The Christian Atlantic: Ethnographies of religious encounters between African, Brazilian and Portuguese churches in Lisbon

The Christian Atlantic: Ethnographies of religious encounters between African, Brazilian and Portuguese churches in Lisbon

 

One interesting paradox in the study of so called "Southern" forms of Christianity is that while the literature in the sixties and seventies related emergent forms of Christianity in colonial settings to political oppression, in fact Christian imagination is becoming much more inventive and innovative now that we are in post-colonial times than it ever was during colonialism. A burgeoning literature is emerging on new forms of Christianity in Africa, Latin America and other southern territories, linking the rise of these movements not only to "resistance", as used to be the main paradigm, but also to processes of globalization, capitalism encroachment and to the emergence of new forms of subjectivity, personhood and patterns of consumption. The globalization of Christianity in the last twentieth century has produced an interesting situation in which, as Philip Jenkins has famously put it, "the average Christian today lives in Congo or Brazil" or, as Grace Davie has it, Europe is now the "exception". However, the way these new forms of Christianity affect the very metropoles of the ex-empires from where it departed is still largely understudied, and certainly so in Portugal, despite this country being, in many ways, a paradigm of religious "southernisation": In a setting where Catholicism has been historically so instrumental in defining the nation, migrants from Africa and from Brazil have been over the last two decades (but increasingly so over the last few years) strongly reshaping the religious landscape. In the first place, new arrivals bring unheard-of understandings of what it is to be Christian. In the second place, the Catholic Church firmly reacts to these new Christian presences, especially to new movements that rooted in Africa or Brazil or, as is often the case, in a combination of both. In the third place, these arrivals also redefine the historical face of Protestantism in Portugal. The situation is taking on a form of open competition in which Catholicism struggles to remain attractive to its traditional clientele at the same time as having to be appealing to new arrivals, and in where historical Protestants strive to make a new space for themselves. While it would be hard to deny that the Christian institution was fundamental in the making of colonial subjects abroad, it is also proving right that this "subjectivity" is nowadays bouncing back. A "southern" Christianity, which in the specific case of Portugal is a mixture of churches born in Africa and in Brazil, is returning to the places where it departed, often composed of ex-colonial subjects who are now post-colonial citizens living with a composite of heritages: a global Christianity, a local culture, a complex historical relationship with Portugal and with the other side of the Atlantic and a universalizing awareness of personhood, humanity and citizenship. Recognizing Christian churches as such (instead of relegating them to obscure categories such as "sects", "cults" or "associations") may be more important than we think to further the social inclusion of immigrants. Indeed, the lack of religious recognition leads to exclusion and to confrontation. This is clear in the religious history of Europe ever since Euripides wrote the Bachae: a female religion that became extremely adverse to the polis because it had been denied access to it. It can also lead to the search for other identities, as it happened in North America in the 1950s, when Islam became a strong force of identity formation among excluded - previously Christian - African-Americans. In this sense, studying how new Christianities reshape such a fundamental institution to Europe as Christianity may be a necessary exercise not only to document trends in religious patterns, but also to inquire what kind of place Europe is becoming nowadays. Three regions have been judged ideal to study interactions between Brazilian, African and Portuguese forms of Christianity: Seixal, Central Lisbon and Loures. Seixal is ideal for two reasons: firstly, because it is the centre of action of the Scalabrini Fathers, a Catholic congregation with a special pastoral dedication to migrants; secondly, because there are Catholic and Protestant Africans and Brazilians living together. Central Lisbon is important as it is the most multi-ethnic bit of the country as well as the site of historical form of Protestantism. Several Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have been identified there. Loures is critical because there is a strong mixed community there too (African and Brazilian Catholics, Kimbanguists, and other). In all the places mentioned we also find forms of Afro-Brazilian religions (Candomblé, Umbanda) with clear links to Christianity that will also be analysed in the project.

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
No

 

One interesting paradox in the study of so called "Southern" forms of Christianity is that while the literature in the sixties and seventies related emergent forms of Christianity in colonial settings to political oppression, in fact Christian imagination is becoming much more inventive and innovative now that we are in post-colonial times than it ever was during colonialism. A burgeoning literature is emerging on new forms of Christianity in Africa, Latin America and other southern territories, linking the rise of these movements not only to "resistance", as used to be the main paradigm, but also to processes of globalization, capitalism encroachment and to the emergence of new forms of subjectivity, personhood and patterns of consumption. The globalization of Christianity in the last twentieth century has produced an interesting situation in which, as Philip Jenkins has famously put it, "the average Christian today lives in Congo or Brazil" or, as Grace Davie has it, Europe is now the "exception". However, the way these new forms of Christianity affect the very metropoles of the ex-empires from where it departed is still largely understudied, and certainly so in Portugal, despite this country being, in many ways, a paradigm of religious "southernisation": In a setting where Catholicism has been historically so instrumental in defining the nation, migrants from Africa and from Brazil have been over the last two decades (but increasingly so over the last few years) strongly reshaping the religious landscape. In the first place, new arrivals bring unheard-of understandings of what it is to be Christian. In the second place, the Catholic Church firmly reacts to these new Christian presences, especially to new movements that rooted in Africa or Brazil or, as is often the case, in a combination of both. In the third place, these arrivals also redefine the historical face of Protestantism in Portugal. The situation is taking on a form of open competition in which Catholicism struggles to remain attractive to its traditional clientele at the same time as having to be appealing to new arrivals, and in where historical Protestants strive to make a new space for themselves. While it would be hard to deny that the Christian institution was fundamental in the making of colonial subjects abroad, it is also proving right that this "subjectivity" is nowadays bouncing back. A "southern" Christianity, which in the specific case of Portugal is a mixture of churches born in Africa and in Brazil, is returning to the places where it departed, often composed of ex-colonial subjects who are now post-colonial citizens living with a composite of heritages: a global Christianity, a local culture, a complex historical relationship with Portugal and with the other side of the Atlantic and a universalizing awareness of personhood, humanity and citizenship. Recognizing Christian churches as such (instead of relegating them to obscure categories such as "sects", "cults" or "associations") may be more important than we think to further the social inclusion of immigrants. Indeed, the lack of religious recognition leads to exclusion and to confrontation. This is clear in the religious history of Europe ever since Euripides wrote the Bachae: a female religion that became extremely adverse to the polis because it had been denied access to it. It can also lead to the search for other identities, as it happened in North America in the 1950s, when Islam became a strong force of identity formation among excluded - previously Christian - African-Americans. In this sense, studying how new Christianities reshape such a fundamental institution to Europe as Christianity may be a necessary exercise not only to document trends in religious patterns, but also to inquire what kind of place Europe is becoming nowadays. Three regions have been judged ideal to study interactions between Brazilian, African and Portuguese forms of Christianity: Seixal, Central Lisbon and Loures. Seixal is ideal for two reasons: firstly, because it is the centre of action of the Scalabrini Fathers, a Catholic congregation with a special pastoral dedication to migrants; secondly, because there are Catholic and Protestant Africans and Brazilians living together. Central Lisbon is important as it is the most multi-ethnic bit of the country as well as the site of historical form of Protestantism. Several Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have been identified there. Loures is critical because there is a strong mixed community there too (African and Brazilian Catholics, Kimbanguists, and other). In all the places mentioned we also find forms of Afro-Brazilian religions (Candomblé, Umbanda) with clear links to Christianity that will also be analysed in the project.

Objectivos: 
<p>1) To open a field of study on the plurality of Christianities in Portugal.<br />2) To feed into existing research on religion, transnationalism and religious pluralism in Portugal. <br />3) To ethnographically document through case studies how migration from Africa and Brazil produces the ‘southernization' of Christianity in Portugal, bringing new forms of experiencing Christianity and producing new expressions of plurality even within mainstream forms of religion.<br />4) To explore the transnational networks behind these new religious expressions and the notions of "home" and "diaspora" created by them.  <br />5) To analyse the public face of Christian Churches, their presence in the public sphere and their role as mediators, networkers and civico-political agents. <br />6) To analyze the interface between religious beliefs and transnational subjectivities, paying special attention to how new forms of Christianity impinge on new conceptions of self, gender, success and patterns of consumption.</p>
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/10/2008
End Date: 
01/10/2010
Duração: 
24 meses
Closed