade practices influence on economic values in religions?


Heinrich Lang and Susanne Rau are convening the Annual Conference with the title “Religion, Urbanity and Trade: Processes of Mercantilisation in Urban Space” at Schloss Ettersburg on 13 – 15 November 2024. You can download the concept note as PDF file below.


For further information or how to participate you may contact Heinrich Lang (heinrich.lang (at)


The focus group “mercantilisation” sets off from the 2023 lecture series “Global Exchanges – Trade, Knowledge, and Religion” organised by Elisa Iori and Mateusz Jakub Fafinski.

Concept Note fpr 2024 Annual Conference “Religion, Urbanity and Trade: Processes of Mercantilisation in Urban Space”

Title image: Contemporary image of the Aminoddole Plaza (Persian: تیمچه امین الدوله -Timche-Aminoddole), one of several plazas in the grand Bazaar of Kashan, Iran. Jérémie B., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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