Handbook of Research on Development and Religion
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Handbook of Research on Development and Religion

Edited by Matthew Clarke

With eighty percent of the world’s population professing religious faith, religious belief is a common human characteristic. This fascinating and highly unique Handbook brings together state-of-the-art research on incorporating religion into development studies.
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Chapter 20: Religious symbolism and the politics of urban space development

Yamini Narayanan


Considerable scholarship has been devoted to the study of the transformation of religion in urban spaces, the growth and influence of urban religious movements, issues of multiculturalism and pluralism, and religion and migration. Robert Levy’s seminal work Mesocosm (1990), for instance, exhaustively studies the anthropology of urban Hinduism in Bhaktapur city in Nepal. However, religion’s substantive historical and ongoing influence on the process of urbanization itself, urban design and planning and sustainable urban development, has been comparatively less rigorously understood. Peter Hall, Clara Greed and Aaron Wildavsky have all argued that the religious urge has been tremendously influential in urban planning, and has thus been a critical determinant of the social, political and spatial processes of urbanization. These critiques place the rapidly burgeoning cities of the developing world, particularly South Asia, in an interesting light. Asia undoubtedly has several of the largest and the fastest growing cities and in the world, and the highest concentration of human population density, especially in South Asia or the Indian subcontinent. In examining the strategies for a sustainable urban future in South Asia, a theological critique of some of the major religions of the region would be invaluable in locating and understanding the ethics and values that have shaped and continue to shape the built environment in the large megapolises and urban areas of South Asia.

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