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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that contested sacred sites pose indivisibility challenges which can drive even natural religious allies into violent conflict, and also outlines the multiple roots of conflicts over sacred sites based on the type of objective at stake: legitimacy, security, or profit. It then turns to investigate several aspects that characterize these disputes, regardless of cause. Sacred sites cannot be shared to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The characteristics of disputes over sacred places include cohesion, boundaries, and value. Leaders have pursued three primary strategies in order to avoid bloodshed: partition, scheduling, and exclusion. These approaches develop tensions that threaten to burst as soon as one of the claimants perceives a change in the balance of power. Religious leaders can introduce flexibility into the rules governing holy places and add a measure of harmony to contests over holy sites.

Keywords: sacred sites, violent conflict, legitimacy, security, profit, cohesion, boundaries, value, religious leaders

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