African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe
The Politics of Presence (2016)
Italy has recently become a significant destination for migrants from Nigeria and Ghana. Along with suitcases and dreams, these Africans bring their own form of Christianity—Pentecostalism. At the heart of this ethnography is a paradox. Pentecostalism, traditionally one of the most Protestant of Christian faiths, is driven by the same concern as Catholicism: real presence.
In Italy, Pentecostals face harsh anti immigrant-sentiment and limited access to economic and social resources. At times, they find safe spaces to worship in Catholics churches, where a fascinating encounter unfolds. When Pentecostals watch Catholics engage with sacramental objects—relics, statues, works of art—they recognize the signs of what they consider the idolatrous religions of their ancestors. Catholics, in turn, view Pentecostal practices as a mix of African traditional religions and Christian traditions. Yet despite their apparently irreconcilable differences and conflicts they both share a deeply sensuously and material way to make the divine visible and tangible.
The Politics of Presence offers an intimate glimpse at what happens when the world’s two fastest growing Christian faiths come into contact, share worship space, use analogous sacramental objects and images, and why their seemingly antithetical practices and beliefs undergirds, in the end, a profound commonality.