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Call for papers ASA-UK Sept 2014: Religion and the Congolese Diaspora

Call for papers for the ASA-UK conference in September 2014 for panel on


Panel conveners:
Alessandro Gusman, University of Turin, ( Karen Lauterbach, Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen, (

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been experiencing massive waves of migration and forced displacement for the last two decades, due to economic decline,political repression and to the continuous conflicts in the Kivu regions. It is estimated that more than 600,000 Congolese currently live abroad, the majority in other African countries (120,000 in Uganda only). Other significant destinations of the Congolese diaspora are, historically, France and Belgium, and more recently Canada (Quebec, mainly).

An important aspect of the making of Congolese diasporas is the role of religion. On the one hand the creation of churches and other religious institutions that assemble Congolese people, provide a community and a social network as well as assistance of social welfare. On the other hand churches also provide links to home, influence people’s making of transnational identities, and provide a framework in which people can make sense of home, migration and displacement.

Although churches of Congolese origin have been installed in Europe since the 1970s, an example being the Kimbanguist church, which presence in France dates from 1975 (Mokoko-Gampiot 2010), a recent wave of Congolese churches has appeared in Europe, North-America and Africa, attracting the interest of anthropologists working in Canada (Mossière 2008), Belgium (Maskens 2010), France (Mottier 2012), and Uganda (Lauterbach 2013).
The diaspora of Congolese churches falls within, and contributes to the building of what has been called a “transnational social field” (Glick-Schiller 2005), in which complex social, political and cultural dynamics are at stake. This panel draws attention to those institutions that transform subjectivities and create a new or different sense of belonging. Moreover, the panel looks at migration and the ways in which migrants forge intricate international networks through which both “home” and their location elsewhere remain connected in one sphere of social interaction and exchange. Against this background, this panel is concerned with the ways in which the Congolese diaspora transforms the religious presence in the countries of destination, with the transnational and local dynamics it activates, e.g. how religion and spirituality has particular meanings in contexts of displacement and migration and how material conditions and exchange (e.g. the provision of social welfare) are interweaved with religious understandings of the world.

We welcome contributions based on empirical research conducted both in Europe, North-America and Africa.

Please contact either of the panel convenors if you are interested in joining the panel.

Best regards,
Alessandro Gusman and Karen Lauterbach

Karen Lauterbach
Assistant Professor, Ph.D.

University of Copenhagen
Centre of African Studies
Købmagergade 44-46
DK-1150 København K
TEL +45 35322585
DIR +45 35323616