Space and religion
Quietly and undeclared as such, a loose assemblage of thinking has entered social science and the humanities. Perhaps it is pre-paradigmatic, to use Kuhn's now time-honoured expression (1956). It is the language and study of positions, stances, moves, panoptic views and close or distant gazes, in short, of spatial orientation and separation, and their effect and control in human society, and on theories about society.
At the same time, religion, ritual, sacrifice and the sacred have again become objects of focused anthropological study, after a period, roughly from 1960 to 1980, when they were superseded either by semiological and structuralist studies of myth and of rites treated as myth, or by interpretative studies of symbolism. Numerous studies of ritual and religion as isolable, self-determining phenomena have appeared since about 1980. Such studies appear to have freed themselves, so to speak, from Lévi-Strauss's stricture that religion is no more than one of a number of systems of classification (1963) and of ritual as cognitively subsumed within and even inferior to myth (1966: 232–244).
Both developments, a discourse on and through spatial concepts, and the re-entry of sacred ritual and religion as phenomena for-themselves, are linked reactions. The treatment of constructed spaces as ‘statements’ is part of the post-modernist attempt to dissolve the kind of dichotomy that would separate the human observer as all-knowing and autonomous from spaces, landscapes and buildings, upon which he or she acts.