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‘God was with me everywhere’: women’s embodied practices and everyday experiences of sacred space in Czechia

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In this paper, we approach religion and spirituality through the analytic lens of the everyday and examine how ordinary women make sacred space through their embodied, emotional, and spatially varying practices. Our research is grounded in Czechia where about 80% of inhabitants do not declare any religious affiliation and ‘new’ religions are on the rise. We deploy auto-photography as a method that invites participants’ own visual representations and interpretative narrations of their quotidian experiences. Thirty-eight Christian, Buddhist, and non-religious women participated in this study in 2016. Our analysis of photographs and interviews shows that our participants turn places that are not primarily associated with religion or spirituality (such as a kitchen sink or a bus stop) into sacred or spiritual places while at the same time integrate officially sacred spaces (such as churches and meditation centers) into their daily lives through social activities. Thus, we argue that a mutually transformative process is taking place in contemporary Czechia. In this process, religiously affiliated and non-affiliated women alike transform everyday spaces into sacred sites through their embodied and emotional practices that seek calmness, peace, and transcendence. At the same time, women who participate in organized religions remake the sacrality of officially sacred sites through their emphasis on social connections and feelings of communal belonging and shared identity. Our findings underscore that sacred space is not fixed in any one location and its production involves the continual emotional and material investment by ordinary women.
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Keywords: Auto-photography; Czechia; everyday life; new geographies of religion; sacred place; spirituality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Science, Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic 2: Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2018

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