Sacred Sites – Contested Sites

This seminar will explore the processes, cultural and theological, by which sites within the landscape become sacralized and the conflicts that arise as populations with disparate and often adversarial theologies and worldviews cohabit or lay claim to the site and its resources. Case studies will consider sites of various scales and varying degrees of contestation ranging from ecologically complex sites where the integrity of the natural systems is an active and necessary element of the site\’s sacredness to urban sites of worship and commemoration. The tensions between the built and unbuilt will be considered, especially as it pertains to the primacy of the spiritual experience of the site. The role of design in the sacralization process and the manner in which it functions as an agent of reconciliation or exclusion will be probed, both from a historical perspective and in relation to contemporary events.Class will consist of lectures, guest presentations, and films. Readings will draw from sociology, ritual studies, theology, and the growing body of theoretical works on sacred space. Students will conduct a case study of a site of their choosing, crafting a final presentation that documents the physical characteristics of the site, the character of the site\’s sacrality, and the processes actively shaping and/or challenging that character. The case studies will be presented as they progress through the semester for class discussion, culminating in a written paper or graphic presentation. The class is open to all students willing to actively participate in a thorough exploration of the issues.