chapter  3
11 Pages

4 SPATIAL METHODS

ByKim Knott

The development of spatial approaches for studying religion is a recent phenomenon, and time will tell whether they will have a lasting impact and relevance. The geography of religion —as a fi eld in the sub-discipline of social and cultural geography-has a long history (Büttner 1980; Park 1994; Knott 2010a). However, whilst it has contributed to an understanding of the distribution and mapping of religions, it has failed to produce a formal methodology or practical methods of its own, but has depended on methods common across the discipline of geography or on those from other social sciences. A thematic agenda for the geography of religion has been posited by authors of books and review articles on the subject (e.g. Kong 1990, 2001, 2010; Park 1994; Stump 2008), but with no methodological principles, tools or techniques explicitly proposed. Within religious studies there has been a body

of work on sacred space , from van der Leeuw (1938) and Eliade (1959) in the mid-20th century to Chidester and Linenthal (1995) and Macdonald (2003) more recently, but again without the overt articulation of a methodological approach. This perhaps explains why spatial and geographical approaches have rarely featured in handbooks on general approaches to the study of religions. However, as the impact of the spatial turn (Crang and Thrift 2000; Hubbard et al. 2004) of the 1990s and 2000s has become more embedded across the humanities and social sciences, this situation has begun to change. The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (Hinnells 2005, 2010) included chapters on geography and space , and the journal Religion Compass commissioned articles on spatial theory in both theology (Bergmann 2007) and the study of religion (Knott 2008).