— Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli (ORCID 0000-0002-5572-9101)
Citification of religion refers to the processes whereby differently empowered agents from all social stations carry out religious actions that succeed in appropriating city-spaces at least for some time, in relation to a certain audience, and in a manner that engages with the urban quality of their contexts at particular moments in their histories. A scholarly evaluation and decision based on the observation of different instances of citification, urban religion is the name given to the temporal accumulation of such processes that produces, in turn, new urban space.
Bringing together discursive and non-discursive practices of creative adaptation of religious communication to the urban space, the concept of citification of religion has been recently coined in research on ancient Christianity to function as key analytical tool for the historical study of urban religion (Urciuoli forthcoming; 2021; 2020; Christ et al. 2022).
Introduced for the first time at the first Annual Conference of the UrbRel research group in 2018, the concept offers three major advantages for research interested in the mutual formation of religion and urbanity. First, with reference to urbanisation, it explains phenomena of increased density of population on a territory and its differential nucleation in certain settlements as the set of processes and states of affairs that make possible other processes and states of affairs concerning religion. Second, with regard to religion, it suggests to look at religious phenomena in cities as outcome of specific uses of, and action on, spaces by religious agents instead of seeing them as characteristics of a specific (spaceless and/or space-insensitive) religion (Urciuoli and Rüpke 2018). Third, applied to specific religions, the notion permits to observe an urban religion in the making by interpreting different phenomena, which have been either overlooked or approached separately without an eye to the urban, as diverse but interlaced trajectories of citification.
Methodologically, this approach shifts the focus from religion as an explanans to religion as an explanandum. It invites researchers to consider whether and how many characteristics that we generally regard as aspects inherent to a given religion (if not to religion tout court) are actually enabled or constrained by their permanent or situational, reproducible or transferrable, entanglement with elements of urban space and life in general. This methodological point is valuable even beyond the study of urban religion, insofar as it serves as a useful reminder not to take religion first and for granted when studying religion.
Christ et al. 2022. ‘Entangling Urban and Religious History: A New Methodology (Version 1).’ Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7002796
Urciuoli, Emiliano R. Forthcoming. Citifying Jesus: The Making of an Urban Religion in the Roman Empire. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Urciuoli, Emiliano R. 2021. La religione urbana. Come la città ha prodotto il cristianesimo. Bologna: EDB.
Urciuoli, Emiliano R. 2020. ‘Citification of Religion: A Proposal for the Historical Study of Urban Religion.’ Religion and Urbanity Online edited by Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.12124596
Urciuoli, Emiliano R., and Jörg Rüpke. 2018. ‘Urban Religion in Mediterranean Antiquity: Relocating Religious Change.’ Mythos 12: 117-135.
Urciuoli ,Emiliano Rubens. 2022. ‘Citification’ Urbrel Blog: 05.12.2022.