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Keywords:

  • postmodernity;
  • religion;
  • sacred;
  • social construction;
  • space

Recent religious studies scholarship has examined the historical and cultural variability by which “religion” and “the sacred” have been constructed by scholars and by the public. This article argues that geographers of religion must take these deconstructive arguments to heart. Rather than assuming there is a universal feature of human life called “religion,” the author argues that the religious and the sacred should be studied by geographers as ways of distributing particular kinds of significance across geographic spaces. Rooted in modern distinctions of religious/secular and sacred/profane and in the Enlightenment urge to classify, constructs of religion are efforts to demarcate, purify, and territorialize. Postmodernization exacerbates the individualization of religion but also destabilizes the boundary between the sacred and the profane. If religion is, to paraphrase Michel Foucault, a “recent invention” that, with a shift in structural relations, might “be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea,” the elements that have made up this thing called religion will certainly persist in other forms, and it is the task of geographers of religion to trace the changing orchestrations of those significances across space and place.