Unbecoming Migrants: Ghanaian Pentecostals in Rome Italy
Smadar Brack (University of Michigan)
Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses the way religiosity is used by African migrants to participate in their European host-society. By assuming a status of Christian-citizens Ghanaian Pentecostals aim to contribute to their hosts, challenging discourses of non-citizenship and migrants' exclusion in Europe.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I explore a case study of Ghanaian migrants in Rome, Italy, who in addition to the political-economic aspirations bringing them to Europe, believe that their role is to bring Christianity to their European host-society. These migrants experience a paradox of two conflicting statuses that originate from their positions, first, as "immigrants" who come to better their lives economically, and second, as "missionaries" a status that originates in their religious life. I show that the tension between these statuses is strongly portrayed when examining Rome's urban space; in the migrants eyes the city itself becomes a space for potential missionary work, while the geographical spread of their churches throughout the capital speaks of their marginality as immigrants. I argue that Pentecostal migrants navigate this terrain by assuming a status of "Christian citizens." Despite (or perhaps because) of their status as non-citizens in Italy, assuming a status of Christian-citizens, enables them to offer an alternative manner for contributing and participating in Italian social life. Moreover, as Christian-citizens, they come to see their moral conduct as a counterweight, balancing the immorality of their Italian hosts by contributing their "good citizenship." This paper shows that the concept of citizenship, which is often interpreted in relation to the nation-state, - that is a form of belonging to and participating in the state, is linked by the migrants to their religiosity instead, challenging their non-citizenship and countering the hegemonic narratives of exclusion of African migrants in Italian society.
Religion on the move: comparative ethnographic accounts of migration and urban religiosity