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Religion and Cities Unit and Religion and Memory Unit

Call for Proposals

We invite papers on Architectures of Absence: Religion, Cities, and Shuttered Places of Worship.

Right now, cities across the globe are experiencing what one observer has called an “epidemic” of church closures as churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship permanently shutter their doors. Shifting patterns in religious affiliation and worship attendance have driven much of this trend, but so too have aging congregations, rising costs of real estate, and other fluctuations accompanying gentrification and the historic preservation of old buildings. In some places, these empty houses of worship have been reimagined as homes, places of business, or the site of new religious communities as churches and synagogues becoming masjids or temples. In other places, they remain abandoned.

This session calls for papers or projects that examine the narratives, histories, transformations, religious reincarnations, or secular afterlives of abandoned places of worship in urban spaces across the globe. What does the repurposing of these spaces tell us about the nature of religion in the modern world? What role does the scholar of religion have in the preservation or transformation of historic places of worship?



  • Christopher Cantwell, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
  • Fatimah Fanusie, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
  • Rachel Gross, San Francisco State University
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
  • Rupa Pillai, University of Pennsylvania
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028

Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection