​Dumper, Michael (2020) Power, Piety, and People: The Politics of Holy Cities in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Columbia University Press. 367 pp.

​ISBN: 978-0-231-18476-2

Trond Bakkevig

PRIO/NOREF

Read more about this book: cup.columbia.edu

​Dumper argues that 'the twenty-first century has seen… a remarkable resurgence in religiosity, which necessarily has an urban dimension….' He sets out to map and analyze the 'osmotic relationship' between religion and urban life in five cities he calls 'holy cities': Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine), Cordoba (Spain), Banaras (India), Lhasa (Tibet/China) and George Town (Malaysia). Despite this commonality, they differ with regard to religious composition, ethnicity and the role of local and national government. He accounts for conflicts between and within religions and between religions and governments, and lists what he calls 'constitutive elements' in such conflicts: (1) proximity of important religious sites, (2) ownership of land and property by religious communities, (3) competition over access to land, revenue streams and other resources, (4) where state institutions are weak, religious leaders are thrust into political leadership, (5) external intervention which can trigger conflicts. Towards the end he develops what he calls a 'tool kit' for dealing with these kinds of conflicts. Two important observations which are important in lessening conflicts: The more economic dependency between religious communities, and the more diversification inside each religion, the lesser is the potential for conflict. Since Dumper has done much research in and on Jerusalem, he starts and ends the book with a chapter and some remarks on this city where 'Israel gradually encroaches upon the non-Jewish holy sites. … As a consequence ... there will be continuing tensions.' In other words: a combination of ethnic/state and religious conflict. For everyone who deals with conflict and cooperation between religions, and their relationship with cities and political entities, this is an important book.