Moving among Those Moved by the Spirit
Conducting Fieldwork within the New African Religious Diaspora
Keywords:African Christianity, African Religious diaspora, globalization
The religious maps of Europe and North America have been profoundly altered by the growing presence of African religious communities in a way that further challenges the secularization thesis. The paper situates the new African religious diaspora within ongoing processes of globalization and transnationalism. We seek to interrogate how religious repertoires in Africa and the diaspora establish continuities with the past as well as engage in self-positioning as part of the processes of African modernity. Drawing from our research experience amongst African Christian communities in Europe and the USA, the paper highlights the methodological challenges of conducting fieldwork amongst African Christians in the diaspora. These include the enduring insider/outsider problem, the politics of advocacy in the case of asylum seekers, and the charged issue of accurate representation of the ?Other?. The paper challenges the tendency to ?explain away? religion and underlines the urgency for a sustained reflection on the interface between sociological theory and fieldwork. We demonstrate, how and to what extent African Christians mobilize the resource of religion to facilitate their mostly tenuous existence in the diaspora, and contend that their experiences provide valuable perspectives into how religious and extra-religious networks and experiences might act as substitutes for socioeconomic security and a bastion for religio-cultural identity.
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