Accepted Paper:

Pure cosmopolitans? Keeping community in an international Pentecostal student church  


Mary Adams (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

Through ethnographic analysis of events within an International Pentecostal Student Church that includes a significant number of African students, shifting claims on cultural identity are examined as grounds for congregational distinction as well as for the negotiation of religious practice.

Paper long abstract:

It is often noted that ethnic or diasporic churches and forms of religiosity comprise both part of the historical processes that compose migrant or minority distinctions and part of the social and cultural effects of such identity politics. An 'International Church', it might be assumed, would furnish alternative grounds for migrant and minority recognition beyond ethnic or home-focused orientations.

This paper discusses some first observations from an ongoing ethnography of student Christian movements. The focus is the internationalist orientation of one university campus-based Pentecostal church in South-East England that includes African leaders and congregants. In this church the interplay between notions of cultural distinction and religious commonality raises questions for anthropologies of the 'politics of recognition'. Most immediately, 'internationalism' offers a charter for church distinction and expressions of community within a flourishing marketplace of student Christianities. Also, the tenants of congregational leadership can furnish opportunities for the articulation of complex political identities for African as well as for other student minorities. However, particularly when inevitable tensions between liturgy and lifestyle surface, a view of the church as 'ethnic mosaic' is evoked. At such times the hardening of views on cultural distinction between congregants allows some softening of the demands of moral separatism anticipated by this interpretive community.

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