The ephemeral city

Indonesian piety on the move

Authored by: James Edmonds

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367367121
eBook ISBN: 9780429351181
Adobe ISBN:


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Thousands of people come together across Indonesia, Asia, and the Middle East to participate in the Islamic devotional songs (selawat) led by Habib Syech bin Abdul Qadir Assegaf. These performances have been taking place 20 times a month for the last 20 years. This chapter analyzes the formation of these events as ephemeral cities that demand a geographical imagination beyond static architecture and urban space. Selawat’s mobile city creates infrastructure, governance, economies, and piety that layer on top of the rice fields, stadiums, streets, and fields that they possess. In conceiving of selawat as an ephemeral city, it reveals the way in which religious communities are subversively engaging with an ethos of modernity that seeks to categorize, differentiate, and institutionalize life in the creation of mobile, pious cities that both engage with this ethos and create new organizational and religious potentials.

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