Accepted paper:

'Do I turn up and help others?': weddings and the making of a moral community among Kenyan Pentecostals in London


Leslie Fesenmyer (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

I approach the ‘community weddings’ of Kenyan Pentecostal migrants in London as a form of moral discourse and practice and consider what these occasions can tell us about the ‘community’ invoked by the term.

Paper long abstract:

Organized around discourses and practices of inclusion and exclusion, this paper considers how 'community weddings' - a normative ideal among Kenyan Pentecostal migrants - help to position them vis-à-vis their non-migrant kin, other (Kenyan) migrants living in London, and wider British society. I focus in particular on the pre-wedding stage during which couples raise significant sums of money. By looking at moments when abuses may occur, it is possible to understand more fully how 'community weddings' constitute migrants from Kenya as moral beings who 'turn up and help others' and, thus, how a sense of 'community' is generated. I consider the moral discourse they use, particularly with regard to notions of change and continuity, in relation to wider British society and in light of studies of Pentecostalism in Africa and the African diaspora. More specifically, migrants reveal their ambivalence toward the United Kingdom - Kenya's former colonial ruler - as they tack discursively between, on the one hand, sympathy with the place where (many of) their children were born and on the other hand, disdain toward a (racially) hostile place they characterize as having 'left the Kingdom of God'.

panel P66
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?