Transformation of urban spaces and religious pluralisation in the Caucasus

Project coordination: Dr. Tsypylma Darieva

Urban space functions both as a stage where political power is manifested and as a laboratory of social change. Post-Soviet regional metropolises in the South Caucasus are crucial arenas for the manifestation of centralised state power—arenas in which religion is a new resource but also a source of tension. The goal of this anthropologically informed project is to develop new research impulses at the intersection of urban and religious studies in post-Soviet Central Eurasia.

We seek to define different patterns of religious pluralisation. Over the last two decades, religious pluralisation in this region has found its expression not only in a visible revival of traditional mainstream faiths and institutions (Orthodox Christianity and Sunni and Shia Islam), which underwent significant changes during the Soviet period, but also in the arrival of new promises and practices, such as protestant and charismatic churches, new ‘purist’ Muslim communities, popular folk beliefs, or small ‘foreign’ communities such as Krishna or Bahai.
On the one hand, the project will investigate the trend of creating spectacular new places of worship such as mega-mosques or mega-churches in regional metropolises. On the other hand, the project will explore informal practices and the ways urban infrastructures and sacred places are used in everyday life as a set of alternative, hybrid, and more flexible ways of religious practice. How do local authorities regulate emerging religious diversity in cities? How are places of worship and re-sacralised sites in cities appropriated and experienced by religious and secular actors as venues of contact, tension, and affirmation of local and transnational identities?