definition

Over the last several years, Spain’s religious landscape has undergone significant transformations as a consequence of three main factors. First, processes of religious diversification have led to the growth of  minority religions in Spain, such as Islam, Protestantism and Sikhism. This is largely the result of an increase in global migration. Second, new forms of religiosity, from the magical and the spiritual to the therapeutic, have been on the rise. And third, the Catholic Church has repositioned itself within this new scenario of secularization and diversity, and has adopted new models of intervention in the public sphere. At the same time, groups, organizations and campaigns demanding greater secularization of public space have also emerged.

These transformations have generated an increase in public expressions of religiosity in streets, squares and public spaces in Madrid and Barcelona. Examples of these expressions include Catholic processions, Sikh festivals such as the Vaisakhi, Buddhist meditations in squares, Evangelical baptisms on the beach, and celebrations of the end of Ramadan in public parks.

Our research project focuses on these religious expressions in public space, approaching them as privileged sites for identifying, understanding and explaining the transformation of Spain’s contemporary religious landscape, and the challenges that arise from the diversification and ever increasing visibility of religious plurality.

This project examines the (in)visibility of religious expressions, the bureaucratic and political processes that communities face in organizing activities in public spaces, and the processes of negotiations that develop as religious communities interact with neighborhoods and the broader population.

aims

1

Strategies of visibility and repertoires of mobilization within religious communities

Our aim is to analyze the strategies that religious communities adopt in order to become more visible in the public space, and the concomitant repertoires of mobilization that arise, as well as how these have been transformed in recent years.

2

Processes of tension, negotiation and adaptability between local administrations, religious actors and civil society

We analyze the tensions and compromises that occur between local administrations, religious actors and civil society, and how processes of negotiation are worked out in the organization and celebration of religious acts in the public space.

3

Processes of problematization and social recognition

This research objective focuses on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the visibility/invisibility of religious expressions in urban spaces, and the subsequent processes of problematization and/or social recognition of these expressions.

Expressions of religiosity in the public space externalize the activities of religious communities and become tangible manifestations of the abstract principles of ‘diversity’ and/or ‘plurality’ in the eyes of citizens and public authorities.


Case 1. Catholicism

Since the mid-twentieth century, Catholicism has undergone some of its greatest transformations. Of particular importance has been the Catholic Church’s drive to renew itself, secularization and the religious diversification of contemporary societies. These factors have contributed to many changes, especially regarding the public presence of the laity and public manifestations of religiosity. Contemporary traditional Catholic processions and festivals take place in public spaces along with political protest marches, concerts and other major events, such as the World Youth Days. Given this dynamic and highly visible context, it is becoming increasingly important to examine and understand the place of Catholicism in pluralistic societies.
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case 2.
Evangelical Christianity

If judged by the number of centers of worship, Evangelical Christianity is currently the second largest religious tradition in Spain. Heir of the Reformation and subsequent revivals, such as those in north America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the evangelical movement comprises a wide variety of groups and denominations with varied orientations and organizational models. The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (FEREDE), and the Catalan Evangelical Council (CEC), which bring together a large number of churches, account for this denominational plurality.
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case 3.
Islam

The Muslim population in Spain has grown significantly since the late 1990s. Today, one of its main pressures is its visibility in the local public space. This is largely because the Islamic associative network has become more consolidated and there has thus been a steady, albeit slow, increase in institutional recognition. At the same time, the growing politicization of Islam has hindered its acceptance by the general population and its efforts to claim Muslims’ rights as citizens.
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case 4.
Sikhism

At the end of the 1980s, a small Sikh diaspora was established in the city of Barcelona and, during the 1990s, three gurdwaras were created in order to house a large number of Sikhs from the Punjab. In Madrid it was not until about 2008 that there was a need to create gurdwaras. Two were then established that now serve as a meeting space for the Sikh community in the area. Our research has generated insights into how these communities participate in the city, and has illuminated the challenges they face and the strategies they adopt in order to express their religion in the public spaces of the city.
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case 5.
Buddhism and new spiritualities

In recent years, Eastern spirituality has gained increasing relevance and popularity in Spain. Traditional Buddhist communities have grown, as have forms of syncretic spirituality that mix diverse spiritual and philosophical traditions. Urban spaces are witnessing a proliferation of meditations in squares, tai chi in parks, yoga on beaches or public events around figures such as Amma, Thich Than Han or Tibetan lamas, all of which attract large numbers of people. New forms of religiosity have a growing presence in contemporary cities although so far they have remained, on the whole, largely unnoticed.
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Methodology


A multiple and multi-site case study approach to analyze public expressions of religiosity within five religious communities (Catholic, Sikh, Muslim, Evangelical and Buddhist) in the urban spaces of Madrid and Barcelona.

There are three central elements for analysis in each case study: religious communities, public administration and civil society.

An ethnomethodological perspective enables a view of religious expressions as ‘disruptions’ to the normal flow of the city and reveals the implicit rules of social life which regulate the urban space – both the bureaucratic-administrative rules as well as the social norms and memories that permeate the city.

A diachronic approach allows to trace the genealogy and the evolution of religious expressions in the public space; and a synchronic approach enables us to compare and contrast the different case studies.

An ethnographic approach combines in-situ observations with interviews and with an analysis of journalistic and historical documentation.