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Islam and the rural landscape: discourses of absence in west Wales

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This paper explores the relationship between the presence and absence of Islamic communities in western Wales. Commencing with a discussion of the literatures on the geographies of Islam and rural exclusion, I argue that both sets have neglected research on rural religious communities. Discussion is centred upon the visual absence of Islam in the area, as local mosques are predominantly housed in contingent or non-purpose-built buildings. Using interview data, I examine the implications of these absences for local Muslims' experiences of rural landscapes, and discuss the juxtaposition between the visual absence of cultural indicators of Islam and the contingent strategies these communities employ to meet their religious needs. Adopting Nancy Fraser's concept of a subaltern counterpublic, I argue that the contingent presence in the landscape brings organisational possibilities. However, the lack of visibility of these counterpublics also brings challenges, fragmenting the community and creating difficulties for individuals to access particular services. This subterranean ontology has implications not only for liberal ideas of publicity and privacy, but also for inclusive citizenship in an era when debates about multiculturalism centre on accommodating religious needs.

Keywords: Islam; Wales—west; absence; counterpublic; religion; rurality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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