Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Synopsis

While devotional practices are usually viewed as mechanisms for reinforcing religious boundaries, in the multicultural, multiconfessional world of the Eastern Mediterranean, shared shrines sustain intercommunal and interreligious contact among groups. Heterodox, marginal, and largely ignored by central authorities, these practices persist despite aggressive, homogenizing nationalist movements. This volume challenges much of the received wisdom concerning the three major monotheistic religions and the "clash of civilizations." Contributors examine intertwined religious traditions along the shores of the Near East from North Africa to the Balkans.

Excerpt

Maria Couroucli

The presence of shared or mixed sanctuaries, sacred places where several religious groups perform devotional practices, often within the same space and at the same time, is a well-established phenomenon in the Mediterranean. This book outlines a comparative anthropology of these pious traditions from the longue durée perspective, combining ethnographic and historical analysis. Eastern Mediterranean societies have experienced a revival of the religious domain in recent years: in many places, religion, often accompanied by the rise of religious fundamentalism, has invaded everyday social and political life—all relatively recent phenomena of the postcolonial era. the present context is thus marked by the ultimate separation of ethnoreligious communities within most circum-Mediterranean nation-states, a victorious outcome of a long strife that began in the nineteenth century: Christians, Jews, and Muslims have finally achieved religious homogeneity within political territories, putting an end to a long history of living side by side. This happened progressively, as independent countries adopted the model of a homogeneous nation-state (one language, one religion, one—collective—identity) imported from Western Europe. We tend to forget that this was a monochrome model: photographs from Paris, London, Amsterdam, or Berlin in the 1950s still remind us that not so long ago Western European capitals were inhabited almost exclusively by white Europeans. Less than three generations later, the model is obsolete: globalization and massive migration to the metropolitan cities have transformed Western democracies into multicultural spaces.

Not so in the southeastern Mediterranean, where nation building is more recent and where memories of ethnic and religious wars have been revived by recent—or ongoing—conflicts. in this post-Ottoman space, ethnoreligious minorities have been banned from national territories many times over the . . .

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