Words Made Manifest: Canadian Print Media as Architects of Religion in the “Secular” Public Sphere

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Nieman, Sarah
religion , media , risk society , sharia
Early to mid-twentieth century scholarship on religion and the “secular” public sphere largely perpetuated the Enlightenment categorization of religion as an element of the private sphere, not to be influential in public matters. Recently, however, a paradigm shift has emerged that has forced the re-evaluation of religion’s place in society. Spatial methodologies from scholars such as Henri Lefebvre and Kim Knott have allowed for religion to be considered as one of a number of constructs that influence the lives and spatial experiences of people. Applying the spatial methodologies of Lefebvre and Knott, I demonstrate how Canadian print media can be considered to be a gauge of the active presence of religion in the public sphere by revealing the ways in which the media construct the space they inhabit. This is done by considering two recent events in Canada that highlight the presence of the “religious other”: the 2002 kirpan debate in Quebec and the 2003 sharia law debate in Ontario. Through these cases, I explore how the conception, perception, and lived reality of the “religious other” as a spatial quality are solidified through the perceived sense of what Ulrich Beck considers to be risk and catastrophe. I ultimately conclude that, through this perceived sense of risk, Canadian print media’s portrayals of the “religious other” allow religion to remain manifest in the Canadian public sphere.
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