Sacralizing Security: Religion, Violence and Authority in Mega-Cities of the Global South

Sacralizing Security: Religion, Violence and Authority in Mega-Cities of the Global South

In mega-cities of the Global South, state agencies often lack the capacity to provide infrastructure and security to all citizens. In such contexts, religious organizations and vigilantes have merged into alternative governance organizations. The emergence of religious vigilantes suggests a different connection between religion and violence than emphasized in current research on religious fundamentalism and terrorism. While religious vigilantes use violence systematically, they generally do not aim to overthrow the state, nor do they seek a global audience to witness their violence. They operate side-by-side with state actors to maintain order. Major questions are: why do mega-city residents grant these religious vigilantes authority? And what is the role of religion in the legitimation of vigilante practices?

The research project SACRASEC analyzes the production of authority of religious vigilantes in mega-cities of the Global South through an ethnographic comparison of three mega-cities. The case studies focus on Christian and Afro- Brazilian religion in Rio de Janeiro; Christian, Islamic and Indigenous religion in Lagos; and Islamic and Indigenous religion in Jakarta. The research is made possible by an ERC Consolidator Grant.

In general, Martijn Oosterbaan’s research focuses on urban and religious transformations, often in relation to Brazilian society, but not restricted to it. One of his recent interests beyond urban violence, security and religion concerns the changes related to Brazilian carnival, religion and national identity.

Key publications

Transmitting the Spirit: Religious Conversion, Media and Urban Violence in Brazil. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press (2017).

‘Transposing Brazilian Carnival: Religion, Cultural Heritage and Secularism in Rio de Janeiro.’ American Anthropologist 119(4): 697–709 (2017).

‘Batman Returns: Brazilian Conflicts and the Popular Culture of Sovereignty.’ Conflict and Society 1: 197–215 (2015).

More information

Website Sacrasec.