Garbin, “Visibility and Invisibility”

Garbin, David. 2013. The Visibility and Invisibility of Migrant Faith in the City: Diaspora Religion and the Politics of Emplacement of Afro-Christian Churches. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(5):677-696.

Abstract: In today’s post-industrial city, migrants and ethnic minorities are forming, through their religious practices, particular spaces of alterity, often at the ‘margin’ of the urban experience—for instance, in converting anonymous warehouses into places of worship. This paper examines diverse facets of the religious spatiality of Afro-Christian diasporic churches—from local emplacement to the more visible public parade of faith in the urban landscape. One of the aims is to explore to what extent particular spatial configurations and locations constitute ‘objective expression’ of social status and symbolic positionalities in the post-migration secular environment of the ‘host societies’. Without denying the impact of urban marginality, the paper shows how religious groups such as African Pentecostal and Prophetic churches are also engaged, in their own terms, in a transformative project of spatial appropriation, regeneration and re-enchantment of the urban landscape. The case study of the Congolese Kimbanguist Church in London and Atlanta also demonstrates the need to examine the articulation of local, transnational and global practices and imaginaries to understand how religious and ethnic identities are renegotiated in newly ‘localised’ diasporic settings.