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Lived religion of Latin American Pentecostals in Germany. A pragmatic analysis of religion

 

Context

To date, the immigration of Christian migrants to Germany has scarcely been discussed, both in the scientific debate on the topic of religion and migration and by the established churches and Free Churches. Particularly the group of Latin American Pentecostals has been completely ignored. The fact that these new arrivals, however, have a growing impact on the host community and its church landscape is reflected in the so-called "Listenprozess" of the Protestant Church of Rhineland and Westphalia, and in the establishment of the "Latino AG" in the Bund freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden (BFP), initiatives that both seek to advance cooperation and integration of immigrant communities. This does not prove successful in all cases, failing frequently due to a lack of intercultural understanding. To counteract this desideratum, the dissertation project is dedicated to examining the development and effects of meaning systems in Latin American Pentecostal congregations in Germany. Herein, I represent a relational perspective, which takes into account the social embeddedness of the actors, and I follow the empirical approach of praxeology as used in cultural science. It offers the means to describe and explain dynamics and (negotiation) processes without regarding religion as a phenomenon sui generis and succumbing to an essentialism that describes the heterogeneity of a society in terms of a "clash of civilizations" (cf. Huntington).

 

Question

Beyond the normative paradigm of religious studies operating as social science, subordinating agency to knowledge and understanding it as the adherence to normative rules, I seek to emphasize a social constructivist aspect, i.e. the emergence of religious order through repetitive human action. Particular focus is placed on the support services these communities develop in relation to their social embeddedness. Religion is thus understood praxeologically, i.e. as a human form of practice that emerges and is modified in the dialectic between habitus and situation. The unit of analysis is constituted by social practices. They differ from selective actions insofar as they are know-how-related behavioral routines, which have been collectively ascribed a meaning (cf. Reckwitz 2003). These ascriptions are related to the social embeddedness of actors and the interpretation of the situation (Thomas theorem). In addition to the description of individual, observable practices, both the social embeddedness and the interpretation of the experienced situation will be given special attention. What is central to a better understanding of the religiousness of Latin American Pentecostals in Germany is generally a better knowledge of their social embeddedness and an understanding of how they experience their situation, how they define or interpret and shape it together through their action.

 

Method

The relational, praxeological perspective of the project is also reflected in the combination of different empirical research methods. Participant observation and narrative interviews are thus combined. The participant observation serves as a method of discerning religious practices, while the narrative interviews provide insight into the implicit knowledge of the actors. Besides these "natural" methods of praxeology (Reckwitz 2008), sermons and prayers will be analyzed to register those religious beliefs relevant to the practitioner. This is supplemented with an analysis of ego-centered network data of individual actors to formally describe the social embeddedness of actors. This data will be interpreted in relation to the self-interpretation of the situation as it is expressed in the narrative interviews. Through the combination of methods, I hope to gain insight into the different relationships between embeddedness and interpretation of the situation, and between interpretation and religious practices.