Sacred Cityscapes: Religion, Identity, and Conflict in a Global City

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Sacred Cityscapes: Religion, Identity, and Conflict in a Global City

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    • Critically engage with links between religion, spirituality, and place.
    • To examine religious practices cross-culturally, and in historical perspective.
    • How frictions and contentions are expressed and embodied in various religious setting in the urban environments.
    • The connection among the ritualized bodies, architectural designs, and religious experiences.
    • To think spatially.

    Chasing the ‘divine’, seeking the ‘spiritual sublime’ and indulgence in the ‘holy’ have been recurring struggles of humanity across the ages. The caves of Lascaux in southern France from the Upper Paleolithic roughly 17,000 years ago, the cathedral of Notre Dame, the cinder block Pentecostal churches on the coast of Ghana, the shrines of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq are all exemplars of how the divine was expressed through space and materiality. These spaces and material expressions are tokens of memory which generate a religious  sense of belonging for the faithful and believers. For outsiders, however, these sacred spaces are architectural marvels, cultural objects or spatial boundaries. The sacred spaces are seen by outsiders somewhere apart from the world based on their impressive and outstanding designs or the sacred spaces are dismissed as religious propaganda. Therefore, during this course we encourage the students to see sacred spaces by asking how religion is lived through these spaces. These spaces are modes of architectural and material expressions which mediate human actions and regulate religious behaviour within themselves. The sacred spaces acquire an autonomy and socio-political character that determine how people would experience them and what meanings should be inferred from them. Sacred space becomes a conduit, a medium for interactions either between human and divine or people who experience the space regardless of its sacred associations. However, these interactions and encounters are often contentious, challenging, and even cause conflicts.


    The course consists of the following elements: 

    • Excursions around the selected themes (3 excursions). 
    • Interactive lectures
    • Class Participation
    • Group project
    • Individual study of literature

    Individual essay, group presentation, class participation


Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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