PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2020, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (1): 153-165.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2020.01.015

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A review of the studies on globalization and urban spaces: From the perspective of geographies of religion

YANG Rong1,2, LIU Chen1,2, XUE Desheng1,2,*()   

  1. 1. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Urbanization and Geo-simulation, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2. Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai 519082, Guangdong, China
  • Received:2019-01-30 Revised:2019-04-03 Online:2020-01-28 Published:2020-03-28
  • Contact: XUE Desheng
  • Supported by:
    Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41930646);Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41630635);Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai)(99147-42080011)


The complex flows of religions at the global scale are embedded in lived experiences of migrants, which have produced new types of urban spaces. In the context of globalization, religious diversity is not only a reflection on cultural globalization, but also a representation of migrants' intersectional identities. This article reviews how geographers of religion explore and understand the relations between religions and urban spaces from a Western perspective in the past three decades. To elaborate, this article focuses on how religion become a force that shapes the structures and fabrics of urban spaces and the society, drawing on a critical review of progress in Anglophone geographies of religions in Western societies. It identifies four key research streams in the Western studies on religion and urban spaces: 1) The emergent religious spaces are diverse and distinctive in urban areas, which are transient and liminal; 2) The multi-functional religious facilities play increasingly crucial roles in cities as they actively engage in urban public affairs; 3) Integration and segregation are apparently represented in religious believers' residential areas; and 4) Religious believers' embodied behaviors manifest their intersectional identities in urban spaces. Moreover, this body of works has considered religion as a new source producing contested urban spaces. That is, religion can be understood as a mediation of complicated social relations in the multicultural Western society. In the recent decades, the terms "visibility" and "invisibility" are frequently addressed to examine the presence and manifestation of immigrants' religious identities in the public sphere of the West. Scholars have indicated that the local adaptation of transnational religious culture has transformed the invisible or intangible religious landscapes and embodied practices into visible urban spaces in the West. Such visibility of transnational religious landscapes have not only altered the social orders, but also challenged the social relations in local communities. Despite that these debates are overwhelmingly discussed in the Anglophone literature, they are ignored by Chinese scholars. Thus, this research can be read as a contribution to current Chinese human geography that sheds light on Chinese geographies of difference and diversity, and rethinks the ways in which multiple cultures are governed in the globalizing urban China, based on a critical review.

Key words: globalization, religion, urban spaces, transnational migration, visibility, Western cities