Author: Rhys Dafydd Jones, Abersytwyth University

Day Two – Wednesday 26th June

Strand – Identity and Place

Session Six: 2.45pm – 4.15pm

Religion has a prominent place in popular constructions of rural society: places such as the church hall; people, such as the local Minister; institutions, such as the Women’s Institute; and events, such as the Cymunfa Ganu are ubiquitous in the rural idyll.  However, little work has examined the role of religion in rural society over the past half-century, a period which has seen significant changes in rural socio-spatial organization by wider socio-economic restructuring processes.  While examinations into the ‘post-secular’ role of religious and spiritual capital in cities are well-established, these studies are limited to urban experiences. 

Drawing on our respective longstanding research projects, we outline two case studies of how religion frames interactions in rural society. Firstly, we outline the tactics employed by the Women’s Institute to sustain religious facilities.  Secondly, we highlight how Muslim organizations make use of makeshift and contingent sacred spaces to fulfil their devotional needs.  In sustaining devotional rites, both these case studies demonstrate a reconfiguring of relationships between material spaces and practices, which have implications for religion’s presence in rural spaces and as communal ‘hubs’. 

We conclude by suggesting that while religion continues to play a prominent role in rural life, it is not a continuation of previous ‘pastor-based’ hierarchies, but dynamic and contingent forms of ‘self-shepherding’ that centre around individual agency.

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