Religion, Migration and the New African Diaspora

A Psychological Perspective


  • Megan Anna Neff George Fox University
  • Richard G. Cowden Harvard University
  • Lisanda Masilela George Fox University
  • Victor Counted Western Sydney University



identity, migration, new African diaspora, object relations theory, religion/spirituality, transitional processes


The new African diaspora has emerged from the recent migratory movements of Africans. This population is tasked with finding effective methods of adjusting to new environments. Through the psychoanalytic lens of object relations, this article explores the role of religion in shaping migration experiences of the new African diaspora. It considers the psychological processes that intersect with religion to influence migrant adjustment. First, drawing from object relations theory, the role of early relational experiences in shaping self-concept is conveyed. Second, ways are explored in which religious phenomena can support transitional processes within a migration context. Third, the object relations framework is used to review some of the psychological tasks involved in the migration experience (e.g., processing of attachment disruptions, expansion of cultural identity). It is theorized that a migrant’s relationship with the sacred represents a transitional phenomenon that contributes to positive adjustment via a post-migration experience. The article concludes with some practical considerations.

Author Biographies

Megan Anna Neff, George Fox University

Megan Neff is a clinical psychologist (pre-licensure) in private practice. She is an adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Her research interests include integration of spirituality and psychology, place attachment, neurodivergence and relational psychoanalysis. She is the author of Embodying Integration (IVP, 2020), has contributed to edited books and published in several journals, including Journal of Positive Psychology, Journal of Psychology and Theology, and The Other Journal.

Richard G. Cowden, Harvard University

Richard G. Cowden, Ph.D., is a social-personality psychologist and Research Associate for the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. He is broadly interested in intersections between cultural-contextual dynamics and psychosocial processes that shape adaptive functioning, personal growth, and well-being. Much of his research agenda focuses on character strengths and positive adjustment, especially the implications of forgiveness for health and well-being in diverse cultures and contexts.

Lisanda Masilela, George Fox University

Lisanda Masilela is a clinical psychologist in training whose main research interests combine adolescent psychology and minority studies. She is a Doctoral student at George Fox University (USA). Masilela hails from the southern African nation of Eswatini and has been studying in the United States as an international student for 6 years. She is interested in the experience of minority youth in majority communities.  

Victor Counted, Western Sydney University

Victor A. Counted (Ph.D. in Psychology, Western Sydney University; Ph.D. in Religion & Society, University of Groningen) is a social and behavioral scientist, psychologist of religion, and research fellow of the School of Psychology at Western Sydney University. Dr. Counted specializes in applied health research, social, positive, and environmental psychology, and the psychology of religion/spirituality.  


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How to Cite

Neff, M. A., Cowden, R. G. ., Masilela, L. ., & Counted, V. . (2022). Religion, Migration and the New African Diaspora: A Psychological Perspective. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 34(3), 267–288.