'Thanks to London and to God': living religion transnationally among Brazilian migrants in London and 'back home' in Brazil
This thesis explores the role of religion in the everyday, transnational lives of Brazilian migrants in London and on their return to Brazil. It contributes to an emerging body of work that recognises the importance of religion within transnational processes and foregrounds the experiences of Brazilians in London, a growing yet still largely invisible new migrant group in London. While the study explores the role of religious institutions in the transnational lives of Brazilian migrants, it works with the notion of religion as lived experience to give due weight to the perspectives of migrants themselves. It examines the ways in which migrants negotiate their religious beliefs and practices in different places and create new connections between them. The study draws on a qualitative methodological framework, which included 78 in-depth interviews with Brazilian migrants in London and on their return to Brazil, religious leaders, and migrants’ family members. It also involved extended participant observation in one Catholic and one evangelical Protestant church in London, as well as at community events and in migrants’ domestic spaces in London and five ‘sending’ towns in Brazil. Empirically, the project reveals some of the ways in which religion functions transnationally through examining how religious institutions and their leaders adapt to new contexts, and how religion becomes a crucial resource for migrants at all stages of their migration experience, including on their return. With reference to migrants’ own stories, it explores the ways that they draw on religion to cope with particular challenges related to migration, but also how engagement with the spiritual enables migrants to give meaning to their experiences. The thesis develops the concept of transnational religious spaces to highlight the ways in which religion permeates the spaces of transnationalism and functions within and across multiple scales, including the global, the local, the institutional, the individual, the corporeal and the virtual. These spaces incorporate those who migrate, those who return ‘back home’, and migrants’ families who experience the absence of their loved ones. Yet while transnational religious spaces can enable migrants to create alternative spaces of belonging, I argue that they can also be exclusionary, creating new barriers at the same time as opening up existing ones. I also propose a related concept of religious remittances whereby changing religious practices and beliefs are transferred across borders, adapting to new contexts.
- Theses