Ambivalent belonging: Born-again Christians between Africa and Europe

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Historically entangled with nation, race, and religion, questions of belonging are pressing and affective ones in Africa and Europe. Against the backdrop of anti-migrant hostility, globalization, and autochthonous claims, I consider how born-again Christians in London negotiate belonging between Kenya, their country of origin, and the United Kingdom, their country of residence. As ‘migrants’ and ‘diasporans’, they are seen as not belonging in either national context. Adopting a scalar approach, I argue that their identification as born-again Christians and claim to membership in a global Christian community allows them to ‘scale-jump’ and offers a morally and emotionally meaningful sense of belonging. At the same time, their encounters with various racial and religious Others locally, nationally, and transnationally mediate where they feel at ‘home’. In the face of contradictions and ambivalence, Pentecostalism helps them to navigate competing symbolic, material, and affective concerns as they seek belonging across multiple sociospatial scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119–145
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Religion in Africa
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research on which this article is based was conducted with the support of a UK Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders Fellowship (ES/K007734/1). I am deeply grateful to the pastors and congregants for their generosity and willingness to participate in this research. The paper benefited enormously from the comments of the JRA editor and anonymous reviewer, as well as from seminar discussions at the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

Publisher Copyright:
© Leslie Fesenmyer, 2022.


  • Belonging
  • Born-again Christianity
  • Kenya
  • Pentecostalism
  • United Kingdom
  • scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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