For the 2010 annual conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, in Baltimore.
As noted by Krase and Hum (2007), visual sociology of changing urban neighborhoods is not merely an aesthetic exercise of finding images to illustrate sociological concepts. Rather, it is an increasingly important way to investigate social change. Cities on every continent have been deluged by the rapid influx of large numbers of people and products from cultures different from native-born residents. Because of globalization, “cultural strangers” share common environments. Although these “strangers” frequently live within the same large-scale political boundaries, the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life on the streets, in the shops, and public spaces of neighborhoods. At present, examination of the visual semiotics of difference is especially important as American and European cultures interact with Islamic cultures. Visual representations of Islam are common in the US and EU; these are generally negative and often derogatory, as a quick Google image search reveals. Using a spatial semiotic analysis, we investigate how the presence of expressive and phatic signs of recent Muslim inhabitants change the meaning of vernacular neighborhoods in global cities. Visual data from urban neighborhoods in the US and Europe will be presented as examples of different functions of semiotic markers, and exemplars of the data we collect using a neighborhood photographic survey technique. We discuss how these different functions interact with local policy to create interpretive landscapes which can lead to dramatically different outcomes in terms of social conflict.
Krase, Jerome and Tarry Hum. 2007.“Ethnic Crossroads: Toward a Theory of Immigrant Global Neighborhoods,” Pp 97-119 in Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World, edited by Ray Hutchinson and Jerome Krase. Elsevier/JAI Press.