Embodied Cultural Mobility of Religiosity: The Growth of Shiite Culture in Beirut via Rural to Urban Migration

Authors: SHADYAR OMRANI*, University of Washington
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Religion and Belief Systems
Keywords: Cultural Mobility, Muslim Immigrants, Urbanization, Shiism, Lebanon, Assimilation, Decolonization, Cultural Hegemony, The Middle East
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The socio-cultural adaptation process of Muslim immigrants has been mainly studied through two lenses: either as a flux of un-assimilating underclass who are resistant to the Western culture or a minoritized community with little or no socio-cultural agency (Selod, 2014). However, cultural mobility has a reciprocal relationship with urban spaces (Mitchell, 2000). The cultural mobility of migrating Muslim minorities can be historically observed through the process of urbanization that massively progressed during the decolonization of the Middle East in the mid-20th century. As a result, the new polynuclear settings of urban spaces (Turok and Bailey 2004) became places of cultural identities that did not necessarily correspond with neither the culture of their rural origin nor the established urban culture.
This research studies the process of spatial reappropriation and the hegemonic growth of minority religious culture through migration from rural to urban areas, while approaching ‘urban space’ as dynamic, ‘culture’ as a processing system of the reciprocal relationship of practice and experience, and ‘urbanization’ and ‘immigration’ as a trajectorial spatial process. As a case study, I examine the growth of Shiite culture in Beirut through urbanization, applying critical cultural geography paradigm and comparative archival analysis of urban pictures and maps of South Beirut, pre-and post-migration during the Shiite urbanization era in the late 1940s and 1980s.

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