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A book by metroZones, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and Europa-Universit채t Viadrina Global Prayers is a research project at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin.

GLOBAL PRAYERS Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City

metroZones 13 Edited by Jochen Becker, Katrin Klingan, Stephan Lanz, Kathrin Wildner A book by metroZones, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and Europa-Universit채t Viadrina Lars M체ller Publishers

Forms of Knowledge Production An Introduction BERND M. SCHERER, DIRECTOR OF THE HAUS DER KULTUREN DER WELT

Anyone entering the foyer of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) at the end of February Global Prayers larization of religious thought, an idea which can also be found in the realization of the intelCommunio of the global community could be addressed. During the course of the Forum the tent structure inscribed itself into the building. In the -

Global Prayers


has a number of causes.



Global Prayers, as set in

Global Prayers re-


ignored knowledge systems. At the same time, this has led to a re-examination of one’s own

How does the Global Prayers

being obscured in any way.







Negotiation as a Research Methodology 5


Forms of Knowledge Production. An Introduction 12

Editorial Notes




Assembling Global Prayers in the City: An Attempt to Repopulate Urban Theory with Religion 48


Global Prayers, Migration, Post-migration 64





Global Prayers in “Global Cities”: Notes on Afro-Christian Spatiality in Atlanta and London 274



Worshiping at the Golden Age Hotel: Transnational Networks, Economy, Religion, and Migration of the Congolese in Istanbul

Dramaturgies of Spatial and Temporal Interference—or, How to Curate a Forum for the Global Prayers Research Project 92


of a Frontier in Beirut


On Research with Global Prayers


Multi-Religious Societies and the Right to the City: The Case of the Mosque of al-Khandaq al-Ghamiq in Beirut



Religious Women in Istanbul



Stripped Religion Industries: Nigerian Perspectives on Las Vegas, and Back Again



Global Prayers—Posters 122


Lagos Strip



“There is no answer to any of these things”: Religious Street Politics in Tehran 1978ff. 314





Cemetery State 322


How to Fabricate Heroes?

The Arab “Spring” and the Rise of the Fundamentalist City 156




of the Youth in Central Africa and Southeast Asia 164




Secular Resistance and First Post-Secular Steps: How Berlin Deals with Global Prayers



Redeeming Urban Spaces: The Ambivalence of Building a Pentecostal City in Lagos, Nigeria


Performing Crowds: The Circulative Urban Forms of the Tariqa Alawiya Youth Movement in Contemporary Indonesia 352


Techniques of Inattention: The Mediality of Loudspeakers in Nigeria



“When you are in an environment like Lagos, you need a connection to something higher, to make meaning out of all the madness around you.” 376



Global Prayers: How the Academy and the Arts Circumambulate the City


Observing Religion, Performing Politics: The Chhath Puja and the Ganpati Mahotsav in Mumbai






The Vision God Gave the Pastor 420



Cities Between Heaven and Hell 590


Lessons From “Global Prayers”: How Religion Takes Place in the City




Atlanta, Beirut, Berlin, Cairo, Istanbul, Jakarta, Kinshasa, Lagos,

Mass-Produced Faith 438


Unfold = Negotiate, Localize, and Assemble. How Urban Studies


Churches: A Photographic Record of Secular Buildings Converted into Places of Worship in the Greater London Area 430


The Pious City: Comments on the Unusual Urban

From Padre Mugica to Santa Muerte? Liberation Spirits and Religious Mutations in Urban Space in Latin America




Speaking in Tongues: Crowds, Assistants, and Miracles



Religiously Urban



Religion, Popular Culture, and the City: Pentecostalism, Carnival and Carioca Funk in Rio de Janeiro 464








The Renegotiation of Boundaries between Islam and the “Modern”: Perceptions of Religious Women in Istanbul 528


Christian Hymns and Noises in Beirut 542


Gheee-Zuss: The Sonic Materialities of Belief


The Editors


The Contributors


Image Credits






This book explores Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City from a trans-

Global Prayers, create cross-references between individual studies, and clarify the epistemic

disciplinary urban studies perspective, focusing on the interactions and interrelations between the urban sphere and those religious movements that have grown to become

These clusters and formats are supplemented by an essayistic atlas that presents all the cities researched, highlighting characteristic patterns in the way the urban and the religious are

approaches of research and representation that inform the project Global Prayers: Redemption and Liberation in the City.

The multi-perspective introductions, visual essays, commentaries following the thematic

disciplines (social and cultural sciences, ethnography, geography, religious studies, archi-

chapters, and the essayistic atlas, all aim to create connections between the narrations of

tecture, and sound studies) that are transgressed here, but also those between the sciences The book, structured to form several layers, contains theoretical, empirical, and essayistic texts, several interviews, and visual essays of different lengths and in various “languages”: Introductory theoretical and conceptual texts by the editorial and supervisory team of Global Prayers

seeks to create a conceptual, methodological, and empirical basis for recording and dis-

positioned within urban theory? What concepts guide its methodological transdisciplinari-

cussing the complexity of ways in which the city and religion, urbanity and religiosity, are

ty? What artistic and curatorial strategies are applied? What institutional settings characterize the Global Prayers laboratory?

The complex structure of the book and the diverse formats of the contributions to it, thus, Global Prayers, but also the

chapters: “Deconstructing the Fundamentalist City?,” “Staging Street Politics,” and “Popshows how, at a global level, any distinct boundaries between the secular and the sacred the urban in Lagos, Kinshasa, Istanbul, Beirut, Mumbai, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico

that were once established in the modern city are now becoming increasingly unstable,

City, Buenos Aires, Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Berlin, and on the routes between these cities,


the case studies consistently examine the question both of an urban religion in the making research projects of Global Prayers. JULY 2013 TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY TIM JONES



Editorial Essays



Assembling Global Prayers in the City: An Attempt to Repopulate Urban Theory with Religion STEPHAN LANZ

For decades, urban theory’s prevailing point of reference was the patterns of development in “a few wealthy cities” (Robinson 2006: 167) in North America and Western Europe. As a way of distancing itself from this approach, Space//Troubles (Becker and Lanz 2003), the

research design of Global Prayers: Redemption and Liberation in the City. I would like to offer an overview and discuss the basic assumptions, theoretical positions, research strategies, and results so far. PROGRAMMATIC BASIS OF THE METROZONES SERIES

tion (see Lanz 2003), urban developments in the cities in the Global South cannot be analyzed separately from those in the Global North, and vice versa. This has been the case, at the latest, since the age of colonization when European city planning was forcibly globalpractices were linked in the cities of the colonizers and the colonized around the world. For example, informal urban economies and the production of space or division of urban social spaces in “feudal-like islands of governance” (ibid.: 23), where each is subject to of the South. Instead, these can be found as characteristic features in the present forms of 16


urbanization on a global level. For this reason, cities in the Global North and South are not

this process? Which rationalities, imaginations, and aspirations form the basis of this

incommensurable, but need to be regarded as “‘neighbors’ in a single metropolitan space”

process? And what is the framework of power relations around it? Finally, what urban con-


to the Global North. Rather, they follow independent paths to modernization, which do not culminate in some catch-up sense with the model of a Western or even European city.

these analytical assumptions and strategic maneuvers, we found “religion” emerging as a

Traditionally, urban studies analysis, based on modernization theories, focuses on issues

priority topic in the focus of our urban analyses. “Religion” was increasingly evident in a

rapid urbanization and environmental problems. Such a focus, though, constructs cities -

Hindu nationalists (Eckert 2003), the boom in revivalist churches in the favelas of Rio de Ja-

tion, is deemed to be a worthy goal. In particular, the normative transfer of Western con-

neiro (Martins 2004), multi-faceted urban Islamism in Istanbul (cf. Tugal 2005), and “street

cepts—development, modernity, state, civil society—to African cities results in an image of

politics” in the wake of the Iranian Revolution in Tehran (Bayat 2006). With critical urban

an irrational urban Africa falling back from colonial modernity into pre-colonial barbarism

studies largely concentrating on the political and economic logics of urbanization in cities

(Mbembe and Nutall 2004). However, as overlapping “palimpsests of colonization, de- re-

in the North, such processes had hardly been considered at that time. Where critical urban

and neo-colonization” (De Boeck 2002: 244), these cities are pursuing their own paths of

studies did deal with religion, it was usually discussed as the practice of supposedly back-

modernization where seemingly contrary rationalities between “modernity” and “tradition”

ward migrants or the urban poor and located within a conceptually contained urban space,

are interlinked in many diverse ways. Hence, in principle, we fully subscribe to Ananya Roy’s (2009: 828) later apodictic statement that “[t]he study of the 21st century metropolis

of “sacred” or “fundamentalist” cities.

is inevitably a study of modernity.”

At that time, though, to a certain extent in the wake of Western critical urban studies and -

hardly noticed by it, various scholars interested in the agency of the “urban subaltern in the

stream perspective to enable us to adequately record present global forms of moderniza-

global South” (Bayat 2000) had already highlighted the growing importance of religion in the

tion, describe them, and learn to understand them. The objective was to avoid taking the -

context of everyday urban practices in Middle Eastern cities such as Tehran or Cairo (Bayat 1997), in diverse African cities (Simone 1994, 2001) or in (Latin) American metropolises such

ity. Rather, our urban analyses looked back to the “North” from the incomparably more

as New York or Rio de Janeiro (Orsi 1999a; Birman 2003). Nonetheless, it was a paper by

dynamic urban realities discursively bound to the Global South and which determine

Mike Davis tellingly entitled “Planet of Slums” (2004) which brought the growing importance

the conditions of the majority of the global population. As a “tactical maneuver” (Sim-

of new religious movements in the cities of the Global South to the attention of urban studies,

one 2010: 279), this shift in perspective does not, of course, equate with assuming that

though his focus was less on them as religious, than as political and social actors. Given the

the urbanism of the global South exists in some ontological sense. The valid comparison

traditional assumptions in urban theory, Davis’s dramatic hypothesis of God dying in the cit-

here is far closer to AbdouMaliq Simone’s notion of “black urbanism” understood as

ies of the industrial revolution and only then resurrecting in the post-industrial cities of devel-

an “inventive methodology” aimed at bringing “certain dimensions of urban life from

oping countries (ibid.: 30) seemed quite cogent, as did his notion of religious groups replacing

the periphery into a clearer view.” Here, too, rather than arguing that blackness consti-

left-wing movements in the global slums. However, Davis’s apocalyptic approach posited a

tutes “a particular kind of urbanism,” the central dimension in this conceptual approach

problematic causal link between the observed urban manifestations of the religious and the politico-economic transformations of the cities of the South in the wake of global neoliberal-

amongst different cities and urban experiences that otherwise would have no readily

ism, thus associating such manifestations with the urban poor’s ideological seduction. Hence,

available means of conceptualization,” (ibid.). Not only are South and North just as little


essentialist categories as “blackness,” but neither should be principally understood as

nition of religion as opium for the people.

geographical. Instead, following Stuart Hall’s (1992) notion of “the West and the rest,”

However, the history of early industrial cities shows that even the radical phase of modern-

they should be regarded as mutually conditioning relational elements in one single dis-

ization fueled by industrialization where, according to Davis, God had “died,” was charac-

course formation. Hence, starting from everyday urban life beyond the model of the

trial cities in the United States and Britain, particularly, served as laboratories for religious

individual concrete urban settings: how is the city (re-)produced “on the ground” in a

innovations of all possible political, cultural, and social nuances certainly comparable to

continuous process? What are the forces, practices, materials, and actors interacting in

those nowadays. For example, middle-class fears in the rapidly growing migrant United



States cities in the nineteenth century generated the reactionary “charity movement,”

has necessitated, encouraged, or simply made possible a tremendous explosion of religious

which set out to discipline the supposedly dangerous proletarian masses through the power

innovation and experimentation” (Orsi 1999b: 45). In a certain sense, this development

of religion. On the other hand, religious idealists became involved in the progressive “social

seems to be repeated in the major change from the industrial to post-industrial city starting

gospel” movement, active in calling for structural improvements in the catastrophic condi-

from the last third of the twentieth century (see Beaumont and Baker 2011a).

tions in the overcrowded working-class districts. The “black churches,” in turn, developed into a location for religiously motivated political activism in the struggle against the racist


exclusion of Afro-American communities from public spaces (Brooks-Higginbotham 1993).

Urban theory, then, considers that modern urbanity, as the end product of the city’s long

Two Christian organizations which still exist today were also founded in mid-nineteenth

spiritual decline, can be equated with secularity. However, this general assumption is less

century London, and quickly spread in the United States. The Young Men’s Christian As-

the result of empirical analyses, and more the product of the two formative “theoretical

sociation (YMCA) was established to create a moral bastion protecting young men from the temptations of the cities, and even today remains a model for connecting religion and

since the urban theories of Georg Simmel or Louis Wirth, a selective association between

business, since it set up and derived an income from a variety of businesses (such as ho-

the city and modernity; the second maneuver, dubbed “developmentalism” by Jennifer

tels) (Goh 2011: 56). In contrast, the Salvation Army’s theology sought to sacralize all as-


pects of everyday life. In order to conduct missionary work among the non-churchgoing


masses on the city streets and in public spaces, the Salvation Army, with its spectacular

trial countries were considered to be privileged locations of innovation and the “cultural

parades and popular music, explicitly competed with the attractions of urban consumer

experiences of modernity” (Robinson 2010: 3). Second, urbanity was, in some way, equa-

culture (Winston 1999).

ted with modernization so that cities “elsewhere” in the world, where traditions and the

Nowadays, this practice of sacralizing urban consumer culture has been adopted especial-

allegedly “primitive” continued to exist, were regarded as “un-modern places” (ibid.), and

ly by Pentecostalism, which is presently growing faster globally than any other religious

thus ultimately non-urban.

movement. Originating in the early twentieth century in Los Angeles, Pentecostalism goes back to a three-year-long prayer marathon known as the Azusa Street Revival, which start-

THE SECULARIST GAZE OF WESTERN URBAN RESEARCH Similarly to urban theory, sociology is also

generally founded on the theory of secularization. For example, Stuart Hall (in MacCabe 2008: 38) notes: “we forgot about [religion]. We thought—and sociology told us—that sec-


ularization is an unstoppable process. All our notions of modernity and of progress are har-

tecostal churches were already engaging in missionary work in Latin American and African

nessed to secularization, the secular. … With the defeat of secular alternatives, it became

cities, where Pentecostalism experienced a dramatic growth in the 1980s. Today, to a cer-

the focal point of resistance in some of the less developed parts of the world.” The secularization theory, following Max Weber, assumed that religion in the rational mod-

back into the Global North. From the outset, the Pentecostal faithful and preachers were

ern world epitomized by the large city could only survive in reclusive communities, and

drawn from all ethnicities. In Los Angeles especially, Pentecostalism became a spiritual

that “secularization as the rationalization of the world” (Gabriel 2008: 10) would spread

home for the black and poorer urban migrants marginalized by the racism of traditional

from Europe across the entire globe. But ever since the establishment of industrial cities

“white” churches (Cox 1995: 45ff.).

in the nineteenth century, the prevailing social discourse also regarded the large city as

Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ assumption that urbanization would secularize the work-

the antipode of the religious. For conservative and religiously motivated urban critics es-

ing class (see Davis op. cit.) could best be applied to Berlin, which grew dramatically to be-

pecially, industrial cities were amoral sinks of iniquity. Even in Berlin during the Weimar

come the third largest industrial city and, as early as the 1880s, was regarded as the world’s

Republic, one radical criticism of the large city frequently had recourse to the biblical topos

most a-religious city. In Berlin, even liberal middle-class milieus rejected the Lutheran

of the Whore of Babylon. In the United States, too, the dominant idea was that religion had

Church due to its close ties with the monarchic elites. In working-class quarters, domin-

disappeared from the city, or even that religion as such was alien to the nature of the city.

ated by social democratic and communist beliefs, enmity to the churches was part of every-

For Roberto Orsi (1999b: 42–3), this was not only why urban religion has hardly been re-

day political culture (see McLeod 1996). Berlin, then, proves to be a special case of urban

searched, but also why it is regarded as a contradiction in terms.

irreligiosity in the early Western industrial city.

As concerns the (Islamic) city of the caliphs or the sultan as well as the medieval (Chris-

As the above shows, in the course of urban industrialization, rather than religion disappear-

tian) cities in Europe, scholars are agreed that religious rulers “wielded policing and ad-

ing from Western industrial cities, it has undergone a transformation process which has

ministrative powers,” and the entire “idea of citizenship, of civitas, was synonymous with

reacted creatively to new forms of urban life and, in times of radical deep-rooted change,

religious rule” (AlSayyad and Roy 2006: 4). In contrast, a nexus between the modern

produced innovative religious movements and practices: “The world of the modern city

city and religion has only been granted for special cases such as Jerusalem, already de-



scribed as the urban utopia of “heavenly Jerusalem” in the Book of Revelation of St. John

a tribal society propounded by Western orientalists and Turkish modernists, and proving

the Divine and still regarded today as a “city of longing” (Goldhill 2008) by the faithful of three religions. Beyond this, urban religion was seen as a social reminiscence, a sign

that since the 1980s, partially as the result of a massive rural exodus, the social basis and

of urban backwardness, linked to (poverty) zones in “Third World cities” captive to their

the production of meaning of Islamism had shifted from the rural areas to the informal mi-

traditions, or to migrant milieus not yet fully urbanized. Even here, urban theory over-

grant settlements within large cities (see Schiffauer in this volume). Since then, opposing

looked, for example, the major importance of liberation theology on the intellectual level,

notions of the Islamic city have been competing with one another. In the municipal ad-

as well as for their grassroots congregations, as religious, social, and political actors in

ministrations newly created from the informal gecekondu settlements on the periphery

Latin America’s poor urban districts. As a “theology of revolutionary social change” (Cox 1990: 95), liberation theory, which condemned the “misuse of religion by ruling elites to

initially informed by religiously motivated ideas of a modest urban structure and society



litical post-colonialism. At the same time, under the military regimes, their grassroots

vailing notion of the city as an Islamic “expression of imperial power and splendor,” with

congregations offered a safe space for militant resistance movements in cities such as Rio

elements borrowed from the Western-modernist “ideals of a planned, functional and ef-

de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, or Santiago de Chile, fostering the poor’s self-organization and “liberation” in their struggle for better living conditions and the right to the city.

Ünlü-Yücesoy in this volume).

THE ORIENTALIST IDEA OF THE ISLAMIC CITY If urban theory conceptualized the modern Western

even nowadays, as the “dominant framework” for studies on contemporary cities in the

city as secular, it regarded the metropolises of the Middle East as precisely the opposite.

Middle East. Finally, in the context of the “war on terror,” “the Islamic city model is again

ligion. The Islamic city as a discourse was the invention of French orientalists investigating

and destruction” (ibid.: 271). Hence, for instance, the “ersatz cities in the American heart-

colonial cities such as Algiers and Damascus in the 1920s. Janet Abu-Lughod (1987) and

land” constructed for exercises in military urban warfare are based on a model of the Islam-

André Raymond (1994, 2008) show that, in comparison to the European city, the supposed

ic city as “chaotic, lawless and underdeveloped” (ibid.: 272).

gious system’s dominance over the urban as responsible for the continuing decay in these


cities, their chaotic spatial structure, and their lack of effective institutions. Such sweeping

of the urban, Aihwa Ong’s (2011: 2) argument that both the prevailing social science ap-

one focuses on the religious as an element

descriptions ignore the fact that the cities under Islamic rule have very different forms,

proaches to urban analysis “bear a Marxist pedigree and are thus overdetermined in their

span a historical period of over 1,300 years, are found in the geographical space of three

privileging of capitalism as the only mechanism and class struggle as the only resolution to

continents, have a basic urban spatial design that precedes Islam, or that cities such as Cai-

urban problems” has a particular validity. “The political economy of globalization,” one of

ro or Damascus have always been home to considerable religious diversity.

the dominating approaches, postulates global capitalism as the “singular causality” in the

This clearly indicates how the idea of an Islamic-city model is based on an orientalism

production of the city as a “site of capital accumulation.” In turn, urban analyses informed by “the postcolonial focus on the subaltern,” the other prevailing approach, limit them-

is one plank in the discourse of the “West and the rest” (Hall 1992), which inscribes the

selves to “- agents” as a “special category of actors.”

qualities of urban, modern, civilized and secular into the concept of the West, and regards

The emphasis on capitalist mechanisms of urbanization and the narrowed focus on

the (Islamic) rest as underdeveloped, traditional and religious: “The disorderly Islamic city

Euro-North American cities, especially evident in critical “Western-centric urban theory”

was a trope that made possible the norm of the ordered European city. Such a distinction … resonates with the distinction drawn today between ungovernable Third World cities and

a “minimal set of explanatory conditions” (Ong op. cit.: 6). In doing so, the non-tangible

governed First World cities” (AlSayyad and Roy 2006: 3). Here, too, Western urban stud-

elements in the production of the urban were ignored—and this applies especially to

ies reveal, aside from their orientalist perspective, how they exclusively connect religion to

religion. In relation to religion, the bias among (post-)Marxist urban theorists also sup-

backwardness and label it as the antithesis of modern urbanity.

ported a normative secularism (cf. Beaumont and Baker 2011b) through their tendency,

The revitalization of the orientalist notion of the Islamic city from the early 1980s not only

as a rule, to discuss issues in urban diversity and justice without even mentioning as-

illustrates the persistence of colonial concepts, but also their complex patterns of reciprocal

pects of the religious. In general, the politico-economic reductionism in critical urban

appropriation and adaption. During an Islamic renewal, for example, Arab urban planners

studies evident in the analytical subordination of urbanization processes to the logics

and Turkish Islamists sought to re-establish the model of the Islamic city (Abu Lughod op. cit.)—not least with the aim of countering the defamatory image of Islam as a relic of

urban represents in such analyses (cf. McFarlane 2011a: 205; Farías 2011: 367). In such



an approach, “the attempt to grapple with notions of urban life itself” (Simone 2011:

as, understood as forms of “immediate communication between atomized individuals,” it

355) falls through the cracks.

facilitates “passive networks” (2012: 76). Asef Bayat has coined the term “street politics”

On the other hand, “subaltern urbanism” (Roy 2011a) has made important attempts to postcolonize Western-centric urban theory by elaborating independent paths and moderni-

ing “ordinary people” and the authorities. In this book, we have dedicated a chapter to this

ties in post-colonial urban developments as well as subaltern agency. However, in terms of apprehending urban complexities, this approach similarly proves to have its limits due to a perspective that is too narrow. Ananya Roy (ibid.: 235), for example, critically examined


“ontological and topological readings of subalternity” in urban analyses that essentialize the

There are presently extensive ongoing debates over the “return of the religious” in a num-

supposedly subaltern identities in the “slum” of the “megacity” or celebrate the habitus of

ber of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Over the past decade, though with a

the urban poor’s entrepreneurial drive and self-organization (see also Lanz 2008). Aihwa

notable delay, there have also been numerous research studies investigating, on the global

Ong (2011: 9), in turn, points out how these two orientations in post-colonial urban stud-

level, religious practices in cities. However, although the majority of these studies consider

ies, with one underlining the continuities of the colonial past in the urban present and the

religion in the city, they do not consider the city itself—and this was a key motivation in ini-

other focusing on the political agency of subaltern groups, seem “to privilege postcolonial

tiating the Global Prayers project. In general, they focus neither on the question of how the

subjectivity and agency as the primary driving force in vastly different global sites that

urban impacts the formation and character of new forms of religion, nor on how the new

have been greatly transformed, through heterogeneous processes, colonial encounters and

religious communities and practices affect the urban. The studies that exist are also widely

postcolonial histories, in infrastructure, politics, and culture.”

dispersed, distributed across a range of area studies, or limited to individual disciplines, in

In contrast to a politico-economic approach, “subaltern urbanism” has paid close attention

particular religious studies and anthropology and their journals. Most previous research


has also been directed to individual cities, global regions or religions—dedicated solely, for

ical Global South. Admittedly, here too, connections between, for example, urban poverty

example, to urban developments in Islam (Desplat and Schulz 2012), the United States

and religious community-formation were privileged over the religious practices of the ur-

(Orsi 1999a) or Asia and Africa (Hancock and Srinivas 2008). As a result, it was hardly in a

ban middle class or transnational connective processes between the city, religion, politics,

position to notice remarkable parallel developments across religions, patterns of urbaniza-

the economy, and culture. Here, Asef Bayat (2007) has provided key theoretical concepts

tion, and world religions. Other research has only focused on particular issues relating to

for investigating religious urbanity. His approach, based on many years of empirical stud-

the presence of the religious in the city (e.g., “faith based organizations,” Beaumont 2008,

ies, stands out from reductionist theses à la Mike Davis (2004). In particular, he not only

or “the sacred” (Gómez and Van Herck 2012).

rejects the standard urban-studies assumption of a causal link between the boom in fun-

In contrast, the theoretical approaches to urban analyses with the largest reach, which over-

damentalist variants of religion and the “slum” or urban poverty, but equally disputes the

come some of the blind spots ingrained in urban theory and examine the heterogeneous

supposedly altered ideologies of poverty. Taking Cairo and Tehran as examples, he shows

interconnections between the religious and the urban, subordinate these to homogenizing

that the key Islamic actors come from the educated middle classes, and their missionary

concepts such as the “post-secular city” (Beaumont and Baker 2011a) or “fundamentalist

ambitions lead them to utilize the ignorance of corrupt state apparatuses for the needs

city” (AlSayyad and Massoumi 2010). The former is particularly problematic in its nor-

of the poor. As Bayat notes, the poor cannot afford to be ideologically choosy, but attach

mative content, “linear temporality” (Leezenberg 2010), and ethnocentric basis. The lat-

themselves to groups which offer effective support for their everyday needs—spiritual, so-

ter focuses exclusively on the aspects of religious urbanisms which political and academic

cial, and material. Over the past decades, Bayat points out such groups have often been

discourse has most problematized and taken exception to, yet does not address the diverse

radical religious movements.

ordinary forms of urban religiosity. It thus runs the risk of reifying the selective urban the-

Bayat’s notions of the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary” (2000) and “street politics” (1997, 2006) are important in analyzing the religious in urban everyday life. The former offers a reading of the activism of marginalized groups in cities in post-colonial society as

For this reason, Global Prayers, simultaneously building on and distancing itself from

a non-collective and often illegal agency (e.g., occupying land), which is initially directed

such research, initially adopted a very open heuristic concept to focus on the question of

toward improving the individual person’s own life rather than having any political aim.

the religion of the city. As a result, we are investigating urban religion in its diverse forms

However, Bayat also shows how, in the long term, such a “quiet encroachment” can have measures threaten what has been achieved (for example, an irregular settlement), en-

and materialities, cultures, politics and economies, forms of living and working, commu-

croachment frequently transforms into a collective political struggle to defend the gains

nity formation, festivals and celebrations, and so on—and together with these, incessantly

made. The location of such struggles is in the physical and social space of the street insofar

generates and (re-)produces the city. Hence, we understand the production of urban reli-



gion and religious urbanity as two sides of a continual process in which the urban and the

cept of fundamentalism reduced to a repressive form of government, AbdouMaliq Simone offers a reading interpreting “urban fundamentalism as opening up a space and a time of

each other. In other words, Global Prayers critically explores the theory that religion rep-

the miraculous.” Fundamentalism understood in this way, which, as it were, resonates with

resents an integral element of material, social, and symbolic production of the urban on all levels, and thus needs to be integrated in urban theories (see Kong 2001). The Global

which he describes elsewhere, following Ranciere, as “the possibility of those who have ‘no

Prayers project is designed as transdisciplinary and transinstitutional on the global level,

part in anything’ to become ‘anyone at all’—that is, to come to the stage, to be visible as

and generates its knowledge by leveraging a diversity of case studies in many different cit-

an ordinary life in the city” (Simone 2011: 356). The Global Prayers case studies—which,

ies across the world where these studies have initially been designed as “deep explorative commonly regarded as fundamentalism—approach these issues from an actor-centered The conceptual framework we constructed to research into the diverse manifestations of

perspective, thus avoiding a homogenizing explanatory approach within a conceptual re-

religion and religious urbanity in the contemporary city was created on the basis of the the-


construction of problematic urban-theory traditions as well as the most recent innovations.

Beyond these methodological aspects, worlding is also understood, on the other hand, as heterogeneous spatializing practices, not only collecting the elements and practices com-

Yet in constructing that framework, what theoretical and methodological “maneuvers” did

ing from the world into the city, but also releasing them, in an altered form, back into the

we adopt?

world again. In this way, they invoke potential worlds transcending the current conditions of urban living: “a non-ideological formulation of worlding as situated everyday practices


Prayers’ -

the same analytical framework without recourse to reductionist explanatory patterns. In

gence, to the claims that global situations are always in formation” (Ong 2011: 12). World-

her search for “another route through postcolonial urbanism” (Roy 2011b: 307), with the

ing in such a reading is generally viewed as unstable and incomplete. “Worlding practices

aim of overcoming the limitations of a subaltern urbanism as described above, Ananja Roy

of centering, of harnessing global regimes of value” (Roy 2011b: 313) can be regarded as

puts forward a “new way of doing global metropolitan studies” founded on a shift “from the

including global modeling and inter-referencing practices (related, for example, to such

postcolonial as an urban condition to the postcolonial as a critical deconstructive method-

spatial variations as gated communities as well as megaprojects, world-class aesthetic dis-

ology” (ibid.: 308). To avoid the standard approach of linking modernity with the West-

courses, and forms and processes of religious urbanism) just as much as those “anticipa-

ern city and facilitate research into metropolitan modernities on the global level, Aihwa

tory politics of residents and transients, citizens and migrants” (ibid.) which AbdouMaliq

Ong (2011: 9) argues for an analytical framework capable of elaborating “how an urban

Simone (2001), drawing on the example of African cities, has termed “worlding from be-

situation can be at once heterogeneously particular and yet irreducibly global,” but one that does not attempt to do so on the basis of a unique explanatory concept. In their book Worlding Cities,

tution of the zawiya, which has branches in many towns and cities serving both as a lodge


and a place of prayer for travelling “brothers,” to discuss the translocal networks, economic

pose, which builds on Gayatri Spivak’s original concept. In contrast to Marxist versions of

options, and forms of solidarity which facilitate the extension of urban Africa outside the

worlding, which are subordinated to capitalist logics and, for instance, dominate global city

continent. Frequently a survival strategy, over the last decades this form of worlding has

research, the analytical framework proposed by Roy and Ong breaks with the mainstream

not least been a “by-product of the implosion of urban Africa” (Simone 2001: 17).

“core-periphery model of globalization” (Roy 2009: 824). Worlding alludes, on the one hand, to urban knowledge production itself, and requires

In this sense, Global Prayers explores the manifestations of urban religion and religious urbanity as practices of worlding, whereby here it is especially true that “the art of be-

the deconstruction of global “regimes of truth” (Roy 2011b: 314), in particular (though not

ing global ignores conventional borders of class, race, city and country. There are promis-

only) with regard to the production of traditional Western-centric urban theory. One chap-

cuous borrowings, shameless juxtapositions, and strategic enrollments of disparate ideas,

ter of this book takes up precisely this task, offering a “deconstruction of the fundamen-

actors and practices from many sources circulating in the developing world, and beyond” (Ong 2011: 23). In this context, worlding refers, on the one hand, to those aspirations and

readings of the encounter between the city and religious fundamentalism. AlSayyad him-

imaginations informing religiously motivated attempts to create alternative urban worlds

self not only deconstructed the traditional links between fundamentalism and Islamism,

transcending the city as it exists in reality and which, in essence, are common to all ur-

but also the Western-centric theory that can only locate the advance of urban-religious

ban religious practices and communities. On the other hand, worlding also comprises the

fundamentalism, together with its associated “medieval modernity,” in the supposedly

(imaginary or real) extension of the particular practices to the translocal and global lev-

un-modern cities outside the West. In this context, in contrast to a religious-urban con-

els—whether as urban-religious forms of circulation and community building, modeling



practices (for instance, of “cities of God”), borrowing and appropriating (for example, in

be researched as a “sensational form” (Meyer 2009, 2012), whose sensory, material, social,

the course of sacralizing urban cultural practices), identities (e.g., as in the form of be-

and symbolic practices not only manifest themselves in the urban, but are also generated

longing to global Ummah or Pentecostalism), or as the expansion of religious-political and


economic power.

ing visions and voices, practices and orientations, which arise out of the complex desires,

As a rule, the phenomena at the heart of Global Prayers’ research are revealed as glob-

needs and fears of many different people who have come to the cities by choice or com-

al phenomena in the sense that their validity is not conventional, “only intelligible in relation to a common set of meanings, understandings or societal structures” (Collier and Ong 2005: 11). According to Stephen Collier and Aihwa Ong, global phenomena are char-

44f). Hence, rather than the city’s characteristic features only providing the context for religious experiences and its forms of expression, they belong to the basic constituents from

between the urban and religion investigated here—by their “distinctive capacity for decon-

which such experiences and forms of expression are generated.

textualisation and recontextualisation, abstractability and movement, across diverse social

The concrete forms of religion’s contextualization and territorialization in the urban en-

and cultural situations and spheres of life. Global forms are able to assimilate themselves

vironment do not occur as a unidirectional incorporation or assimilation, solely either as

to new environments, to code heterogeneous contexts and objects” (ibid.).

the religious form adapting to the environment or vice versa, but as manifold interactions, references, and intersections, as dynamic processes of appropriation and borrowing. Here,


Prayers’ second theoretical maneuver -

counters and interactions between the religious and the urban without subordinating them

tween religion and urbanity crystalizing from such processes. Assemblage urbanism enables us to research the city’s constitution as a multiple, dynam-

to one-dimensional explanatory models. On the one hand, this maneuver develops from the realization that the secularist and Marx-

of situated and transnational ideas, institutions, actors and practices” (Ong 2011: 4); in

ist genealogy of urban studies has marginalized “attempts to grapple the notions of urban

other words, as a nexus of spaces, objects, bodies, subjectivities, and symbols with diverse

life itself” (Simone 2011: 355). In particular, in view of the way that approaches in tradi-

and various reciprocal connections and which “assemble the city in multiple ways” (Farías

tional urban theory fail to grasp the everyday production of the city through the agency of

2010: 14). If one reads assemblage as the constantly emerging “product of multiple deter-

its residents, including their religious agency, a different method is needed—one that is

minations that are not reducible to a single logic” (Collier and Ong 2005: 12), we can grasp

able to apprehend the “diversity of urbanisms” (McFarlane 2011c: 652), and hence address

the city as a permanently regenerating assemblage of assemblages. Hence, rather than

the urban’s complexity and multi-dimensionality, its generic and process character, and

analysis focusing on spatial categories or formations, it concentrates on a dense descrip-

the way it is generated from the most diverse connections between extremely heteroge-

tion of the agency apparent in urban everyday life and on the mutually interlacing practices,

neous actors and materials, discourses, aspirations, and imaginations.

processes, and materialities which generate urbanism. In this way, the question (of power) arises of “who and what has the capacity to assemble the city” (McFarlane 2011c: 668). In

critiquing very similar limitations in the traditional approaches to religion to those cur-

contrast to the urban political economy, assemblage does not posit power as power over

rently challenged by urban studies. In this respect, they call for comparable changes, em-

but, following Deleuze and Foucault, as power to (Dovey 2011: 349). Rather than resorting to structural or contextual explanations to read domination, injustices, or exclusions in

need to postcolonialize religious studies. In this process, the aspects of materiality in reli-

urban assemblages, they are investigated by concretely considering how asymmetries and

gious practices are considered in a contrasting way to the traditional “mentalistic approach”

unequal relations of power develop in their origination processes, and the ruling effects

(Meyer 2012: 14) which, based on a modern dualism between external form and internal

they produce. Hence, analyzing the urban from an assemblage perspective does not mean


disregarding capitalist logics and effects on urban life. Here, too, the principle applies that

terialized the understanding of religion and neglected the “reality effects” (Meyer 2009: 7)

today on the global level “urban life cannot be understood external to variegated capital-

of cultural forms. Taking a “material approach to religion” (Meyer 2012; cf. Vásquez 2011;

isms” (McFarlane 2011b: 733). However, these are viewed from a different perspective: “By

Garbin 2012) not only allows religion to be understood as a “practice of mediation” (Meyer

looking at cities, we can learn more about capitalism as a form of life;” in other words, cap-

2009: 11) between the idea and experience of supernatural powers and everyday life, but

italism is not understood as an abstract global logic which, as it were, subjugates cities, but

also places the material forms and their affective powers in the focus of research.

investigated “as a concrete process assuming multiple forms” (Farías 2011: 368).

In relation to the city, religious practice may then be, on the one hand, analyzed as a “pre-

The assemblage approach is particularly suited to analyzing the forms of the encounter

scriptive regime” (Marshall 2009: 11), where technologies of power and technologies of the

between the urban and the religious, understood as a “practice of mediation.” On the basis

self intermesh in its practice of governmentality, in Foucault’s sense. On the other, it can

of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of agencement, AbdouMaliq Simone (2011: 357) regards



assemblage as pointing to the relation


rials and substances—and the prescribed—the imposition of functional stable structures …

framework of post-colonial inequality of power, the prevailing “geopolitics of knowledge”

—between code and singularity, expression and content.” It is especially this underscoring

(Mignolo 2002) mirrored in the “dynamics of academic and research policies” (Kaltmeier

of potentialities, ever-present in the urban, beyond the existent as well as a focus on doing,

2012: 28) in which the research process is embedded.

performing, and events that enables the worlding practices of urban religious communities,

The initial objective was to avoid an analytical Western-centric reductionism informed by

understood just as much as prescriptive regimes as sensational forms, to be grasped as cre-

a ruling discourse where urban modernity per se is fuelled by secularity, and “open up an

ating alternative urban worlds transcending real cities. Such an approach facilitates a con-


ceptual framework capable of doing justice to the diversities and ambiguities in the connec-

tween religious practices and lifestyles and the urban. To achieve this, we adopted, in the

tions between city and religion—its temporalities and instabilities—without reducing it to a

broadest sense, an actor-centered and practice-theoretical research approach focusing less

etc.). Hence, interactions between the urban and the religious can be understood as inter-

ing the concrete world of their actors and investigating their “way of doing things.” Hence,

actions between the components forming the assemblage; as Colin McFarlane (2011c: 653)

this is about reconstructing “the interior perspectives of the actors and the experiences un-


notes in quoting Gilles Deleuze, their sole unity is that of “co-functioning: it is a symbiosis, a ‘sympathy.’” In this way, it becomes possible to focus on the multiple interlacing of the

To this end, we carried out the following operations: expanding the concept of research to

religious even with all those aspects of urban space—the sensory, imaginary, material, etc.— which would remain beyond the reach of standard urban theory. Thus, in the words of Ash

primarily engaging local Fellows to conduct on-site research; and a collaborative progres-

Amin and Nigel Thrift (2002), this approach can then “repopulate the city” (ibid.:4), which

sive knowledge production, partially developed in cooperation in intensive workshops and on research trips, and partially in discussions with university and civil society communica-

(ibid.: 84), with those urban—here religious—actors and aspects having previously fallen

tion partners in the cities in the research project.

through the cracks in models of urban theory. In this spirit, Global Prayers analyses the diverse and various encounters and links be-

historically colonized by academia, and included artistic forms of research. We decided that neither the scholar nor the artist should have the sole authority over knowledge-formation

tions,” which we understand as assemblages of material, social, symbolic, and sensuous

or the diverse forms of presentation for Global Prayers – from the various text formats to

spaces, processes, practices, and experiences where the religious and the urban are inter-

exhibitions, performative events, and installations (see Kathrin Wildner in this volume). The project’s transdisciplinary approach transcending the borders of academia and art was -

EXPERIMENTAL COMPARISON AS A RESEARCH STRATEGY Global Prayers’ third theoretical maneu-

stead, the artistic approaches were to be regarded as an independent “epistemic practice”

ver relates to the project’s concrete research strategies. This also addresses the issue of

(Bippus 2009), hence expanding the concept of research. As noted by Anne Huffschmid


ed “as a procedure of validation of a hypothesis,” but as a “procedure of exploration and

in the Global Prayers publication Faith is the Place (2012: 165–6), research is not regardsearch project initially started from more contingent observations, which later became

discoveries, a constant and delicate movement between knowing and not-knowing.” This

increasingly systematic and collaborative, on the multiple transformation processes and the growing presence of urban manifestations of the religious which evidently crossed the

of the “aesthetical interrogation of reality.” In the context of the researchers’ subjectivity,

classic borders between, for example, South and North, or overstepped traditional reli-

the former questions how they construct their analytical perspective; the latter contains a

gious territorialization and cultural embeddedness. This contradicted basic urban theo-


ry assumptions which we also subscribed to, or was either simply overlooked by urban

formativity of religious urbanities, or political stagings, including a critical consciousness

studies or discussed with a one-dimensional explanatory logic. Given this major gap be-

of visual discourses” (ibid.: 166).

tween everyday urban life and urban knowledge production, there was an obvious need -

to critically review accepted urban studies methods and theoretical approaches from the tualization—since this could only have followed accepted theories—and design a research approach as open and experimental as possible, informed by decentering, defamilializing

prone crisis management and, in the process, generated a new diversity of perspectives

and “un-truthing” (Jane Jacobs 2012). Such research is based on an interrogative, induc-

on research topics, issues, and methods. The project Global Prayers was developed by



ging demands and studies calling for a renewal of comparative urban research, and applyinvestigating urbanization processes on the global level for some years. The project is im-

ing such methods. This is particularly relevant since the projects suggested, including those


by Jennifer Robinson (2006, 2010), belong to the efforts to postcolonialize urban studies

ies faculty as well as the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a forum not only for contemporary

by analyzing “ordinary cities” on the global level within shared conceptual frameworks. At

art but also for theoretical and socially relevant discussions on the global circulation of

present, a number of highly different concepts are collected under the umbrella of compar-

cultures. Research cooperations were also realized with the Berlin arts association Neue

ative research approaches, though there is no space here to systematically discuss the spec-

Gesellschaft für Bildende Künste (New Society for Visual Arts), which is located in a po-

trum they cover (see for example: Robinson 2010, Ward 2010, McFarlane 2010 or Urban


Geography issues 28, no. 1 (2007), 29, no. 5 (2008) and 33, no. 6 (2012)).

eral left-leaning Heinrich Böll-Stiftung (in Beirut, Istanbul, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Lagos) which, in its local-level civil society cooperation, has often been con-

“the systematic study of similarity and difference among cities or urban processes,” Glob-

fronted with the set of problems relating to urban religion and is interested in developing

al Prayers does not follow a classical comparative approach. Working with the idea of a

approaches to it.

“comparative consciousness” (Nader 1994), the project focuses less on similarities and differences between mutually exclusive units (in particular since, in our view, cities cannot

process also sought to avoid reproducing the prevailing geopolitics of knowledge by un-

be understood as such units) than on transformations and connections, or the melding of



national journals, connections to elite universities, etc.). Instead, we welcomed local ap-

terest. Here, “transnational examinations” are a key strategy since these “can use one site

plicants’ well-founded and specialized knowledge acquired on the ground in the research

to pose questions on another” (Roy 2003: 466). The individual case studies do not follow

cities or deriving from sources beyond academic logics. In the course of the project, the


resulting composition of actors not only facilitated a multi-faceted readiness to experiment

tions as practices of worlding, they always point to global forms and processes, and mate-

with methods and forms of collaboration, but also generated numerous problems and con-

rial as well as imaginary transnational networks and connections. In a certain sense, the


researchers often only needed to follow the urban-religious actors they were investigating

perimental constellation and the particular logic of and demands in the German research and funding landscape in which the project is embedded, they were also due to the structural inequalities between the various project actors in terms of access to resources, links to academia, or the implementation of standardized demands on international research and

ish” and “devout” urban locations and cultural practices, between cities that really exist and imaginary “cities of God,” etc. In a certain sense, Global Prayers

A modus operandi was then established through four long workshops in Berlin, Lagos, Bei-

(2012), drawing on Gilles Deleuze as a “philosopher of this kind of (+).” Hence, this is not about establishing essential differences between “A” and “B” or explaining everything by

public events. After the initial explorative phase, the way of working became increasingly

a single logic, a “homogenizing geography of a single cause”: “Rather, the Deleuzian (+)

consolidated, with growing reciprocal understanding between researchers and collabora-

points to multiplicity, and in the direction of emergence and becoming” (ibid.: 905). This

tion in a variety of local as well as translocal constellations, which gradually led to the de-

follows the simple insight that “the project of decentering assumes multiples,” as is evident

velopment of more robust conceptual frameworks and terms. This step-by-step process

in “the notion of the center against which one works” (ibid.: 904). In this sense, Global

did not only generate a conceptual framework for the entire project, but also produced


close cooperation between, for example scholars and artists in Beirut, Istanbul, and Mum-

Schäfer et al. 2006; Lanz et al. 2008) whereby, to quote Jane Jacobs, “the multiple (1 + 1)

bai. Moreover, the reciprocal approach to critiquing methods and content also increasingly

generates an ever-present ground ‘un-truthing’ in which I am forced to admit that what is happening in City A does not, might not, cannot stand for City B, and certainly not for City

God” in Lagos and Istanbul; between the politico-religious urban constellations in Jakarta,

E(verywhere)” (op. cit. 907).

Mumbai, and Beirut; between the urban-religious forms of de- and re-territorialization in

The individual Global Prayers productions created from such an approach are mutually re-

Kinshasa, London, Rio de Janeiro, and Berlin; between the historical foundations of the religious movements in Tehran, Mexico, and Buenos Aires; and between forms of sacraliza-

a multi-faceted picture of present urban transformations in the context of urban religions

tion of urban cultural practices in Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Amsterdam.

and religious urbanities. Rather than, as in a narrower sense, comparatively tracing the de-

This leads me back to the initial question in this section on the comparative nature of Global Prayers. This question has to be discussed, not least, in the context of the recent emer-

ed, within the framework of productions, connections, fractures, similarities, or differences



between the elements regarded as dynamic and temporary, to stand for itself. Knowledge of

here, and discussed in the present book or, in some cases, in the preceding volume Faith is the Place


cities, religious actors, and transregional connections was not arbitrary, it was naturally selective. Thus, though Global Prayers are not generally limited to religious movements within Christianity and Islam, the studies in this book, with the exception of one study on Hinduism, all focus on such religious movements. In essence, their shared novelty lies in the fact that,


as global forms, they have grown to become mass movements in the most diverse metrop-

culture, and space, Global Prayers

To begin initially with the relationship between religion,

olises around the world, or are totally new movements, and interact intensely with urban

ligious communities distancing themselves from traditional orthodoxies interact with the

structures and lifeworlds (in contrast see the previous publication Faith is the Place, which

urban in the process of their particular religion breaking away from its traditional embed-

conducted both in “particular cities,” for example, cities regarded as capitals of Pentecostal-

ry of religion’s global individualization, “de-territorialization and de-culturation.” In this



religious movement without traditional cultural and territorial connections created itself of urban-religious dynamics (such as Berlin, Jakarta, Mexico, Amsterdam, or Atlanta). This

in the Christian city of Rio de Janeiro. Its growth was derived from individual conversions, which can be read just as much as an aspect of a dynamic religious market as the result of

in Beirut with its invention of religious ritual, discussed by Joseph Rustom, also follows a deterritorialization due to Shiite migration from rural Southern Lebanon into a Sunni In the context of the operations mentioned above, the 1 + 1 + 1 + project concept does not

Muslim Beirut. The Chhath festival in Mumbai can be similarly located, transforming from

only relate to questions of content, but also to the methodological and strategic positioning

a traditional religious ritual into a mega-event in the course of urban migration by the rural

of Global Prayers. In this sense, the project follows Colin McFarlane’s (2010: 727) notion

population in northern Indian and their subsequent stigmatization (cf. George Jose).

of comparison as a strategy: “In the expansive reading of comparison … I argue for atten-

“The return of religion into public space,” according to Roy, “no longer occurs as something

tion not just to different scholarly knowledges on cities from social science across the world,

culturally taken for granted, but as a display of ‘pure’ religiosity or reconstructed tradi-

but different activist and public knowledges that are important for the production of a

tions” (ibid.: 24).To avoid isolation in religious “ghettos,” religious communities look for

more global, more democratic urban studies characterized by diverse urban epistemes and

new “cultural markers” (ibid.: 255). In this process, it is no coincidence that new religious

imaginaries.” Understood in this way, comparison becomes a “mode of thought” beyond

communities turn to urban youth and pop culture, since this culture’s (young) protagonists


are a popular target for their missionary strategies. As the Global Prayers case studies

uration of a project seeking to cross transdisciplinary, transinstitutional and transregional boundaries; in other words, it becomes a tool “for creating new conversations and collab-

political, and economic embeddedness. To begin with, in a kind of anti-cyclical movement,

critique and inquiry” (ibid.: 730). Last but not least, following AbdouMaliq Simone (2010 :

progressive hybridization, de-bordering, individualization, and secularization of urban re-

263), the aim is to go beyond a purely analytic approach “to imagine a situation where” At-

ligions. This dialectic entanglement of the religious with the urban generates a diversity of

lanta, Beirut, Berlin, Istanbul, Jakarta, Cairo, Kinshasa, Lagos, Mexico, Mumbai, Rio de Ja-

urban cultures of conversion. For example, (post-)Islamist middle-class milieus in Istanbul

neiro, and Tehran “are ‘neighbors’ in a single metropolitan space and what that experience

infuse urban consumer cultures linked to the fashion and beauty industry with a religious

might be like for people who would live within it.” Such a comparison is not only endowed with meaning as reciprocal Learning from*

the wastelands of urban modernity—whether those generated by industrial production and

see Becker et. al. 2003) but is equally “a key site for the urban imagination—a potential site

its bureaucracies or by the cultural industries—are similarly transformed into serial rooms

of politics” (McFarlane 2010: 732).

for Pentecostal prayer, appearing in the photo series by Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber as a global form going beyond regional patterns. Or religious actors adopt previously demonized practices and genres from both worldly and global urban pop- and subcultures, “purify” them


to conform with their religious values, and market them in a highly lucrative global religious

In this last section, I would like to suggest, on the basis of the higher-level issues, a variety of

media and culture industry (Martijn Oosterbaan; Adé Bantu; and Johannes Ismaiel-Wendt).

interconnections between case studies and Global Prayers productions, taken as exemplary 34


originally urban processes of mutual borrowings, appropriation, transformation, and ne-

Istanbul, and Berlin, and ultimately to Paris. As Heck illustrates with the example of Istanbul,

tion. In a continual process of dialectic entanglements, they shift existing urban borders

paradigmatically in a “worlding from below” (Simone 2001), to enable urban Africa to expand

between sacral and secular cultural practices, even though these rigid divisions were, in

around the globe. The churches function as places of retreat, offer migrants economic and po-

general, initially constructed by the religious communities themselves to keep the faith-

litical options, serve as the location, in their role as a spiritual home, of a religious community

ful from the temptations of the sinful world.

and experience, and provide a “distinction marker to assert their believers as having a moral concept and lived identity” (Gerda Heck).

Where urban religions interact with current cultur-

These examples show that, contrary to the traditional urban theory assumptions, in the con-

al and political practices and scenes in urban space, they create new kinds of cultural


self-evidences facilitating their compatibility with the most modern forms of urbanity. Even

sent some exotic reminiscence, but its agency unfolds at the heart of metropolitan moderniza-


in Berlin, the dynamic of religion is no longer limited to disputes between migrant religions in the diaspora, as still shimmers through in Werner Schiffauer’s essay. The artistic research

of a global “new metropolitan mainstream,” which the research network INURA (2011) un-

for Global Prayers by Magdalena Kallenberger and Dorothea Nold (2012), in contrast, in-

derstands as structurally comparable urban development strategies and lifestyles applicable

vestigated the spatial practices of new Christian congregations in Berlin who rent such sub-

“under the conditions of planetary urbanization” in economically competing cities. Instead, in

culture venues for their church services as a trendy nightclub, an arthouse movie theater, or a co-working space. Here, it becomes clear how the urban dynamic of religion has already reached the “creative classes,” the educated, individualist, and entrepreneurial milieu which


The following

represents that metropolitanism in Berlin currently celebrated around the world. The pro-

section discusses interconnections between Global Prayers’ research into the relationship

fane locations these congregations appropriate are less sacralized by staged interventions

between religious communities and their believers and non-believing urban residents, as evi-

than atmospherically by a mediating “spirit” of religious “communitas” spread through the

dent in their interactions with the city. This is closely linked to the question of the religious actors’ “embodied acts and the bodily practices” (Holloway and Valins 2002: 8) in urban

this way, such new religious communities forge links to other metropolitan community for-

space. Since this in essence addresses the question of governmentality in Foucault’s sense,

mations that are presently highly dynamic and which, as in the case of co-working and club

drawing on this concept allows various studies to be read together. As a “totality of proce-

communities, have emerged from urban subcultures.

dures, techniques, methods that constitute the way people rule one another” (Foucault 2005: 116), governance does not only suppress subjectivity, but also promotes technologies of the

on urban planning projects, lifestyles, infrastructures and power structures in the religious

self, which can be docked onto the aims of governmentality. Hence, governmentality is, in general, not characterized “by the power to rule,” but “by the power to affect, like the relation-

a global scale, these complexes also belong to the most modern representations of late

ship between priest and congregation, producing a certain set of behaviors within members

capitalist urbanity—though here, as megaprojects developed through centralist planning Religious communities, then, can be understood as programs of conversion and redemptechnocratic, and modernist. Although the Istanbul development was designed by a

tion and as technologies of governance to collectively implement the rules and anchor them

state apparatus dominated by the Islamic faith and the Lagos complex is the product of

in the individuals (cf. Marshall 2009). In doing so they offer religious rituals through which

an economic-religious (global) company, both constellations ultimately appear as urbanAt the same time they provide a precise code of conduct, with which the believers are to also locations where processes of secularization (of Christian as well as Islamic milieus

govern their own life on an everyday basis, and give clear instructions concerning fami-

and their values) and sacralization (of urban social space) are active, creating paradoxical

ly life, gender roles, sexual orientation, consumer behavior, and cultural activities (Lanz

effects. In these two religious worlding processes, it is precisely the gated community, the

2012). In this interconnected governing of the self and the other, the believers go through

global paradigm of space in the Western secular city under neoliberal capitalism, which

a process of subjectivization creating them as new people, and intending to lift them out

becomes an exemplary model for the development of a real “city of God” which follows the

of an urban environment perceived as not-pleasing to God or, literally as devilish, into a divinely ordered space—a “city of God,” as it were. In this process, space is also to be under-

In her multi-sited ethnography, Gerda Heck describes quite different types of urban worlding

stood in Lefebvre’s sense as geographical.

practices which, however, are equally avant-garde. Her research traces the global migration

Each individual conversion in the context of the individualized and deculturized forms of

routes of Congolese revivalist Christians from Kinshasa to the transfer cities of Rio de Janeiro,

urban religion turns into, first and foremost, a question of the governance of the self,



as is evident, for instance, in the studies, both conducted in Rio de Janeiro, by Amanda marginalized urban residents cannot afford to be ideological. Instead, they are more likely event of conversion represents a break with a previous lifestyle and an extreme endeavor

to side with those groups able to effectively support them in their everyday needs and, over

on women’s religious lifestyles in Istanbul shows, this generally leads to a permanent strug-

elaborated historically in an interaction with the technologies of power they were exposed

the last decades, these were often religious organizations. Their technologies of the self, gle in self-disciplining which interacts with its urban environment. The strategic program

to, enable the urban poor to act as subjects, and certainly make them capable of, depending

of each particular religious community is inscribed in the new believers during the pro-

on their—material, political, or spiritual—objectives and needs, interlinking the religious,

cess of subjectivization, which is largely realized through bodily practices enacted in urban space as a break with the spatial practices exercised before the conversion—as, for instance,

“The corporeal enactment and performances … [which] are central to the maintenance and

in Amanda Dias’s example of the use of the beach in Rio de Janeiro. This is also realized

development of religious spaces and landscapes” (Holloway and Valins 2002: 8) are natu-

through religious clothing, especially in terms of women’s bodies (though, as Dias indicates,

rally not only expressed in individual body practices, but also appear in performances, such

not exclusively so). Taking the example of academic religious women in Istanbul, Hidayet

as collective prayers, missionary “crusades,” processions, or purely symbolic occupations

Tuksal describes how since, in contrast to men, their clothing makes them visibly religious

of space, which religious communities orchestrate in the form of a technology of power in

combining their faith and everyday life. Asonzeh Ukah’s description of the virtually totali-

invisibility play an important role here as when, for instance, Hezbollah, in Beirut, osten-

urban space. As the artistic contribution by Paola Yacoub shows, questions of visibility and tarian code of conduct for all the residents of Redemption City in Lagos highlights in par-

sively enacted the power of God and his representatives on earth during an overpoweringly

ticular just how strongly the religious regulation of bodily practices extends into all areas of

and passionately staged funeral procession. This, in turn, is complemented by a process of

everyday culture (alcohol, smoking, bars, dancing, music, sex, etc.).

making those elements invisible which contradict its claims to religious-political purity and

The collective self-organization of created or transformed assemblages of religious perfor-

perfection. In Yacoub’s words “Both ostentation and occultation contribute simultaneously

mance in urban space, however, reveals how unstable, dynamic, and contingent the de-

to how religious leaders have a major responsibility for dead bodies.”

velopment of religious body practices are in the city. This includes such hybrids as the Pentecostal “crusade,” carnival, or the drug-gang funk party in Rio de Janeiro (Martijn

ration in the northern Nigerian city of Jos, which has repeatedly suffered from religious -

Oosterbaan), ritual prayers in the Santa Muerte cult in Mexico (Anne Huffschmid), the burial rituals in Kinshasa taken over by adolescents (Filip De Boeck), or young people in Mumbai transforming the Ganesh Chuturthi festival into techno-style rave parties (George

churches and mosques, are capable, as non-human actors in Latour’s sense, of drawing

Jose). Potentialities appear in such urban-religious configurations for quite different

attention to religious messages and creating emotions capable of fomenting religious con-

(social, cultural, spiritual) urban worlds than those envisaged in religious governance programs. They show particularly clearly how, in their mutual interactions with the believers’

with a deliberate strategy of disattention. Through this opposing technology of the self,


they seek to distract themselves from an urban space which, through sound, has been ex-

grams inevitably fail as an entirety (as do all such programs), and the relationship between governing the self and the other has to be constantly realigned. At the same time, in their (STREET) POLITICS RECLAIMING THE (RELIGIOUS) RIGHT TO THE CITY

Following the two Global

society. For example, Pentecostalism’s de facto patterns of government in Rio de Janeiro’s

Prayers contributions just mentioned, I would like to now take the case studies as a start-


ing point to consider connections to the relations between the political and the religious

favela’s his-

torically developed character as a particular urban space. The favela’s self-made urbanism -


mality in the sense of self-organized regulations and precarity, as well as an individual and collective creativity as the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary” (Bayat 2004; Lanz 2012).

by the latter. Similarly, Nezar AlSayyad (2010) primarily associates radical-religious urban

This also highlights how the connection between poverty and the rise of urban religions,

groups with reactionary positions, connecting their rise to the possible establishment of

dubbed by Asef Bayat (2007) in the context of Islam as the “myth of the Islamic poor,” is

a “fundamentalist city,” “where certain categories of people or the religious other are ren-

far from being as causal and one-dimensional as urban theory has so often assumed (cf.


Davis 2004). Although Global Prayers’ studies indicate that the urban poor often regard

ical religious groups could constitute as powerful actors, AlSayyad and Massoumi (2010)

religion as a means of enhancing their control over their own circumstances (see, for

point to a multiplicity of mutually interwoven processes, as do a number of the authors of



research projects conducted for Global Prayers (for example, Danusiri, Jose, Bou Akar,

munity (on this notion see, for example, Marcuse 2009, Harvey 2008). Their success was

Rustom, Yacoub, Schäfer, and Huffschmid). These processes include power and exploit-

based on a political activism addressing those social issues that were existentially import-

ative structures from colonialism, ethno-nationalist projects, institutionalized forms of

ant for the Shiites migrating from rural southern Lebanon to Beirut. This urban-religious

marginalization, the arrogance of secular or traditional religious elites, and modernizing processes that break up social structures. AlSayyad and Massoumi rightly note that radical

community formation with an associated political practice and, interacting with this, the

political-religious groups can successfully establish themselves in cities by reacting to such

material, social, and symbolic production of urban space, and it resulted not least in the

societal constellations with transcendentally based practices capable of endowing meaning,

creation of completely new types of religious spaces and rituals. -

Justin Beaumont and Christopher Baker’s (2011a, 2011b) concept of the postsecular city


offers a quite different interwovenness in contemporary cities in contrast to the repressive

gion and politics intersect on the urban level. Danusiri’s research clearly shows how urban

religious-political forms of interactions described above. However, the one-sided emphasis on the positive effects of the religious urban presence makes this ultimately normative

ment processes detrimental to their interests, and in this process invent new saints and

concept, which interprets the city transformed by postsecularism as a laboratory of educational and ethical change, appear to be almost naively optimistic. Certainly, the asser-

rituals (such as the aspired sacralizing of space, veneration of saints, or hope of a miracle)

tion that integrating religious groups in urban governance does not automatically lead to conservative political change, but also facilitates the formation of overarching coalitions of Global

tives of secular actors in a spatial practice, forcing urban development processes to become the subject of a public negotiation.

Prayers project (e.g., Schiffauer in this volume; Teschner 2011). Nonetheless, the Global

George Jose’s research in Mumbai also considered the new way in which political and reli-

Prayers research into the urban-religious way of doing things through actor-centered ap-

gious claims and practices in urban space are interwoven, in this case in the transformation of the Hindu Chhath festival from a ritual celebrated privately into a mega-event on

than these two opposing concepts of, on the one hand, a fundamentalist city viewed as re-

the glamorous Juhu Beach, resembling a scene from a Bollywood movie. Through this

pressive and marginalizing and, on the other, a postsecular city interpreted as a laboratory

religious-political event, representatives of the marginalized Bhojpuri migrants confront

of ethical change.

ideological opponents such as the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena. This transformation of

Such ambivalent interlacings are already evident in the two religious-political movements

a religious ritual into an event reinvents religious tradition and fuses it with a political

modern urban interlinking between the religious and the political in the 1970s. These two


movements were political Islam which, as Hengameh Golestan and Sandra Schäfer note,

Paradigmatically, these Global Players studies show the lack of evidence to support ei-

emerged as the ruling form in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, and a Catholic liberation

ther the view that religious (fundamentalist) movements are simply replacing secular

mobilization which asserts and defends the right to the city for the individual ethnic

(emancipatory) ones, or that the former’s political involvement can be reduced to reaca multiplicity of grassroots communities in poor districts across Latin America (cf. Anne

tionary (religious) positions or to a positive ethical change in the cities. Instead, one can

Huffschmid in this volume). Though these movements have fundamental differences as,

identify, often in the sense of Asef Bayat’s “street politics,” multi-faceted intersecting

for instance, in their political and ideological proximity to the poor which was more instru-

forms of politics and religion in all nuances of ideology and agency. At times, religious

mental in political Islam and, rather, an end in itself in liberation theology (Bayat 2007),

and political mobilization fuse, while in other cases religion is instrumentalized as a ve-

they also share important features, for example, in terms of their anti-colonial stance or

hicle for political protest, and vice versa. Such an instrumentalization may also occur to

Marxist roots.

push through the classical demands of emancipatory movements, such as social rights.

If one examines interwovenness between the political forms of religion in urban daily life

When discriminated migrant workers self-organize (in this case, the Bhojpuri in Mumbai

less on the basis of strategic programs and technologies of power and more through the

or Shiites in Beirut), there is a successive sacralization of areas of political struggle or so-

everyday forms and the concrete spatial and cultural practices by which they become manifest in the city, the result is a picture of ambivalences and contradictions—as is evident from the three following examples. For instance, Joseph Rustom’s research looked at three

sacral are renegotiated, creating novel hybrid structures. As Roberto Orsi (1999b: 53) right-

Sheikh generations to explore the rise of the Shiites in Beirut from a marginalized minority

ly notes: “There is nothing necessarily liberating about the alternative worlds constituted

to a powerful religious-political group utilizing Beirut’s particular political and social char40

make some experiences possible, encourage and satisfy some desires and aspirations, while 41

disallowing others.” Hence, interactions between the political sphere and the new urban

gious.” Werner Schiffauer’s research into multi-religious encounters and forms of involve-

religions always contain at least the potential of opening the city, as AbdouMaliq Simone

ment in local politics, shows, not least, that such a selectively understood secularity is also

expressed it, for the miraculous which can enable new urban worlds to appear beyond the

no longer viable. Such traditional borders are destabilized in the rearguard actions of “mil-

real urban landscape. As the Global Prayers research shows, there presently appears to be in the cities, on the NEW ZONES OF SECULAR-SACRAL OVERLAPPING IN URBAN SPACE

It remains to note, in conclu-

most diverse levels, a complete and continuous renegotiation of traditional borders—even

sion, that the Global Prayers research generally indicates the impossibility of limiting the

if “only” discursively established—between the secular and sacral, religion, politics, the

urban religious dynamic anywhere in the world to just the poor populations, or to migrant

economy, and culture, and all their manifestations and forms of materialization in urban

religions in the diaspora with their niches and battles over diverging assertions. Instead,

space. As a result of ongoing social practices and negotiation processes, these borders are

this religious dynamic can be found on all levels of the permanent production of the urban,

shifting, producing novel hybrid structures, new fragmented and fractal borders, and inno-

and thus needs to be correspondingly integrated into urban theory. All the urban-religious ping and interwovenness between religious forms of producing urban spaces, forms of the

least this should be the aim of urban theory, as closely as possible in all their complexity.

religious transformation of everyday urban life, the location of transregional religious connections and the governmentality of urban religious communities, which all emerge from


urban-religious practices of worlding. As has become clear, the religious expands into all other (supposedly secular) areas in the permanent production of the urban in such a way 21). Such a view is also supported by Adrian Ivakhiv (2006: 173), who regards religion as ographies. At the same time, though, the urban practices of religious actors cannot be reduced to political claims or economic or social activities, even if they intimately connect “religion” to such claims or activities (on this point, see Schiffauer). Despite saints being invented during the political struggle over an urban development project (in Jakarta, see Danusiri), or church communities representing centers of economic enterprises (in Istanbul, see Heck), or Redemption City representing a capitalist form of urban planning (in Lagos, see Ukah), these life and spiritual experience. In many cases, such practices temporarily or permanently transform spatial structures into sacred places: miracles are attributed to new “Saints” and new pilgrimage sites established; religious services and forms of community in the diaspora are experienced as religious communitas; and Redemption City facilitates a unique religious mass experience, and a lifestyle informed by religious norms. By focusing on the “way of doing things” from an actor and everyday perspective and the Global Prayers elaborate how new types of overlapping structures are formed between the secular and sacral in relation to the urban. Both the secular and sacral were always interwoven in a multiplicity of ways in urban life, especially in non-Western societies, and can hardly be divided conceptually. Although Western modernity has ascribed strictly and abstractly drawn borders to the religious (see Asad 2003), the Christian churches have always played an important role in urban social organization (through, for example, their religious charity associations) even in a city such as Berlin as the supposed “world capital of atheism” (Berger 2001), a point that often remains unheeded in debates over the “return of the reli42


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“Architecture in this landscape becomes a symbol in space rather than a form in space” (Venturi et al. 1972).

As part of the infrastructural modernization

the series of camps and congress halls, with

of Nigeria, the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway

capacity for masses of people, along the

was constructed between 1976 and 1979. It

highway entail multiple meanings. In leav-

starts at the municipal border of Lagos and,

ing behind the city these sites offer a symbol

by crossing the federal state of Ogun, it has

of hope and prosperity to the middle classes,

strategically connected the political capital

but mainly, they provide respite to the low-

(until 1991) and commercial center of the

er class population who suffer from living

country with Ibadan, Nigeria’s second most

under informal and precarious conditions

important city. The expressway has been

in Lagos. In addition, these camps serve a

the key for the transportation of agricultur-

social and political imagination, which ac-

al and industrial products and resources.

cuses the city of being dark, godless, and

Since its independence in 1960, and its for-

dystopian, and see Lagos as an outcome of

mation as a nation-state in 1963, Nigeria’s

the failures of modernization and decoloni-

wealth has been based largely on oil re-


sources. The nation’s oil revenues increased

These emergent “Cities of God” along the

during the oil crises in 1973 and 1979, but

Lagos–Ibadan Expressway became the

Nigeria faced a severe economic crisis in the

main focus in our research on the represen-

mid-1980s, which has affected the country

tation of architectures, buildings, and spac-

and the city of Lagos until the present.

es produced by new religious movements

Since the mid-1980s, the presence of Pen-

in Lagos. In our series of works, “All Will

tecostal churches on the interstate highway

Be Well: Religion Industries” (2012) we

has also increased, through property acqui-

looked at a complex mix of Fordistic and

sition. Today, the road is home to mainly

post-Fordistic modalities in the production,

Pentecostal prayer camps, a few Evangelical

distribution, and consumption of religious

Christian Churches and one Islamic camp.

goods and spaces, and how their growing

The compounds of housing developments,

social-political, cultural, and economic im-

banking institutions, and private universi-

portance affects the city and its inhabitants.

ties, and prayer camps—most prominent-

In “Lagos Strip” we approach visibility,

ly the Redeemed Christian Church of God

image-ability, and the symbolic and formal

(RCCG) forty-two kilometers outside La-

aspects of prayer camps.

gos 1 —are representative of the growth of

Driving along the expressway and passing by

the economic and social importance of the

these strangely familiar popular religious-

new Evangelical churches. Even though the

based architectures with their symbolic or-

location of “sacred spaces” in rural areas is

der of signs, billboards, and gates, we were

common to Nigerian indigenous religions,

reminded of an earlier debate on the rela-

1 See Asonzeh Ukah’s contribution in this volume.

carried out in the 1960s and ’70s.

tionship between image and architecture



In his recently published book, The Art-

at distance from the car, and the drawings

Architecture Complex (2011), Hal Foster

of the architectural elements of entrances and gates of “Lagos Strip,” articulate the debate of failed modernization and postmod-

shift from modernism to postmodernism, through the oppositional approaches of Venturi et al. (op. cit.) and Reyner Banham. In Theory and Design in the First Machine

a religion-based industry.

Age (1960), Banham advocates a radical up-

The studies of entrances and gates in “Lagos

dating of modernist design and form-giving

Strip” express both the multiple choices and the offers of religious organizations, and

“image-ability” of the Second Machine Age.

obviously indicate the way the churches or-

In contrast, Foster quotes Learning from

ganize the sequences of buildings and sites

Las Vegas, in which Venturi et al. criticize

alongside the Strip—where these camps

modernist architecture for its disconnec-

compete for recognition. As a montage,

tion both from society and history through

“Lagos Strip” 2 proposes further engagement

its commitment to an abstract modernity.

with the questions of what is “behind” these

Therefore, they could argue, the modern

symbols and architectural forms, and what “future” they promise.

paradigm of the “duck,” in which the form expresses function sculpturally, must cede to the postmodern model of the “decorated shed.” In their understanding, this meant a building that has a rhetorical facade and a conventional body, and where space and structure are directly at the service of the program, and ornament is applied independently of them. Foster is ultimately skeptical about the postmodern shift in architecture, which he

BANHAM, REYNER, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. London, 1960. BITTER, SABINE, AND HELMUT WEBER, “All Will be Well: Religion Industries,” in Faith is the Place: the Urban Cultures of Global Prayers, ed. metroZones, metroZones 11. Berlin, 2012, pp. 94–105. FOSTER, HAL, The Art-Architecture Complex. London, 2011. UKAH, ASONZEH, “Redeeming Urban Spaces: The Ambivalence of Building a Pentecostal City in Lagos, Nigeria,” in Global Prayers Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City, ed. Jochen Becker et al. Berlin, 2013. VENTURI, ROBERT, DENISE SCOTT BROWN, AND STEVEN IZENOUR,

perceives as always contextual, alluding to

Learning from Las Vegas. Cambridge, MA, 1972, p. 13.

the civic and the commercial into a socially inclusive symbolism of the “everyday.” He doubts that these social inscriptions in architecture have ever been a form of the democratization of built space, but instead have just remained a mere projection of the desire for this democratization. These queries are useful to consider the “Lagos Strip” and its mix of symbols, signs, architectures, and images that evolve out of competing religious, commercial, and social 2

interests, driven by the popularization of

as a video-loop at Global Prayers: Redemption and Liberation in the City, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, in 2012.

religion. The montage of photographs taken 138





Deconstructing the Fundamentalist City?



Religiously Urban and Faith in the City:


Movements of the and Southeast Asia -

barrios bidonvilles and kampungs—




















ligations and turn themselves into enterprising individuals in order to have a shot at the
























Comparative Studies


in Society and History



Visual Essays 2



Speaking in Tongues: Crowds, Assistants, and Miracles AERNOUT MIK









Popular Cultures of Conversion



On “Speaking in Tongues”: Experiences of Researching Religious Practices

In the context of Global Prayers, Dutch artist Aernout Mik is developing a multi-screen video installation exploring manifestations of current transnational religious movements (with focus on Pentecostalism) that promise liberation and prosperity to the individual, while at the same time operating as corporate companies that structure social and urban life. In preparation for this project, entitled “Speaking in Tongues” (cf. the visual essay in this volume), Aernout Mik and the cultural anthropologist and Global Prayers-Fellow Martijn Oosterbaan (cf. his contribution to this volume) met up with Jochen Becker in Amsterdam. On their agenda were research strategies and the search for apt ways to insight into his production process.

JOCHEN BECKER: Maybe we could start with Aernout’s reaction to the Global Prayers pro-

posal. We showed you piles of photos as well as books and videos. And we talked quite extensively about what we had observed. I think we share interests in those kinds of observations, contradictions, or the blurriness of things. AERNOUT MIK: Can you remember why you guys asked me? I’m not the obvious artistic re-

searcher. JOCHEN BECKER: We liked the skipping between the one and the other within your works.

within a situation. What actually caught my interest was your installation at the Venice Biennale 2007. Where, on the one side, you re-enacted asylum conditions, and where there were related videos, artistic productions, but also found-footage videos. Plus a clever catalogue Citizens and Subjects, where the National Pavilion of The Netherlands positioned what social-political sphere, but on the other side, having a lot of reference, artistically, to found-footage approach and those kinds of quite ordinary situations, which are obviously staged: people don’t behave naturally, so to speak. AERNOUT MIK: My interest in joining the Global Prayers project was indeed the sense of

blurriness I felt about the whole subject, I mean the range of it—the global range—all the footage that I saw from the start. I approached the project not so much from the angle: I’m going on a location to do in-depth social-anthropological research there, but took a more distanced approach; where do these places, happenings, and spaces open up to? What kind of things do they share with completely different spaces, geographically, but also as a whole conceptual structure? That was really the starting point to investigate in all the visual material you showed me, but, of course, I also collected a lot of extra material, where these connections became visible. The connections appear to be visible between different places; for instance, the links between Nigeria and Rio. But also that the spaces were connecting with completely different spaces as well, that they were all, in a way, blurry situations: that they are on the crossroads of different worlds, that there is a strange way of adaptation to


a very wide range of references, which are used either in a traditional religious sense, in a business sense, or in a media sense, or in the sense of a spectacle. That’s why it’s also hard 465

to talk about it from one perspective only, because that’s—enormous crossroads of different things that happen at the same time. JOCHEN BECKER: And this is what broadened our perspective of the global approach. We’d

tried to point out the global of Global Prayers. AERNOUT MIK: I was cutting it back a little bit, because it was too much to handle actually—it

went beyond my range and size very quickly. So that’s why I also limited it to Pentecostalism in the end; why I focussed it more and more on Rio, because actually Rio in itself is so ... global. It sits on a crossroads of different things that spread out in a global way, already, by itself. JOCHEN BECKER: So the one thing is the global aspect which we could talk about, but the

other thing is the corporate, the business, or the media and event perspective, which we also observed, and which might be the prayer/player thing in the title of our project. In a way, you interpreted both sides of our given title, and maybe you could speak about this kind of entrepreneurial or event/business/media situation that you observed. And which is obviously different to the traditional church service. MEDIA AERNOUT MIK:

way that the Catholic churches are located in the city—it’s a gigantic difference. In every area you see maybe one large Catholic church and then you have hundreds of these different kinds of entrepreneurial Pentecostal churches in all different versions and sizes. So

Shooting “Speaking in Tongues” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, July 2013 (pp. 467–75)

it’s completely intertwined with the urban structure at its most foundational level. It starts really small—you can see this corporate change in the little shops—and then in other places,

towards the spiritual and religious happening. This is completely speculative but working

bigger versions of the little shops, until you get the very large shop. That’s completely, ur-

from two sides towards each other and maybe, partly, in parallel to each other. They probably

banistically speaking, a totally different way and very much like an entrepreneurial struc-

can’t meet really, but I wanted to see what happens; if they operate in relation to each other.

ture. So everyone is kind of inventing himself or herself there.

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: We should talk about in what kind of environment that expectation

I’ve also seen these very simple churches, such as one where this young girl was healing people and the father-pastor was extremely happy that I was there. He offered me this

trip to Rio, and in 2002 I began to live in this favela on the south side of the city, which

[crown of thorns] in the service. Of course, I was scared he would put it on my head. I felt

is surrounded by the wealth of Ipanema and Copacabana. Entering with camera in hand

that the church was in a state of decline, I was coming from outside, and from an entrepre-

made my movement in the churches much easier. The idea that I was taking pictures and

neurial point of view I was the savior. When he knew we were coming and understood it

documenting visually what was happening in the churches was very helpful. There was this enormous motivation of the people themselves: “Come, take pictures.” Being interested in

he made a photomontage of his daughter in front of the Berlin Film festival. For him, the

the representation by these churches, my initial question was how can these Pentecostal

church is like a small business that he must grow and sustain.

churches position themselves in the media age? How do they use media and, of course,

The whole event, even the service itself, of course, is a mixture between something that has

how do they get the funding? Where do they get the resources to be able to use that whole

to do more with entertainment and with television up to a kind of a corporate motivational training—there is this crossover between a mediatized event and a corporate organization,

It seems that in a way these churches, and also the smallest entrepreneurs, are already

a management-like structure and a corporate motivational event. It is an event where there

thinking about the audience/consumers of their products—in a very late modern, one

is a sense or suggestion of collectivity but, in the end, it’s actually mostly based on individ-

might even say post-modern way—so they also see all these kinds of possibilities. You only

ual futures, individual prospects, and individual prosperity. And there you have this very

need a crazy guy from Amsterdam whom you perceive is going to be the key to the start of

one-to-one fusion of the material and the spiritual worlds, which in my opinion, you can

your world campaign. And there are these founding myths of the big pastors who also allow

also see in the corporate world itself as the leading thread.

these dreams: let’s say, Edir Macedo of the Universal Church.

I start in my staged part of the project from the other side, approaching the situation from the

AERNOUT MIK: I am in contact with him now actually. It took me half a year to do that, but

viewpoint of a strictly corporate kind of event, and then try to transform this situation more

now we have direct e-mail contact (which turns out to be a dead end actually right now).




back to the entrepreneurial grassroots. But on the other hand, a service with 5,000 people

JOCHEN BECKER: Maybe Aernout needs someone to handle the microphone?

really demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is present and that God has blessed your church.

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: That really would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

AERNOUT MIK: The power of God.

AERNOUT MIK: It has nothing to do with the church only as an institution—it’s all around

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: It is the repetition of bodies, in a way: the more bodies, the more

Macedo’s personality all the time. You see posters of pastors that have a clear celebrity

potent the sign that the Holy Spirit is really present. There is a kind of scale.

structure. The church is very professionally organized, but you see it also in other church-

AERNOUT MIK: But that is a growth model and so, in a sense, it is also a corporate model.

es that are half the way to becoming bigger, that have media coverage already included. I

You start as the small entrepreneur and end up as the big global company. JOCHEN BECKER: To whom does the size speak—to the inside and/or outside? MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: There has been some good statistical work on who the audiences of

are wearing identical long dresses; their bodies are kind of wiped out; they look like nuns.

the Pentecostal churches actually are. The Assembléia de Deus, the Assemblies of God, and

Although the space is not very big, it has live, sweeping cameras which make the space look

the Universal Church draw the same public, so to speak. In Rio, one speaks of classes A to

much bigger than it actually is. Screens around the place broadcast what is taking place.

E, class E is the lowest. The two churches draw people from this class but the Universal

It’s very well edited on the spot. So people are in this service but they have a media awareness of their own presence simultaneously, which is extremely fascinating. Especially in

AERNOUT MIK: Because wealth is related to that church very strongly.

these transitions between the smaller church and the mega-church, you can see the emer-

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Going back to your earlier question, most of these Assemblies of

God churches are located in favelas, they are smaller, and they have more of this idea of JOCHEN BECKER: Is it an extension of the given space? It might be that you always feel different

solidarity among the members. If you want to look for the kind of leftovers of liberation

AERNOUT MIK: The most powerful thing about the church is that it embraces contemporary

secret of their success, because it is actually not one church—you could say it is a franchise?

society, it embraces the desire for money and the desire to be present in and through the media and to the whole world of celebrity. The whole structure of our new liberal society is

convention, but you have a lot of liberty if you get an audience and you are successful. AERNOUT MIK: I’m sure the Universal Church is differently organized.

world that is created.

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Indeed. It’s fascinating that they draw on the same people but do it

in different ways. According to all the people who have written about Universal, you can COMMUNITAS JOCHEN BECKER: Is it a self-empowerment of those who otherwise are not seen?

idea that you develop a strong community feeling with the people present, because you can

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: I would be hesitant to go straight to a kind of empowerment. The

go on your way from work, you stop at a certain location and you enter, and it’s the same kind of service that you can follow when you are close to your own neighborhood church. -


in their newspapers. You would see the same kinds of pictures all around the world. But

porary way of living in the city. JOCHEN BECKER: And the corporate culture too, because it obviously tests that brand or

as personal, or at least that’s not the only element to it. The idea of you, one, as one of the

identity, which is very eclectic, but somehow keeps it together. Would you say that the

millions of followers is extremely important as an image also.

churches have identities like corporate identities?

AERNOUT MIK: To me, this whole relation between what is the collective and what is the indi-

AERNOUT MIK: The Universal Church is very strong, of course, also with its symbol and the

vidual experience, and what is the individual or the collective message, is unclear. In a way

way the buildings are so clean-looking.

it’s not community oriented; although it is very collectively organized, there’s some kind of strange paradox there, because it doesn’t speak—the event itself has a community feeling


and the community experience, but outside of that, it’s more akin to something that helps

JOCHEN BECKER: Is it an urban phenomenon? Or have you observed it in a more rural sit-

you in leading your life and striving for the success of your family and career. But, at the


same time, in the service itself and the media coverage of it, there is an extremely strong

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: I think your question is very pertinent, but the fascinating thing is

collective experience.

that, originally, the Assemblies of God came from the north of Brazil. It was structured

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: I often heard the saying “Whenever there are two or three people

around a rural model, both in its organizational structure and its political organization. So

praying the Holy Spirit will be present.” Even the three of us, we are enough, and this goes 468


other, saying, “This church really is beyond Christianity.” Universal has always been criticized by many people. AERNOUT MIK: But also because they’re so strong, of course. MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: And it hasn’t stopped them from inventing, at least, the whole range

of fascinating rituals that are completely new, which incorporate all these Afro-Brazilian symbols. AERNOUT MIK: These bigger churches, especially, are very experienced; they are hesitant

about any kind of media interference from outside. So they are open in a way to what they adopt within their own system, but outside, they’re very much closed. I’ve been kicked out of churches and stopped although we had permission; I have been asked to stop while the money is being collected. So there are a lot of tensions going on with the rest of society, there, obviously. There are a lot of accusations, not just from other churches, but also from journalists all kinds of signals. There is this idea of a marginalized urban population, which grew, even

about the role of money in the Church. So that’s the contradiction with the openness of the

under the military dictatorship there, and masses of people came to the city. But it’s still

system and, in a way, Universal is the strongest in that rigidity towards the outside. MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: There are different political agendas, but still, the idea is that Brazil

AERNOUT MIK: Is it not that the nature of the church has changed simultaneously with

is a secular state and there are clear forces that want to maintain boundaries between what

changes in society? If you think about the speed of growth of the new churches and the

is religious and what is commerce.

way the Catholic Church has been declining in parallel. That does have to do with the way

AERNOUT MIK: A lot of these pastors are gaining political power now; they are running for

society is developing economically, the current precariousness of the labor market, and the world. There is this very controversial Pastor Marco Feliciano who has just been elected as president of the human rights commission in Rio. He is extremely homophobic and also

current society than any other church. MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: So perhaps even our old dichotomies of thinking about the city and

the rural—

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: At a certain point we are confronted with the fact that there are nor-

AERNOUT MIK: —that might also explain the kind of limitations of this case study in Rio,

mative borders where we think religion begins and politics ends, or the other way around.

because it could also be a smaller city or bigger village somewhere else, I don’t think it’s

But what we actually see is that religion, politics, and commerce are strongly connected.

fundamentally different.



outside, because we are not outside of it. I want to get towards this intrinsic combination

JOCHEN BECKER: What’s at the core of it compared to the traditional Catholic Church?

between the two.

to make a study of religion as something outside of us; as something we observe from

These kinds of enterprises are very fast, can be very eclectic and pragmatic, so how do they control their inner rules, what is the constitution of it? Is it the Bible?


AERNOUT MIK: In all those things I’ve seen, the Bible doesn’t play such a big role. If they use



it, it’s often in the form of a small quotation and a lot of the talk goes on about other things,

tion of politics: obviously religion can be a moral system, which more or less is powerless


beyond its own space. Or it is extended, as we see especially in the more militant Islamic

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: For the Universal Church the Bible is more a book to quote from.

situations or other very dominant religious systems, where it rules the whole city or even

What’s fascinating is, going back to these different churches in historical moments, that

the whole state. In Nigeria, the Pentecostal Church takes over society as a political-moral

AERNOUT MIK: You mean within the church or between the churches?

quite out of control. You described the nun-like bodiless look.

power. And on the other side, for example in Rio where body-culture is exposed, it seems MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Between the churches. I’m not a historian, but it seems that it

AERNOUT MIK: That church was quite an exception, because, generally, the churches are

would be incredibly interesting to compare the European schisms and the many bran-

not so strict on women in terms of clothing. There’s this whole thing of paying tribute/

ches of Protestantism in Europe with contemporary Brazil. In Holland, all these events

respect to God: men often wear suits, but there are also people in very casual dress and

were always about ruptures and then balancing the equilibrium between different voices.

with naked arms. It’s mostly worldly and connects to a contemporary condition of society,

That could help when thinking about how churches in Brazil are constantly accusing each

so it’s not an outside system that is imposed on the existing system.



MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: The classical Pentecostals were very rigid about bodily behavior, but

I would hesitate to suggest that I would know where the staging begins or ends.

also about dress. And even when looking at Pastor Marcos Pereira for instance—

AERNOUT MIK: I didn’t ask if you knew where the staging began and stopped because I don’t

AERNOUT MIK: They walk like royalty, they’re very proud.

think you can locate it like that, but I do think that the intrinsic element of it is one of


staged-ness, the sense of performance in there. It varies a bit between the various churches.

rigid body culture,” actually, I see performance more than I see discipline.

For instance, at some Assemblies of God, they were dancing in trance excessively. It’s com-

AERNOUT MIK: There very much is a performative side to all of it.

ing strongly from the physical movements and not so much from a staged group-spectacle.

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: One should observe how they are affecting legislation for instance.

Like I imagine it is in Universal, where it seems to be more like a set, a public event to wit-

There are signs that they are siding with more conservative groups, but there are also Pen-

ness. But, in both, I think some of the staged-ness allows it to happen, maybe that’s more

tecostal movements that are siding with more liberal social movements. AERNOUT MIK: The Catholic Church is probably stricter on homosexuality then many

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: I approached it from the idea that maybe we can look at Brazilian so-


ciety to think about what staging means. There is also a history of political staging. For in-

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Actually there are Pentecostal pastors who are much more pro-

stance, when I spoke to my former tutor of Brazilian studies here in Amsterdam, constantly

abortion than some other religious leaders.

he would tell me that the staging of power, the visual staging, really reminds him of Brazil


least he gave me an indication that there is a tradition of staging. Certain things are the way

AERNOUT MIK: How do you see the relation between Pentecostalism and neoliberalism? MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN:

AERNOUT MIK: You see two kinds of histories there, one is of course the history of political

AERNOUT MIK: If you believe, you will be prosperous.

staging, but then the other is the relation to television shows. I think that’s partly local,

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: There is a kind of old Weberian Protestant ethic: that one must work

partly not at all local, because that’s taking place globally. For instance, the emergence of

hard, quit drinking, avoid drugs, resist committing adultery etc., which provides a self-

reality shows where ordinary people on the stage are being put in extraordinary emotional situations—there is a very strong crossover, in my view, with the staged testimonies and

my television ...,” and so on. There are all these material proofs of the fruits of the conver-

“wonders” of the Pentecostal churches.

sion. This idea that one can make it, of course, is the only thing that is reproduced in all the

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: It doesn’t really matter if you watch television shows of the Uni-

videos. The Universal Church has made a whole economy out of it.

versal Church, Oprah Winfrey, or Dr. Phil. In all the shows you see people sitting, saying

AERNOUT MIK: Connected with the miracle as such? We didn’t really touch on the supernat-

things such as, “Now this is what happened in my life and it was really, like, misery ...,” and

ural, the “wonder,” which is actually part of the entertainment also. I think it’s also con-

also in terms of the visual imagery; in all the shows they use, like, black-and-white and

nected with the promise of prosperity.

greyish tones when they narrate the “before.”

JOCHEN BECKER: Is it entertainment in the sense that people know it is a fake and they con-

AERNOUT MIK: Yeah, the color is off.

sume the fake?

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: So there are all these kinds of visual techniques.

AERNOUT MIK: I don’t think the feeling is a fake; it’s staged but not a fake.

AERNOUT MIK: But I also think of the structure where they stage games with people who are

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: That remains the great enigma of this phenomenon. Even for peo-

brought into extreme and emotional situations, and in going through that, they experience

ple participating in it. One must understand that there is a very strong tradition of spirit-

some kind of transformational moment, but done in a more physical way.

possession, which the Pentecostals did not invent, and which is about allowing other forces,

JOCHEN BECKER: Is this a post-modern “we know, but we go with it anyway” situation? So is

extra-subjective forces, to take over. Perhaps we are not so well equipped to understand

it a ritual which structures my life, which structures the show, which structures something

what this process is. By mimesis or by performance you learn that there are other forces

which I go with to a certain point? Let’s compare it with a traditional Catholic Church ser-

that can take over and you are but one individual.

vice where you drink and eat the body of Jesus Christ. As a kid I had no big doubts about it.

AERNOUT MIK: But if I say it’s also staged, how would you reply to that?

But after a long while of not attending the church I went to a service and thought it’s canni-

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: I read this really nice article about people who asked this par-

balistic, it’s hedonic. It is very “indigenous.”

ticular question too, but in an Afro-Brazilian religious context. The central notion in

AERNOUT MIK: You started with the word “blurry.” And that is the blurry area.

context is that one should dance until the spirits take possession of you. And the partic-

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Even when I’d known people for a long time they still would see me

ipants would say things like, “Yeah, I really can’t remember what happened,” but when

as the non-believer, so there would always be a sense of keeping the secret.

asked a little bit more they would say things such as, “Yeah, of course, I do remem-

AERNOUT MIK: At least being in the middle of it, physically, I did not feel an outsider. The

ber,” and so there is a kind of remembering and forgetting going on at the same time.

whole physicality of it, the feeling of crossing a border and going back and forwards in



a kind of acceptance was very easy, even stronger in Africa: in Nigeria, religion was completely a thing you pick up and let go. In Rio I experienced a strong difference between the believers, the pastors, and the helpers, let’s say the assistants. The emotions of the attendees were extremely intense and the crossing of the border was taking place, but the people it, and I didn’t feel the same kind of intensities from them at all. They were from a totally different league. They are the in-between people. They’re put in a suit, do the money thing, and they help if people fall over. MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: If you study Afro-Brazilian religion in Brazil then it is generally ac-

cepted when you belong to that, somehow, when you believe in it. Speaking of believing is already not really the issue. But if you were an anthropologist in Brazil who “converts” to a Pentecostal church, people would approach you differently. It took a long time until I started to think about how we construct these boundaries. Somehow there is a sense that if you

AERNOUT MIK: There is a lot of waiting and listening before and after—and then, suddenly,

really cross that border “they” have caught you, or that you are one of the dupes who could

it’s there and then it’s over also.

not tell the difference anymore. I like it very much that you say you could feel part of it.

JOCHEN BECKER: It is so controlled in a way. And on the other hand, you have the feeling

AERNOUT MIK: It depends on the place, some of them are completely offensive, actually, and

that people are, in a way, ecstatic.

others the opposite. Most of what I’m doing is trying to attach to these mimetic impulses

AERNOUT MIK: Basically it’s the same in Rio: if you look back from a distance you see it’s very

that go through a space. That’s the entry point of how I look at it or how I try to be in it.

clearly structured. There is always a mixture of clear organization, a very rational structure

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: In the beginning, I played drums during church services. I started

almost, and this intoxication, excess, and ecstasy going on which suddenly leaves again.

my research in this very small Assemblies of God church, and by incidence or coincidence I could be part of the music. I was part of the atmosphere, of the collective production of the


presence of the Holy Spirit, and there it was very hard to say, yeah, what did I feel or how

JOCHEN BECKER: It’s a kind of frame where it is allowed to happen … now is the time, so to

did I feel. I’m not saying that I had, like, a religious experience, but—

speak, and it’s not so triggered, but you live with that, you know it, and then you go with

AERNOUT MIK: Not at all, but let’s say more a kind of acceptance about what happened

that. What I found interesting besides those very performative acts, when people lay down

around me? So if this strange border-crossing happens, okay I—for this moment, I don’t

and the assistants take off their shoes to help them recover, which is also quite interest-

know—I kind of understand it, you know? Maybe later not, but at this moment, yes I take it.

ing—not giving them water but taking off their shoes! What seems much more collective in

I don’t see it as an exotic thing anymore. To me this feeling was the strongest in Lagos: you

the one sense, and non-collective in the other, is the speaking in tongues, standing in one

had the notion that the people crossed the borders with enormous ease and naturalness in

place and talking to yourself: suddenly it is not a collective church service anymore, but you

whatever direction and back and forth.

have the feeling that it’s parallel. In the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) when

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Could you say a little bit about how, because I wasn’t in Lagos?

the Urban Cultures of Global Prayers exhibition, his


cameraman walked through the rows, you see people all by themselves and it’s not at all a

pick it up and they’ll drop it down, just like that. I sense it’s a different consciousness, not

collective church service where it re-gathers afterwards. You step out of the collectiveness

a fully different consciousness either, but you see that there is a border crossed—you have

of the church service, even if you are all together speaking in tongues. They form a group,

been in it also. It’s so collectively done, a very physical experience; they cross it, but a

but on the other side they are so individualized, they have their own performative ways.

moment later everything is just normal and ordinary and they just write things or chat. If

AERNOUT MIK: But it’s neither the one nor the other, and we are still a collective body, but

there was a line in the room somewhere where you can just easily be on top of the line, and

not in a communicative sense.

it’s not, like, now I’m crossing this gigantic border; it’s only very thin and diffuse, it’s thin-

JOCHEN BECKER: It’s not synchronized anymore. I saw a presentation of the ethnographer

ner than—in Rio it was more dramatic with the falling down.

Heike Behrend, who worked in Uganda on exorcism. Armin Linke who is a photographer

JOCHEN BECKER: At The Lord’s Chosen in Lagos, you have a pre-stage arena with sand. And

and video artist, followed her, and he said, “For me, I knew these situations very well be-

there are stands where the camera people are, so they can get it all from a higher viewpoint,

cause it was like earlier when I was a theatre photographer, I didn’t direct it, I just followed

as well as mobile cameras which follow the performance. And that means spinning or cry-

what was being directed.” And then he observed that, even when they speak in tongues,

ing and then there are people who try to control the mass of people so that they don’t get I’m also not only just performing it for you, I do it within myself.” It was a kind of agreement, 474


and that might also be Aernout’s position to it. So I would like to talk about your methods

AERNOUT MIK: No, excess is not something which wipes out borders completely and is going

and the ways of observing, describing, and presenting it or analyzing it.

beyond everything.

AERNOUT MIK: It was the same when we shot in Lagos. One had a feeling that these people

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Of course we can recognize there are certain kinds of routines, ritu-

are completely out of it and somewhere else with their consciousness. I didn’t experience

al forms, and structures. But then, how people relate to those themselves is very much an

it when I was there, but if I look at the footage closely I often see a sudden blink of an eye

open question.

noticing the camera. MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Michael Taussig wrote about this as the way we become part of the per-


formance, not that we are also in it. In general, the speaking in tongues has all the elements of

JOCHEN BECKER: Aernout, you have different methods and ways, which on the one hand

what we’ve been talking about now. I think it differs from one church to another as to how the

have descriptive moments, or what you call the “mimetic approach,” and on the other

spontaneity and framing are negotiated or how they are balanced. For instance, in most of the

hand, it is a certain kind of analytic gesture. The story of rubber gloves for the police makes

churches where I did research, they would not openly practice speaking in tongues.

it clearer: they use them to keep their distance from the asylum seeker, whom they only

AERNOUT MIK: In Rio it’s not that common.

touch through gloves. So when you have to re-enact things and not just document it, you

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: That actually would be part of the narrative, in that it is sponta-

have to think of every detail. And through looking for every detail you think about why they wear gloves, what do rubber gloves mean? That is an analytic approach within your work,

a certain point I suddenly …,” you know, “and I witnessed people who came to church for AERNOUT MIK: The method is always very clearly a double gesture. So it’s an immersing,

point, suddenly, they would allow the spirit to speak.” But, on the other hand, there are

where this mimetic moment is taking place, combined with a distancing simultaneously,

many churches where they just openly practice it, but then they would say it is a kind of

but it’s neither one nor the other. And I think part of the distancing comes from the fact

training, to make it easier for the real thing—

that I very often don’t use sound. Your eyes start to follow a completely different kind of

AERNOUT MIK: It’s a technique.

technique in order to read what you see. So although at one end you are addressed physi-


cally by the image, on the other hand, your eyes are reading an image very differently. So

a lot of space for one to claim that the spirit makes use of that technique, so there is an in-

this is a double movement of your senses. What is important is that I try to also de-localize things, especially if I’m working in a doc-

AERNOUT MIK: The delay.

umentary vein. Even if I stage something, there’s a moment of de-localization going on.


When I started working on this project I was interested in how these churches look from

questions: what kind of agency is there for people to control them when they want? And

the outside, how they are embedded in the environment, but when I kept on working I

there is really a contradiction, I guess, in saying, “Now I have decided to be taken over.” Of


course, we do that all the time in life, I guess. But I had different experiences—some people

ries to come to the fore. So that’s the non-sociological approach that I have, and also, when

talked of it in terms of being “in the game.”

I stage there are often situations that are close to something, but they are not really that

AERNOUT MIK: There was this place where a lot of people were healed, they were lying on the

I think, is also where this analytical moment is appearing. You have to have a very active -

approach to, let’s say, the activity of reading a situation instead of simply representing

ent state of consciousness.

something. And that is a means of distancing I use to evoke that approach from the viewer/

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: Trance, hypnosis—undeniable that there are techniques. I don’t

participant with the work. And that’s also why I try to create environments where you are

know how they do it; now, that would be very interesting. I was less interested in that ques-

in relation with the images that are there, there’s an overly sensorial moment where too

tion at the time because I thought more about how these things work in the public domain.

many sensations are going on, where you continuously have to choose. So again, it’s a mix-

AERNOUT MIK: What interests me, of course, is the relation of real experience and staged-

ture of being immersed and being outside of it.

ness: how this is intertwined and how one meets the other. What happens within these

JOCHEN BECKER: There are two ways: the re-enactment or restaging—

moments of crossing the border, where you still have some kind of doubt; not in the sense

AERNOUT MIK: Speculative staging, I would say, instead of re-enacting.

that I have to solve it, decide if it’s true or not, because that is not the case, but there is a

JOCHEN BECKER: And on the other hand, there might be a factual approach. Up to now you

doubt about how much the whole thing is in itself a performative gesture, and how much

only use found footage extensively, where the media represents itself. So what does that

that triggers a desire and sensation, and creates experience.

mean in terms of a combination of all these different approaches for your planned Global

MARTIJN OOSTERBAAN: We should not be fooled by the idea of spontaneity.

Prayers contribution?



AERNOUT MIK: It doesn’t feel as if there’s a fundamental difference, actually, at all. When I

and they’re very structural actually. And of course the relation to media, the recording of

used found footage it was mostly that I used raw, unedited footage and, in a way, I used

it, the feeding it back in the same space, the whole distancing inside the space itself. Then

the same technique on it that I use in the staged work, where I would try to create a sense

there’s the role of the pastor as a performer, as an executive trainer. I probably won’t use

of immersion as well as enlarging the categories or structures of it, by means of association and combining. In a way, now it’s happening with documentary material in the same way, especially because I focus only on the inside of the church and the service, which has no

of course, are things that I push forward. It’s in the editing always, a result also of a certain

beginning or end: I just use the matter of the service itself, cut-off from the people entering and leaving, and closing off, more as a vacuum; just as a sensation. So it has very much the

it, because there’s a certain emerging in it and a moving between different energy levels.

same structure as that which I’m investigating in any kind of staging. Staging, in the end, is

This has to happen in the edit itself.


JOCHEN BECKER: And you’re casting, within the German context, the quite well-known actors

pened in the performance; of course it’s also a real thing, it’s not a joke, it’s not acted, but

Lars Eidinger and Burkhart Klaußner. It would be quite interesting to think about that kind

partly it is acted. And in that sense, I don’t see the structure of this service as any different.

of leadership, which also goes into the corporate idea of the master of ceremonies, or entre-

JOCHEN BECKER: At an earlier stage of the Global Prayers project you decided to take a

preneurial exploitation as in Lagos. It needs a chief pastor who has the charismatic style, a

documentary path, because you were not sure at that time that you could work with your

person that is also very suggestive. This brings up the question of leadership in general as a

methods of staging for a church service; you were concerned it might be inappropriate or

kind of corporate leadership; a corporate system also needs a kind of spiritual leader.

just not possible.

AERNOUT MIK: This is exactly the point I want to go to. I’m not re-enacting a church to

AERNOUT MIK: It changed. Initially, I wondered if the intensities could really communicate

produce a corporate thing, I want to create a business event which itself moves towards

on a direct level; I’m still hesitant about that. But that’s why I developed them side-by-

a church, it’s a motion towards becoming another space. But I just haven’t managed to

side. So I think they need a certain distance but not that much distance. And actually, my

make that. I can’t say what I want, or what I intend, or whether this is something that really

experience with the performers is that it’s not an impossible thing—you can do analogous

comes together. It depends, largely, on the space and the people, what is possible, what we

activities that, at the same time, are not images of the other thing, not representations of

can do, what we articulate there. So it can become something other than what I intended

the other thing—but they still have to do with what’s happening in the churches. I think the

it to be.

whole structural element came more to the front, and made it easier for me to relate to the

But maybe, also, I mean, ideally, to create another space there, which actually I don’t know what it is, but it is not just a critique of corporatism or whatever, but creates a sort of com-

JOCHEN BECKER: So will you separate it? How will the relationship work between, let’s say,

munal event. I would put a question mark, actually, at this point, about what exactly it is.

the documentary and the staged?

But maybe that’s it also, if you say so; hence to the question that you asked earlier, okay,

AERNOUT MIK: Of course this is an ongoing question, which I can only solve with the ma-

where do these churches go? You see a movement, a pressure in a certain direction. And

terial itself, and it’s also a very tricky one. I have the feeling to go more in the direction of

I think that it is a more speculative thing about where society is heading. This could also

accumulation than in solving it to an articulated point. I also don’t see the point in that,

be approached, maybe even from this corporate world, in a similar direction. Maybe it’s a

because I think there are so many things raised, so many things put in motion. How can

deeper ambition of the work.

I build an analogy where every place, every method, keeps its own kind of integrity. Of

JOCHEN BECKER: How much of that corporate structure governs your life? And isn’t it a kind

course, it could also become a failure. What I initially wanted to use—a kind of montage of

of belief system?

the whole thing completely together—I have withdrawn from completely now. Even mixing

AERNOUT MIK: If you name the word corporate you have a certain association of some clear

the churches, I’m not doing that at this point, they’re now parallel tracks I’m working on.

economic structure. But the word corporate itself, of course, has become such a very different thing, which hosts many types of vectors in it all pointing in different directions. And

RE-VIEWING/EDITING JOCHEN BECKER: Earlier, you described that looking through the footage you noticed a kind

it doesn’t have to do with a particular job, or being inside or outside a job, it’s more a kind

of direct eye-contact. What else happens while re-viewing and editing the material?

of a basic condition. If everything is a product, if every experience is a product, it’s not just

AERNOUT MIK: First of all, it’s the nature of the places, the relation they have with secular

matter anymore; it comes into contact with spirituality somehow.

places; how they change, in a way. If you distance yourself, they are able to change more into secular places; it’s the relation, of course, between organization and excess, and what the function of the helpers, the clothing, the suit, all these kinds of things are sort of guidelines— 478


GLOBAL PRAYERS Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City EDITED BY Jochen Becker, Katrin Klingan, Stephan Lanz, and Kathrin Wildner MANAGING EDITOR: Martin Hager COORDINATION: Evi Chantzi COPYEDITING // EDITING: Mandi Gomez PROOFREADING: Carolyn Jones DESIGN: Sandy Kaltenborn / & Pierre Maite PRINTING AND BINDING: Kösel, Altusried-Krugzell

This book is no. 13 of the metroZones publication series and has been published in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Europa-Universität Viadrina, with the support of the Forum Transregionale Studien, funded by the Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Forschung Berlin. The publication has been realized within the framework of the research and cultural project Global Prayers: Redemption and Liberation in the City.

for Urban Affairs, Global Prayers is a joint endeavor of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the EuropaUniversität Viadrina. As a research project at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Global Prayers has been granted funds for international, long-time research between 2010 and 2014. With the resources of the humanities and social sciences as well as from artistic production, Global Prayers is generating knowledge of our global present. The work of the research project has been presented to the public during various events in Berlin, Lagos, Beirut, and Mumbai. © 2014 Haus der Kulturen der Welt, metroZones, Europa-Universität Viadrina, and Lars Müller Publishers, Zürich Texts by kind permission of the authors. Images by kind permission of the photographers, artists / copyright holders. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or manner whatsoever without prior written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Should, despite our intensive research, any person entitled to rights have been overlooked, legitimate claims should be compensated within the usual provisions. Please contact Lars Müller Publishers Zürich, Switzerland WWW.LARS-MUELLER-PUBLISHERS.COM ISBN 978-3-03778-373-3


GLOBAL PRAYERS Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City | Excerpt