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Author(s): Valins, Oliver
Date: 2000
Abstract: Institutionalised religion, as a powerful force in the structuring of the daily lives of probably the majority of the world’s population, is a field of social research to which geographers can usefully contribute. This paper examines ancient and contemporary forms of Judaism, exploring the underlying codes and regulations designed to structure every aspect of life. The first part of the paper examines institutionalised uses of space in ancient times, as recorded in the sacred Jewish text of the Talmud. Through the sacred geography of the great Temple in Jerusalem and the legal authority of the religious court to punish offenders, the social system was (in principle at least) highly ordered and regulated. The second part examines the institutionalisation of the religion in contemporary times, which for orthodox Jews involves attempting to practise and maintain these same ancient codes and regulations. Practising ancient ways of life in contemporary (post)modern contexts can be extremely difficult, however, which I discuss with reference to the proposals of the religious authorities in Manchester, England, to construct an eruv; a legalistic device consisting of poles and wires which changes the classification of space, allowing (in particular) the elderly, infirm and parents with young children to travel on the Sabbath. The device faces criticism from secular and religious sources over the rights to ‘claim space’ and the religious legalistic viability of the project.