While increasing Evangelical religiosity among Latin Americans in the United States has been well documented, few studies have considered how this faith shapes and is shaped by migrant experience itself. Based on fieldwork among Brazilian migrants outside of Washington, DC, a new immigrant gateway, I suggest that attention to migrant affective experience sheds new light on the growth of Evangelical faith. In the first section, I show how migrant experience configured a common portrait of affective distress marked by loneliness and feeling stuck, which in turn stimulated novel religious longings among migrants. In the remainder of the article, I illustrate how Evangelical churches effectively addressed and reinterpreted migrant-related distress through what I call affective therapeutics—the strategic healing of migrants’ negative emotion states. I outline the five discursive and practice-based tactics of this strategy that I witnessed—happiness of believers, self as vessel, watchful community, open-scripted prayer, and testimony—and consider how they relieved migrant distress. Writing against a “hermeneutics of suspicion,” I instead offer this research as part of a broader effort in the anthropology of religion and Christianity to document the hopeful and creative strategies through which individuals pursue what they conceive of as the “good.”
Ritter, Christian S. and Vladimir Kmec. 2017. “Religious practices and networks of belonging in an immigrant congregation: the German-speaking Lutheran congregation in Dublin” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 32(2): 269-281.
Abstract: This article explores how members of the German-speaking Lutheran church in Dublin develop their networks of belonging by taking part in social practices in their congregation. The article addresses the intersection of religious life, migration experience, and belonging. Based on qualitative fieldwork, we assess how social practices embedded in religious activities and beliefs reshape the sense of belonging among members of this congregation. We study the congregation through a material approach while paying attention to its actual religious and social life. The study observes how participation in the social life of the congregation enables its members to create multiple senses of belonging—ethno-cultural, religious, and social belonging. The social life of the congregation aids the preservation of immigrants’ ethno-cultural particularities, societal adaptation, and sense of belonging to their religious community.