Moving among Those Moved by the Spirit

Conducting Fieldwork within the New African Religious Diaspora


  • Afe Adogame University of Edinburgh
  • Ezra Chitando University of Zimbabwe



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.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Afe Adogame, University of Edinburgh

Afe Adogame is Lecturer in World Christianity and Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His prior academic post was as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for African Studies / Department for the Study of Religion, University of Bayreuth, Germany. He is currently the General Secretary of the African Association for the Study of Religion. School of Divinity New College Mound Place Edinburgh EH1 2LX

Ezra Chitando, University of Zimbabwe

Ezra Chitando teaches History and Phenomenology of Religion in the Department of Religiou Studies, Classics and Philosophy at the University of Zimbabwe. He recently spent a year at the University of Bayreuth as Alexander von Humboldt School of Divinity


Adogame, A., 2003, ‘Betwixt Identity and Security: African New Religious Movements and the Politics of Religious Networking in Europe’. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 7(2): 24-41.

—2004a, ‘Contesting the Ambivalences of Modernity in a Global Context: The Redeemed Christian Church of God, North America’. Studies in World Christianity, 10(1): 25-48.

—2004b, ‘Engaging the Rhetoric of Spiritual Warfare: The Public Face of Aladura in Diaspora’. Journal of Religion in Africa, 34(4): 493-522.

—2005a, ‘To Be or Not to Be? Politics of Belonging and African Christian Communities in Germany’. In A. Adogame and C. Weisskoppel (eds.), Religion in the Context of African Migration. Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies: 95-112.

—2005b, ‘African Christian Communities in Diaspora’. In O.U. Kalu (ed.), African Christianity: An African Story. Pretoria: Department of Church History, University of Pretoria: 494-514.

Basch, L., N. Glick-Schiller and C. Blanc-Szanton (eds.), 1994, Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States. New York: Gordon & Breach Science Publishers.

Capps, W.H., 1995, Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Chitando, E., 2001, ‘ “Insiders” and “Outsiders” in the Study of African Traditional Religions: One More Time!’ Missionalia 29: 43-54.

—2005a, ‘Review Article: Complex Circles: Historiography of African Christian Women’s Organisations’, Journal of Religion in Africa 35(2): 232-38.

—2005b, ‘The Insider/Outsider Problem in Research on Religion and Migration’, In A. Adogame and C. Weisskoppel (eds.), Religion in the Context of African Migration. Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies: 79-94.

Cox, J.L., 1996, ‘Methodological Considerations Relevant to Understanding African Indigenous Religions’. In J. Cox, J. Platvoet and J. Olupona (eds.), The Study of Religion in Africa: Past, Present and Prospects. Cambridge: Roots and Branches: 155-71.

Davie, G., 1994, Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging. Oxford: Blackwell.

Droogers, A., 2001, ‘Globalisation and Pentecostal Success’. In A. Corten and R. MarshallFratani (eds.), Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press: 41-57.

Glick-Schiller, N., L. Basch and C. Blanc-Szanton, 1999, ‘Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration’. In S. Vertovec and R. Cohen (eds.), Migration, Diasporas and Transnationalism. Cheltenham: Elgar.

Gothoni, R., 1995, ‘Principles of Studying Religions’, Temenos: Studies in Comparative Religion 31: 37-54.

Haller, D., 2000, ‘Transcending Locality, Creating Identity—a Diasporic Perspective on the Mediterranean: The Jews of Gibraltar’, Anthropological Journal on European Cultures 9(2): 3-30.

Heisler, M., 2000, ‘Now and Then, Here and There: Migration and the Transformation of Identities, Borders and Orders’. In M. Albert, D. Jacobson and Y. Lapid (eds.), Identities, Borders, Orders. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hunt, S., 2005, ‘The Alpha Programme: Research into a Contemporary Evangelical Initiative’, Fieldwork in Religion 1(1): 35-48.

Jenkins, P., 2002, ‘A New Religious America’, First Things 125: 25-28. Available at:

Jenkins, R., 1996, Social Identity. New York: Routledge.

King, R., 1999, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India and ‘The Mystic East’. London: Routledge.

Knott, K., 1995, ‘Women Researching, Women Researched: Gender as an Issue in the Empirical Study of Religion’. In U. King (ed.), Religion and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell: 199-218.

Lieblich, J., and T. McCann, 2002, ‘Africans Now Missionaries to U.S.’, Chicago Tribune, June 21: 1.

Masuzawa, T., 2005, The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Plantinga, R.J., 1989, ‘W.B. Kristensen and the Study of Religion’, NUMEN 36(2): 173-88.

Portes, A., L.E. Guarnizo and P. Landolt, 1999, ‘The Study of Transnationalism: Pitfalls and Promise of an Emergent Research Field’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 2(2): 463-77.

Ranger, T., 2002, ‘Listening: Books from Zimbabwe’, Journal of Southern African Studies 28(1): 196-206.

Sharma, A., (ed.), 2002, Methodology in Religious Studies: The Interface with Women’s Studies. Albany: SUNY.

Smith, J.Z., 1996, ‘Nothing Human Is Alien to Me’, Religion 26(4): 297-309.

Spickard, J., 2005, ‘Networks, Homes or Congregations? Exploring the Locus of Immigrant Religiosity’. In A. Adogame and C. Weisskoppel (eds.), Religion in the Context of African Migration. Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies: 23-41.

Ter Haar, G., 1998a, Halfway to Paradise: African Christians in Europe. Cardiff: Cardiff Academic Press.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), n.d., The Redeemed Christian Church of God, North America and Caribbean Statement of Fundamental Truths. USA: RCCGNA.

Vera, Y., 1996, Under the Tongue. Harare: Baobab.

Warner, R.S., 1994, ‘The Place of the Congregation in the Contemporary American Religious Configuration’. In J.P. Wind and J.W. Lewis (eds.), American Congregations. II. New Perspectives in the Study of Congregations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 54-99.

Warner, S., and J. Wittner (eds.), 1998, Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Wiebe, D., 1999, The Politics of Religious Studies: The Continuing Conflict with Theology in the Academy. New York: St Martin’s Place.



How to Cite

Adogame, A., & Chitando, E. (2005). Moving among Those Moved by the Spirit: Conducting Fieldwork within the New African Religious Diaspora . Fieldwork in Religion, 1(3), 253–270.