Accepted Paper:

Emplaced in scrap yards, transit sheds and wasteland: migrant churches in north-east London  


Kristine Krause (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Due to the difficulty of finding a place for worship which is affordable and tolerant to noise, many churches founded by African migrants in London rent old storehouses in industrial areas. The paper will discuss appropriation strategies and how spiritual spaces are created in industrial places.

Paper long abstract:

Due to the difficulty to find a place which is affordable and tolerant to noisy worship, more and more churches founded by African migrants in London rent old store-houses, garages and industrial depots. In North East London, one finds more than ten African churches in the Lea Valley industrial park. The area consists of large derelict industrial land, much of which is fragmented and divided by waterways, overhead pylons, roads, and heavy rail lines.

The churches are difficult to find. Hidden behind scrap metal, next to dealer's garages and repair shops they share the place with other migrant entrepreneurs, most of them from Eastern Europe. They observe the churches suspiciously but mainly ignore them. Thus we find a strange parallel existence in which marginalised groups and newcomers appropriate space for their means but do not engage with the locality as a social space. The emplacement in parallel, transient worlds is underlined by the ways in which church members move in and out of their church premises, dressed in their best clothes, passing workshops and scrap, before immersing in or emerging from the ritual space of the church rooms. The paper will argue that these churches create spiritual spaces in post industrial places by functioning as a kind of unrecognised urban avant-garde.

Panel W067
Transnational religious networks and their European emplacement