Shared Sacred Sites and the Politics of Pluralism

Shared sacred sites where people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds are able to live with difference, accommodate each other’s religious needs, and negotiate otherness in public are positive examples of pluralism and tolerance on the ground. When we hear about shared sites, most of what we hear is about violence and conflict, in places like Babri Masjid in India or the Temple Mount in Israel/Palestine.

With Shared Sacred Spaces and the Politics of Pluralism, we focus on cases of accommodation and coexistence to identify the local discourses and practices that work best in sharing sacred spaces. The work of coexistence is difficult and it does not happen naturally. Thus we intend to examine the conscious decisions arrived at jointly by members of different religious communities to increase common access and decrease conflict in shared sacred sites.

Project leaders will focus on the local, public practices inside and surrounding shared sacred sites to understand how communities that have maintained shared sites for long periods of time reproduce their practices in the midst of forces pushing for national and/or religious homogeneity or cross-communal conflict. They will focus on shared sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Ottoman legacy has left hundreds of sanctuaries shared in more or less convivial ways between Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

The following projects were made possible through the continued support of the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. In 2014, the IRCPL’s Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion was awarded a three-year grant in order to continue to examine how societies are rethinking and remodeling ideas and practices of religious accommodation to create more democratic outcomes and more inclusive cultures.

Choreography of Sacred Space: State, Religion and Conflict Resolution

Shared Sacred Sites Exhibit 

Summer 2013 – Ethnographic Research in Istanbul

Visual Hasluck

Project Leaders