The church and the shantytown. Urban marginality, religion and construction of new identities among Roma and non-Roma in Italy.
Pietro Cingolani (University of Turin)
Paper short abstract:
Roma migrants live in conditions of strong urban marginality and are subject to public stigmatization. In the Pentecostal churches relations between Roma and non-Roma followers are redefined, ethnic boundaries lose relevance and transnational relations with the countries of departure also change.
Paper long abstract:
Several studies on migration and religion in urban contexts have adopted an ethnic lens and have analysed how the national belonging of migrants is reinforced in migratory contexts within ethnic churches. This perspective has made it difficult to understand how, thanks to religious affiliation, new identities are created that are not based on ethnic belonging and go beyond established divisions. In this paper I analyse the link between urban marginality, discrimination and the role that religion has in the paths of social inclusion and in the construction of new community ties. The analysis focuses on the case of the transnational migration of Romanian Roma in Italy. This group receives strongly hostile representations by the majority of population and in Italian cities often lives in conditions of high marginality, shantytowns and nomad camps created in the suburbs. Romanian non-Roma migrants strongly distance themselves in the public space from their Roma ethnic compatriots. In the Pentecostal churches created both within the camps and in the centre of the cities, the followers overcome these differences, present a new narrative and negotiate a different image of themselves even towards the autochthonous population. These forms of religious belonging prove to be important also at a transnational level and have an impact on the relations between Roma and non-Roma even in the sending communities.
Religion on the move: comparative ethnographic accounts of migration and urban religiosity