Accepted Paper:

Letters from the Azores: building an African Church in the Diaspora  

Author:

Ruy Blanes (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper intends to explore, through an ethnography of the Angolan Tokoist church, the idea that contemporary African Christianity is inevitably a transnational phenomenon, thus exploring the role played by the diaspora in the recognition, construction and definition of 'African' Christianity.

Paper long abstract:

In contemporary, multi-religious Angola, one church stands today as a cornerstone of 'Angolan Christianity': the Igreja de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo no Mundo Relembrada por Simão Toco (Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Earth, Remembered by Simão Toco), or 'tokoist church', a Baptist-inspired prophetic AIC. This status - backed by the fact that, along with the Catholic Church, it is the only one with a nation-wide implantation - was not a given, but was painstakingly built on its members' persecution, accusation, exile and murder, both by colonial and postcolonial governments. Simão Toko, the prophet and founder, of the movement, was himself deported by the Portuguese colonial administration to the remote islands of the Azores. But interestingly enough, it was in this insular exile that the foundations of the church were set. And today, the Azores play an important role in the church's imagination of a 'sacred place'.

This paper intends to explore, through the Tokoist case, the idea that contemporary African Christianity is inevitably a transnational phenomenon, discussing the ambiguities behind the senses of Africa-ness and European-ness recognised in the diaspora and the importance of 'place' in the construction and definition of those senses.

Panel W029
African Christianities in Europe: the politics of religious recognition