ARIA Spotlight: Abi Wiggans

Abi Wiggans's ARIA project: Religious Mosaic of Montreal

Outline of the Montreal Religious Mosaic Project

The ARIA project I participated in this summer was the Montreal Religious Mosaic Project (MRMP). The MRMP is a contemporary, critical mapping of religious sites in Montreal and surrounding area. The project is meant to expand one’s perception of the religious landscape in Montreal. While Montreal’s religious landscape is traditionally perceived as being almost exclusively Christian and Jewish, this project seeks to express illustrate how religiously diverse Montreal actually is, by mapping out Montreal’s Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh sites among others. Additionally, the MRMP is meant to challenge the way we traditionally categorize religions and religious sites. Rather than categorizing Montreal’s religious sites by tradition, we chose to analyze them spatially through categorization by neighbourhood. By doing this, these sites are able to be understood in relation to other religious communities and sites which may be located in the same or nearby neighbourhoods.


I chose to apply for, and subsequently participate in, the ARIA program as it would provide me with the rare opportunity as an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Arts to participate in hands on research. Additionally, it would give me the opportunity to receive direct academic mentorship from a professor in my field of study. In the semester prior to my participation in ARIA, I began working as a research assistant for Professor Andrea Pinkney. While I was not directly involved in her research during this period of time, I absolutely loved being engaged in academic work and deepening my understanding of a field that I am very passionate about. This further led me to apply for the ARIA project as it would allow me to continue engaging in research in the department of Religious Studies, as well as engage more directly in an academic project.

Learning Objectives

For the MRMP, several learning objectives were developed. One of the primary objectives was to develop an in-depth understanding of patterns of change and adaption in transnational religious communities, based on the case of Montreal, and to deepen my understanding of the interactions of religious communities from a spatial perspective. Additionally, I sought to develop skills in organization and synthesis of raw data into analytic categories, as well as to develop website building skills which culminated in the development of an interactive website to display the findings from the MRMP. Finally, through this project I hoped to gain exposure to conducting independent research as well as having firsthand academic mentorship.


My entire ARIA experience has been beyond fantastic. One of the highlights of the project was completing a map of Montreal’s religious sites, which featured well over 400 sites in Montreal and the surrounding area. Finishing this map was incredibly satisfying as it finally allowed me to visualize the religious diversity of Montreal. Up until this point it has been difficult to completely grasp the extent to how multicultural and multireligious Montreal is. In addition to completing the map, I worked on creating a website to house the information from the MRMP. Creating this website was a huge learning curve, however, as I became more comfortable with the software, the website was able to come together.


One of the challenges, which I am sure almost every other ARIA recipient experienced this summer was how to approach research remotely. Unlike most research, I was unable to physically carry out any of the research or meet with my supervisor in person. While this posed a unique challenge, my supervisor and I were able to successfully overcome this through frequent communication with one another which allowed for any problems I was facing to be promptly discussed and overcome. Additionally, to address the issue of conducting the research remotely itself, we turned to the previously completed field reports from the MRMP’s predecessor, the Montreal Religious Sites Program which was previously run by Dr. Victor Hori, in tandem with online resources regarding religious sites Montreal. By using these reports  alongside online resources, we were able to overcome the issue of remote research.

ARIA and the Future

The opportunity that I have been given through ARIA has been absolutely fantastic. As I continue my academic journey in the field of Religious Studies, I believe ARIA will shape my future academic and career path, as it will enable me to distinguish myself amongst my peers when applying to graduate school. Additionally, the skills and mentorship I have gained through this program will help me succeed in future graduate work, and employment. I would like to give my sincerest thank you to Dr. Andrea Pinkney for her continued mentorship and support throughout this project. Additionally, I would like to thank the Barbara & Patrick Keenan Undergraduate Internship Award for Interfaith Studies, as without their funding this research would not have been possible. Finally, I would like to thank the Arts Internship Office for having given me this incredible opportunity.

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