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Accepted paper:

Infrastructures of religious mobility: Hillsong Global Networks, Brazilians, and Belonging

Author:

Cristina Rocha (Western Sydney University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the infrastructures that allow the Australian Pentecostal megachurch Hillsong to expand into Brazil. I argue that these infrastructures communicate success, excitement, modernity, and cosmopolitanism to a Brazilian middle-class audience that aspires to become global citizens.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the infrastructures that allow the Australian Pentecostal megachurch Hillsong to expand globally. I focus on its expansion to Brazil, allegedly the largest Pentecostal country in the world with its own share of megachurches. Hillsong is a global religious phenomenon. It has branches in many global cities, American celebrities among its followers, and an award-winning worship band that tours the world. Hillsong established a branch in an upmarket neighbourhood of São Paulo in late 2016, after much pleading from Brazilian fans of the church and its band. Drawing on four years of multi-sited ethnography in Australia and Brazil, I analyse the ways in which the transnational connections between the two countries are supported by particular infrastructures, be they the smart church buildings and their hip soundscapes in São Paulo and Sydney, Hillsong's cool use of digital media, Hillsong merchandise, Hillsong network programs and teaching resources, Brazilian Christian travel agencies, and so forth. I argue that these infrastructures communicate success, excitement, modernity, and cosmopolitanism to a middle-class audience that aspires to break with local traditions, and become global citizens. Such infrastructures create a transnational urbanscape through which Brazilians are able to inhabit and feel they belong to the 'centre' spiritually, physically and aesthetically.

panel P181
Religion, (im)mobilities and citizenship in the face of populism