Formenti, “Going for God”

Formenti, Ambra. 2014. Going for God: Mobility, Place and Temporality among Evangelical Guineans in Lisbon. Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology. Lisbon, Portugal: University of Lisbon.

Abstract: In the last decades the intensification of migratory flows has led to a gradual pluralisation of urban religious landscapes in Europe. One of the most relevant aspects of this process is the spreading of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches founded by African migrants, a phenomenon that contributed to the emergence of new configurations of Christianity in Europe. The town of Lisbon (Portugal), a place where different experiences of spirituality and distinct worldviews meet and interact, is an emblematic case of religious encounter between deep-rooted Catholicism and imported forms of Christianity. This dissertation provides an ethnography of Guinean Evangelical Christianity in Lisbon, focusing on the case of the Missão Evangélica Lusófona (MEL), a church settled in the outskirts of Lisbon and attended mostly by migrants from Guinea-Bissau.

Taking the MEL as a case-study of African Churches in the diaspora, I try to describe
and analyse the centrality of religion in the lives of Evangelical Guinean migrants in Lisbon.
My central argument is that, in this context, religious faith appears as a way to make sense of the experiences of dislocation and re-location of believers. Accordingly, in the following
pages I portray MEL as an emblematic example of how Evangelical Christianity sustains
migrants in their transnational movements while concurringly enables them to create a sense of place in the localities in which they chose to dwell.

Furthermore, by examining the experiences and life stories of MEL’s members, I
address a series of issues, such as: the meaning of conversion for individuals and
communities; the connection between religious faith and the condition of stranger; the
relationship between global/universal and local/particular dimensions of religious identity; the ways in which religious actors appropriate and transform the urban space where they live in; the emergence and transformation of peculiar visions of space and time, including the ways how human groups produce their past, present and future.

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