Rethinking postsecular urbanism: Islamophobia, apophatic pluralism, and imagination

Authors: Giuseppe Carta*, University of Bristol
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Religion
Keywords: pluralism, imagination, Islamophobia, right to the city, postsecularism, sacred space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Conflicts over mosques constitute a common pathway for the opposition to Islam in non-Islamic contexts. Fostered by conservative groups and often endorsed by the hegemonic religious clergy, such conflicts target Muslims’ impact on the shape of the city – on its sensible materiality and on its image. Despite many claim the achievement of postsecular ethics, the contemporary city often appears as a ‘fundamentalist city’, a space in which religious rights are discarded by explicit or latent forms of marginalization. This paper advances two arguments for rethinking postsecular urbanism. First, I uphold that it should be thought as a form of apophatic pluralism, wherein, while every religious or nonreligious group is empowered to find its modes of expression, none of their doctrines can be normative for the whole polity. To think pluralism via apophasis is to conceive space as the coming together of incommensurable monads, set free to search for truths while intermingling one another in the construction of the everyday. The second point is that its epistemic register must be that of imagination, framed as the noetic capacity of relating with the materiality and immateriality of the world. What is essential is to pluralize imagination, to open the city to different processes of aesthesis and different conceptions of beauty. These arguments will be illustrated in reference to the project ‘Reimagining the Mosque, Opening the City’, a series of public workshops I have planned and coordinated with a number of scholars and Muslim artists in Rome and Bologna, Italy.

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