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Title: Faith in gentrification : neighbourhood organisations and urban change in London and Berlin
Author: Schlueter, Sebastian
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 0925
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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The predominant hypothesis about the secularisation of societies in the Global North made religious actors almost invisible to academic and nonacademic observers of contemporary dynamics of urban change. How would the urban look different from a postsecular comparative perspective? This thesis studies consequences of gentrification in inner-city areas of London and Berlin through the perspective of church congregations. It asks, why are people who move into gentrifying areas, interested in church congregations? How do the practices of congregations and congregants shape urban spaces? How can contemporary urbanisation and theories of gentrification be better understood through these practices? To answer these questions, this thesis conceptualises church congregations as neighbourhood organisations and discusses their relevance in understanding urban change. Through the comparison of six different cases (growing church congregations) in two urban contexts (London and Berlin), it develops a theoretical understanding of church congregations as fields of boundary work in order to scrutinise spaces where pressures of displacement and church practices collide. The study shows, that on the one hand, similar to other cultural phenomena, the presence of church congregations in inner-city neighbourhoods can be understood as a product of gentrification. The restructuring of urban spaces and processes of gentrification are the ground on which churches build their strategies to survive in secularising environments. The participation of particular groups in church activities can be read as a desire of the so called ‘gentrifiers’ for belonging to ‘local communities’ and an expression of solidarity with the diverse surroundings they are part of. This is the ground on which growing church congregations, on the other hand, are able to empower people for local, city-wide and national political issues. Their involvement in local social actions such as food banks shows how church congregations address social needs and simultaneously produce spaces of mutuality and solidarity. This creates familiarity and intimacy between newcomers and long-term residents of inner-city areas. Such vitality of church congregations can have a strong positive contribution on outcomes of neighbourhood change. These empirical results lead to two further contributions to the literature on gentrification. Firstly, church congregations are not merely a segregating force. As socially diverse ‘reviving communities’ they also provide a nucleus for the revitalisation of mutual living in inner-cities. Secondly, by enabling ‘spaces of possibility’ through ‘theo-ethic’ practices, church congregations create further possibilities for transformation within processes of urban change. This finding from within a particular form of neighbourhood organisation, questions the very core of gentrification creating ‘frontiers’ as boundaries between different lifeworlds. Instead it shows, that gentrification is better be understood as a contested passage of urban change, in which neighbourhood organisations are able to produce ‘micro publics’ as alternative spaces of encounter.
Supervisor: Andersson, Johan Carl Alfred Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available