Leslie Fesenmyer

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

Through various research projects, I am pursuing two strands of interest:

1) Religion, mobility, and the urban

My current research broadly focuses on coexistence in diverse cities. In an ESRC-funded project – Kenyan Pentecostals between home, London, and the Kingdom of God – I explored the social and religious lives of born-again Christians who migrated from Kenya to the United Kingdom during a period of tightening immigration laws and increasing diversity in London.  Some themes animating this research include: ideas of ‘home’ and belonging; forms of ‘social engagement’ among Pentecostals; and (religious) modes of coexistence. 

In a new collaborative and comparative project funded by the European Research Council – Multi-religious encounters in urban settings – with Ammara Maqsood (University College London) and Giulia Liberatore (University of Edinburgh), I will adopt a different theoretical and empirical starting point to urban cohabitation.  While most research on religious pluralism has been conducted within the framework of secular-liberal democratic states, this project explores multi-religious encounters in three sites not typically seen as possessing secular-liberal civil societies: Kenya, Pakistan, and Italy. My research within the larger project will focus on Kenya, a multi-ethnic, -racial, and -religious society, which has been implicated in the global ‘War of Terror’ and where social tensions are increasingly made sense of through religious idioms.  Rather than foregrounding the lives of a particular group of religious practitioners, I will focus on multi-religious encounters in urban Kenya to explore how people who identify with different religions (have come to) coexist and how their pursuit of social mobility may generate mixing and borrowing across religious lines that are otherwise taken to be incommensurate. 

2) Kinship and care

Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork in Kenya and London, I am revising a book manuscript titled Relative distance: Kinship, imagination, and change between Kenya and the United Kingdom. The book adopts a generational, life-stage, and gendered lens to the study of families living between Kenya and the United Kingdom, engaging with themes of migration and imagination, reciprocity and recognition, and the material and affective aspects of kinship.  Highlighting the affective process of negotiating relatedness transnationally, it shows that changes in kin relations cannot easily be attributed to the so-called inevitable nuclearization of families as a result of migrating to a western country.  Instead, it demonstrates how kin navigate their respective circumstances, reconfiguring the meaning of relatedness as they do so, and at the same time how wider forces mediate the social reproduction of families. 

I am also interested in issues of transnational caring between Africa and Europe against the backdrop of global ageing, neoliberal restructuring, and the entanglement of care regimes through migration.

Biography

I joined DASA in September 2018. Prior to that, I held several research and teaching posts at the University of Oxford, including an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and a fixed-term lectureship in the Department of International Development. While at Oxford, I taught and supervised postgraduate (MSc, MPhil, and DPhil) students in Social Anthropology and in Migration Studies, as well as taught undergraduates in Human Sciences and Archaeology and Anthropology. I received my MPhil and DPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford.  Prior to my doctoral research, I spent ten years working on social justice, poverty, and gender issues in San Francisco and New York City.  

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

I welcome enquiries from students interested in the anthropology of migration and diasporas; religion, particularly Pentecostalism; and kinship and care.