The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Beyond Sacred/Secular Cities - Exploring Politics of Memory, Space, and Religion in Middle Eastern Nationalisms

Funding agency: SRA-MECW. Duration: 2022-2025

The project is devoted to exploring ‘the city’ as a stage for the construction and contest of nationalist imaginations in the Middle East (and beyond). It aims at unpacking how nationalism, in various national contexts and urban localities, comprises entangled and ambiguous religious/secular imaginaries, providing critical perspectives on conventional dichotomies of the ‘sacred’ versus ‘profane’ and ‘traditional’ versus the ‘modern’ – and how cities charged with symbolic significance tend to be regarded as carriers of such characteristics and legacies.

The project comprises two main components. An empirical study will be conducted in/of four cities conventionally associated with such bifurcated imaginaries: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Istanbul, and Izmir. The study will contextually and comparatively explore local-urban memory institutions in the four cities (focusing on museums and public commemorative spaces), in relation to local and national debates on ‘nationalist values’, aesthetic legacies, and the commemoration of historical/ritual fixtures.

The project’s second component consists of the creation of the multi-disciplinary research platform ‘City/Religion/Nationalism’, as a forum for theoretical development and comparative perspectives on religion, secularity, and nationalism in urban contexts. Through its seminar series and workshops, engaging national and international expertise, the project aims at creating an international hub for research on cities, religion, and nationalism at Lund University, co-hosted by the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies and the Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies.


The purpose of this project is twofold:

  • to empirically explore how contesting orchestrationsof nationalism in the Middle East navigate and negotiate ambiguities of ‘the sacred’ and ‘the secular’, with a particular focus on Turkey and Israel;
  • to contribute to (re)theorisation ofand methodological innovation in the analysis of the multi-modality, multi-vocality, and multisituatednessof nationalist (and counter-nationalist) sentiment, within and beyond nationalsettings and religious traditions.

Seminar Platform 2023

The project is arranging a series of seminars on “Urban Memory Politics" during the spring of 2023.

12 January (16:15-17:30)

Memory, territoriality, and scripting of public space

Mattias Kärrholm (Lund University) and Barbara Törnqvist-Plewa (Lund University)

21 March (16:15-17:30)

The City as a World in Common? Contested Reconstruction, Syncretic Place-Making and Urban Memory in Beirut and Beyond

Gruia Badescu (University of Konstanz)

13 April (13:15-14:30)

Heritagization & conflict transformation - from toxic to curative heritage of conflict

​​​Annika Björkdahl (Lund University) [co-hosted by CMES Research Seminar series]

1 June (13:15-17:00)

Symposium: Framing Turkish Memory - Image, Space, and Nationalist Affect in the Context of the Republican Centenary

Biray Kollouglu (Bogaziçi University), Elif Gezgin (Kadir Has University and Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University), and Canan Nese Kınıkoglu (Medeniyet University)

13 September (16:15-18:00)

Greek-Turkish Relations From the ‘Megali Idea’ to the Population Exchange of 1923

Rainer Liedtke (University of Regenburg) [co-hosted by CMES Research Seminar series]


Janson, Torsten (2023) "Lovers of the Rose: Islamic Affect and the Politics of Commemoration in Turkish Museal Display", in Raudvere, C and P. Onur (eds) Neo-Ottoman Imaginaries in Contemporary Turkey. Modernity, Memory and Identity in South-East Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Svenungsson, Jayne (2023) "Religion and secularity as supersessionist categories: Contemplating diversity and otherness after 9/11", Zeitschrift für Religion, Gesellschaft und Politik.

Research Activities

Research Team

Torsten Janson, CMES Researcher and Senior Lecturer in History of Religions and Religious Behavioural Science (Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University)

torsten [dot] janson [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] se

Jayne Svenungsson, CMES Researcher and Professor in Studies in Faith and World Views (Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University)

jayne [dot] svenungsson [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] se

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, CMES Researcher and Professor in European Studies (Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University)

barbara [dot] tornquist-plewa [at] slav [dot] lu [dot] se

Mattias Kärrholm, CMES Researcher and Professor at the Department of Architecture and Built Environment (Lund University)

mattias [dot] karrholm [at] abm [dot] lth [dot] se (mattias[dot]karrholm[at]abm[dot]lth[dot]se)