chapter  10
19 Pages

Public and private space

When we think about ‘religion’, the ideas of public and private space may not spring immediately to mind. The notion of space seems rather, well, empty. When you compare it with some of the key concepts we looked at in Part I of this book, such as deity, text and myth, it does not seem to carry a specifically religious value. If you have got this far, you will have realized that our intention in this book is to challenge some of the accepted ways of thinking about religion and how religious traditions operate in the context of South Asia; this chapter is no different. Our initial contention is that thinking about public and private space is a useful way of approaching religion – precisely because these are not explicitly ‘religious’ concepts! As with teacher-pupil traditions examined in Chapter 6, public and private space can help us to see beyond the dominating constraints of the World Religions model, which influences so many analytical concepts deployed when thinking about religious traditions. In this chapter, then, we will be exploring a number of different examples of how public and private space is conceptualized as religious, and drawing comparisons in ways that challenge the association of particular ways of thinking about such space with discrete religious traditions.