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Geographical approaches to religion in the past

Citation: Slatter, Ruth (2023) Geographical approaches to religion in the past. Geography Compass, 17 (4). pp. 1-17. ISSN 17498198

This review assesses (anglophone) cross-disciplinary research that has used geographical methodologies to study religion in the past. It identifies three prominent themes within the existing literature: the spatalisation of religion, the intersections between religion and built environments, and the relationships between religion and physical landscapes. It argues that the application of geographical approaches to the study of religion in the past has made important contributions to feminist and postcolonial attempts to de-centre religious leaders and social elites. However, it also demonstrates that the existing literature has been fundamentally informed by inherently modern and western definitions of religion. Primarily, it identifies how the existing literature has prioritised the study of institutionalised Abrahamic religions, emphasised the analysis of sacred-secular dichotomies, and assumed that religious affiliation involves personal belief and spiritual encounter. In response, this paper calls for geographical approaches to religion in the past to engage with a more diverse range of subjects and use network or assemblage approaches to challenge modern and western assumptions about religious practices and experiences.

Creators: Slatter, Ruth (0000-0001-5590-1410) and
Official URL:
Subjects: History
Keywords: geographical approaches history religion sacred spiritual encounter
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
  • 17 February 2023 (accepted)
  • 2 March 2023 (published)


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