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Cities of God: Lived Christianity in Amsterdam - Research Teams

The mission is contributing to contemporary debates on lived urban religion in relation to the challenges of global cities.

We do so by in-depth research of Christian communities, spiritualities and theologies in Amsterdam and the way Christianity responds to, engages with, contributes to and is being shaped by late-modern city life. The research group is a conversation hub for specialists in late-modern urban religion, including non-Christian religion, contemporary post-traditional spiritualities, and popular expressions of the sacred. 

Research Team - Cities of God: Lived Christianity in Amsterdam

  • Aim

    1. Developing, responding to the ‘ontological turn’ in the anthropological study of religion, an understanding of the city as a ‘spiritual scape’ or ‘sacred scape’ in which religious, secular and spiritual actors perform contested visions of what constitutes the good life.
    2. Building theories, models and methods that can be used in the (ethnographic) studies of urban Christianity and other (urban) religious and spiritual expressions of religion.
    3. Building a comprehensive knowledge-base of Christianities in Amsterdam, with an emphasis on their forms of organization, theologies, spiritualities, their visions of what constitutes a good life, and relationships with other religions and city policy makers.
    4. Contributing to academic and societal knowledge of urban Christianity and its innovations and missions in late-modern contexts, by comparing results with similar research projects in other cities (including Seattle, Vancouver, Sidney and Frankfurt). To this end the research group is building an international network of researchers.
    5. Starting up a conversation with local citizens and professionals in the fields of politics and urban design, to reflect on potential contributions of Christian communities the challenges of global cities.
    6. Mapping urban religion in Amsterdam.

    The Cities of God team works towards achieving these goals in the following ways:

    1. Exploring existing student research (quick ethnography protocols, student papers, questionnaires, etc.) from different angles, leading to the collaborative publishing of at least six scholarly articles on Christianities in Amsterdam.
    2. Submitting an NWO application in the Open Science round 2022.
    3. Together with the international network, the team will organize bi-annual conferences on urban Christianities.
    4. In BA- and MA-courses students will be invited to write quick ethnographies of Amsterdam Christianities.
    5. The team stimulates student research and aims to create a stimulating research environment for students who are interested in religion from both theological and social-scientific perspectives.  
  • Team

    • Stefan Paas (Teamleader)
    • Elisabeth IJmker
    • Johan Roeland
    • S. Lee
    • Miranda Klaver
    • Hans Riphagen
  • Disciplines

    In principle the team welcomes contributions from all disciplinary methodological perspectives, with an emphasis on qualitative research.

  • Possible topics for BA/MA-theses and PhD theses

    Students and potential PhD students are invited to join the research team, by conducting research on the following topics:

    1. Literature study on theology of the city, such as the work of Harvey Cox, Graham Ward, Timothy Gorringe, and Nimi Wariboko.
    2. Literature study and ethnographic study of theologies of mission relating to the urban and of practices of missionary engagement with global cities.
    3. Literature study on the theoretical notions such as ‘post-secularity’, ‘the ontological turn’, ‘urban religion’, ‘lived missiology’ and ‘spiritual scapes’.
    4. Ethnographic research on the moral and social engagement of religious (in particular, but not exclusively, Christian), spiritual and sacred-secular communities, organizations, and other agencies, in relation to urban life.  
    5. (in particular, but not exclusively, Christian), spiritual and sacred-secular communities, organizations, and other agencies, in relation to urban life.
    6. Historical and contemporary research on the intersections between religion, morality and urban design.
    7. The development of new methods (and further developing methods of collaborative research) that suit the research ambitions and goals of the research team.   
    8. Mapping religion by doing in-depth ethnographic research on 500 square meters in Amsterdam.
  • Collaboration Senior and Junior Researchers

    The team meets on a regular basis, both in on-campus and off-campus meetings. During on-campus meetings, the team keeps track of the progress of the project and its subprojects, including the research conducted by students and PhD students. Off-campus meetings include field trips and other research activities, and collaborative writing sessions.

  • Academic relevance and societal urgency

    The research group aims to facilitate a dialogue between urban Christianity and both makers and influencers of social policy at city and national level, involving issues such as community building, loneliness, ecological awareness, and inter-ethnic relationships – held together by implicit or explicit views of what makes a ‘good city’. Moreover, the research group intends to develop new methods of co-creation and collaborative research, enabling Amsterdam citizens, researchers (including students) and professionals to meaningfully engage with the challenges of urban life.

  • Connection with centers/institutes

    The research team collaborates with researchers from the United States, Canada, Australia and Germany. Within the faculty of Religion and Theology, the research team collaborates with the Amsterdam Centre for the Study of Lived Religion, the Amsterdam Centre for Religion and Sustainable Development, and the Amsterdam Centre for the History and Heritage of Protestantism.

  • Research agenda

    In 2022-2023, the team ‘Cities of God’ is committed to the following research goals:

    1. The exploration of existing student-research (quick ethnography, protocols, student-papers, questionnaires, etc.) from a number of different perspectives, resulting in the shared publication of at least three peer-reviewed articles about Christianity in Amsterdam.
    2. The application for an NWO-grant in the Open Competition SSH - round 2022, as well as possibly applying for international funds, in cooperation with the Amsterdam Centre for Religion & Sustainable Development.
    3. The invitation of students at the BA- and MA-level to conduct so-called quick ethnographies about Christians in Amsterdam. Moreover, our team ‘student-research’ actively promotes a stimulating research environment for students, interested in religion from a theological as well as social scientific perspective.