African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships 2016

Programme Type: Projects Programme: 3, 9, 2, 2, <, U, T, p, c, c, , u, , , 2, 2, , 1, h, 0, p, , 0, 3

Henrietta Nyamnjoh is a recipient of the American Council of Learned Society fellowship for the African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2016.

Her project entitled: Religious Transnationalism and the Quest for Physical and Spiritual Healing: The Case of Cameroonian Migrants in Cape Town, explores the trans-local and (trans)national interconnections migrants are forging with various religious denominations to seek healing and deliverance in their daily lives and emotional challenges in the host country of South Africa.

This study examines the under-documented (trans)national religious activities of Cameroonian migrants who are in search of answers to existential problems – illness, sorcery/spiritual attack, challenges of obtaining legal status, prosperity and joblessness, family feuds and marital issues. Drawing on qualitative research, the study focuses on how (trans)national and trans-local religious activities find fertile ground for salvationist Pentecostalism among migrants desperately seeking physical/emotional wellbeing in a challenging host context, and their leaning towards ‘prosperity gospels’ that combined spiritual and socio-economic success. It explores how religious transnationalism has brought migrants closer to other Pentecostal churches and underscores the trans-local and transnational interconnections migrants are forging with other religious denominations in the course of their migratory trajectory. It questions to what extent are Pentecostal churches in Cape Town relevant to migrants’ everyday lives and how do migrants navigate and negotiate the different religious spheres?

This study will be anchored on two approaches – concept of ‘everyday life’ (life-worlds) and trans-local/ (trans)national approaches. The former seeks to examine how migrants in quest of emotional fulfilment navigate religious networks and interconnections, and how this informs their kin and social relationships and their everyday life. The focus on how migrants navigate and negotiate these life-worlds shifts from global articulation of religious transnationalism to exploring the ‘glocal’ that zooms into the everyday life and exposes the narratives, the intrigues, energy and resources that emboldens migrants, and the extent to which this gives them some degree of agency. The concept of ‘emplacement’ therefore, is useful in that it captures the betwixt and between and sheds light on how migrants engage and navigate the local religious movements. The objectives of this study are inextricably enmeshed in migrants’ lived experiences.

There is less about the religious lives of migrants and their trans-local and (trans)national activities to attain health and overcome the challenges brought to bear on them by intra-African migration. This study is significant in filling that gap and bringing out the everyday existential challenges of Cameroonian migrants’ activities in redressing them.

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