The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Religious Actors and Land Markets

14 June 2024, 12:00 pm–5:00 pm

Graphic of urban skyline

DPU and UCL Department of Geography invite you to join us for a workshop where we seek to unpack religious actors’ practices within land markets and question some of the assumptions in the field of urban planning about the ways land is valued and distributed.

Event Information

Open to





Azadeh Mashayekhi


Room 403
Senate House
Malet Street
United Kingdom

The theme of this workshop initially emerged from the Urban Studies Foundation-funded seminar series, ‘Interrogating the role of religious actors in shaping urban planning’. The seminar series brought together researchers from various disciplinary fields to discuss and make visible the activity of religious groups and organisations in city-making and urban planning practices. Building on these discussions, in this workshop we seek to unpack religious actors’ practices within land markets and to question some of the assumptions in the field of urban planning about the ways land is valued and distributed.

Historically, religious institutions have played key roles in land acquisition, allocation and management and have developed a complex relationship with communities and state institutions over land. Land has been a crucial resource for these organisations, and acquiring and retaining control over it has remained contentious – for both state and religious actors. Subsequently, religious organisations engage with planning practices to realise certain social, economic, political and spiritual goals relating to land use, impacting the urbanisation trajectories of places where they have jurisdictional and popular power.

Recent studies show that religious institutions have necessarily engaged with land markets as a fundamental mechanism for governing who has access to land, for what purpose and on what legal basis (Lawanson, 2021; Bou Akar, 2018). In doing so, religious actors contest, or at least complicate, a capital-focused interpretation of land markets, and claim alternative ways of valuing and redistributing the value of land. The Waqf – the religious endowment of an entity such as land for community benefit (Moumtaz, 2021) –, and the holding of land in trust for a spiritual community (Bhandar, 2019), are some of the ways in which religious and religion-inspired actors work within and alongside property markets to undermine capitalist, private property-oriented relations with land. Nevertheless, despite their spiritual and distributive claims, evidence shows in many cases these organizations have been actively engaged in speculative land practices and in this process developed ambiguous relationships with state and market actors (Lawnson, 2021; Bou Akar 2018, Mashayekhi, 2019).

In this session, we are inviting scholars whose work explores the intersection between religious institutions, planning, and land markets to address the question, ‘How do religious actors conceive of, devise and engage with land markets?’

Contributors may engage with the following sub-questions, such as:

  1. How do religious actors interpret ‘land value’? Is it different from, or similar to, capitalist approaches to land valuation?
  2. How do religious actors conceive of, organise, or attempt to shape land markets?
  3. How do religious actors redistribute value from ‘developed’ land?

By responding to these questions, we aim to expand our collective understanding of the diversity of land markets and valuation systems and contribute to larger debates on land politics and management in the global south. We thereby aim to diversify our understandingof the ‘land market’ by interrogating the assumptions about the ways land is valued and distributed, through the lens offered by religious actors.

Please email a 250-word abstract of your research to Dr Azadeh Mashayekhi at a.mashayekhi@ucl.ac.uk and Dr Hannah Sender at hannah.sender@ucl.ac.uk by Wednesday 25 May.