The secularization debate continues to dominate sociological studies of religion. Is it possible to locate religion in western secular society without being drawn into debates about its rise and fall? And, if so, then how can this be done? This book offers a new approach to the study of religion in the West based on a spatial analysis of religious-secular relations. It locates religion within the social, cultural, and physical spaces of the present using a method informed by contemporary spatial theory, particularly the work of Henri Lefebvre. In the first half of the book 'space' and 'religion' are opened up to one another. A spatial methodology is developed, and contemporary religion is reconceived within a field of religious, secular and post-secular religious relations. How various disciplines have contributed to a spatial study of religion is critically considered, and scholars writing on religion and space are shown to be inside rather than outside this field of relations. In the second half of the book the spatial approach is applied to a particular case, that of the left hand.
Contemporary representations of this sinister but intimate 'other' are shown to embody a variety of values, traces of different religious traditions, alternative paths to salvation and self-realisation, and shifting positions on the impure, demonic, inauspicious and sacred. Consideration is then given to the future application of this spatial approach to the study of religion.
Kim Knott is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Community Religions Project at the University of Leeds, UK. She has written on religions in Britain, religion and identity, modern Hindu movements, and methodological issues. Her academic interests include helping students to become good researchers and bringing the importance of religious issues to a wider audience. She is currently directing research on the location of religion in two public organisations, a school and medical centre. She has been an active participant in national and international associations for the study of religions.