A few updates on the sessions in this Association of American Geographers in Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center and the Sheraton.
Betsy Olson, Claire Dwyer, and I co-organized a session on Wednesday, 13 April 2011, at 10 AM entitled Religion and transnationalism/Traveling faith (#2244). This paper featured paper presentations by Murat Es, Abby Day, Ben Kogaly, Sharon Suh, and Patricia Ehrkamp. Claire Dwyer, David Ley, and I also gave our presentation on Richmond’s “Highway to Heaven”:
While geographers have written much about the varying dimensions of transnational urbanism (Ley 2004, MP Smith 2001, Mitchell 2004) religious transnationalism remains under explored despite the establishment of many new spectacular religious buildings in diaspora cities in the last decade and evidence of the continuing significance of religious practice for many migrants (Levitt 2007, Tweed 2002). In this paper we draw on recent empirical work in the multicultural suburb of Richmond, Vancouver to explore the complex geographies of a transnational suburban religious landscape. Along the Number 5 Road, on the eastern boundary of the city and adjacent to the major 99 highway, more than twenty religious buildings including mosques, churches, religious schools, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh temples are clustered within 3 kilometres. This suburban religious landscape has been produced by the complex intersection of suburban planning regulations, municipal multiculturalism and the transnational activities of a range of different diasporic faith communities living in greater Vancouver and beyond. Our paper traces the processes by which this landscape has been produced and raises some questions about the possible outcomes of planning for religious and cultural diversity and the varying trajectories of religious transnationalism.
I am also giving a paper on Thursday, 14 April 2011, at 10 AM in the Issues in Ethnic Geography II (#3220) session. Here is the paper abstract:
Until recently, ethnic, religious, and ethno-religious spaces in North America have been assumed to be apolitical. Urban ethnic centres (such as Chinatowns), ethnoburbs (such as Richmond in Metro Vancouver), and ethnic churches and temples have often been seen as sites where migrant cultures to North America have been preserved; indeed, the only politics in which they are involved may be anti-segregation and anti-racism protests. However, Cantonese Christians have not been apolitical. In 2008, Cantonese Christians successfully campaigned for the election of a Conservative Member of Parliament in Richmond, British Columbia; a parallel in the San Francisco Bay Area was an alliance of Chinese evangelicals with the larger evangelical movement to pass Proposition 8 to ban same-sex unions. Such a trend has also been noticed by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, running a front-page article on immigrants and the conservative vote. In this presentation, I propose a working approach to such migrant religious communities that takes into account their politics. We must ask: what are the civic imaginations and practices of Cantonese Christians who are said to vote conservative? This paper grounds this question in Vancouver and San Francisco as the starting point of a new line of inquiry into the political agency of communities formerly thought to be ethnic enclaves running parallel religious lives in North America. It is the hope of this paper to initiate a new approach to immigrant and ethnic geographies from which empirical data can be collected.
Finally, in the usual great run-up of speakers for the Geography of Religion and Belief Systems Annual Lecture, Claire Dwyer will be giving this year’s lecture (#4258):
Encountering the Divine in W5 and Highway 99: stories of the suburban sacred
This lecture reflects on my on-going collaborative research on suburban faith spaces in London and Vancouver to explore the significance of everyday geographies of religion. Recent research on suburban faith spaces offers both into a reinterpretation of the assumed secularism of suburban space and an analysis of the transnational and postcolonial connections shaping suburban geographies. Through this analysis of suburban faith spaces I develop two broader arguments about the geographies of religions and belief systems. First, I ask what geographies of religion have to offer to wider theoretical discussions within the discipline. Second, I reflect on the possibilities and challenges of accessing the suburban sacred as part of a wider reflection on geographies of encounter and enchantment.