The question of sacred places in modern societies involves an analytical perspective, which is not very prevalent in sociology, namely the anthropological or even better: the ethnological perspective. With this theme we have entered a veritable dispute, or controversy, in sociology about the relation between the sacred and the profane, and about the role of the sacred in modern societies. The question is if the development of modern societies has implied the gradual abolishment of religious beliefs, rituals and rites, or has it on the contrary implied the installment of new forms of religious beliefs and sacred places, which are cultivated through regular rituals and rites, just as some traditional societies have cultivated for instance totemism. This paper will take its point of departure in Durkheim’s study of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life from 1912. Then it will turn to the question: What constitutes a good place from the point of view of the social cohesion of modern democratic societies. The main focus will be on “the moral significance of place”, on “the complexity of place as both a material and a mental reality”. The discussion results in an outline of some criteria for analyzing sacred places in big global cities. The leading motive of the paper is to present two cases of sacred places in global cities.
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UAA The Urban Affairs Association 30th Annual Meeting, 2000