Incense and holy bread: the sense of belonging through ritual among Middle Eastern Christians in Denmark

Sara Cathrine Lei Sparre, Lise Paulsen Galal

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This article investigates how two Middle Eastern Christian churches in Denmark are constructed as particular sensorial spaces that invite attendees to participate in and identify with specific times and spaces. As with other Christian groups, rituals of the Sunday mass constitute a highlight of the activities that confirm the congregations’ faith and community, but for members of a minority faith, these rituals also serve other functions related to identification and belonging. Inspired by a practice-oriented [Bell, Catherine. (1992). Ritual Practice, Ritual Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press] and phenomenological approach to place-making [Cresswell, Tim. (2002). “Introduction: Theorizing Place.” In Mobilizing Place, Placing Mobility: The Politics of Representation in a Globalized World, edited by Ginette Verstraete and Tim Cresswell, 11–32. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V.] through sensory communication [Leistle, Bernard. (2006). “Ritual as Sensory Communication: A Theoretical and Analytical Perspective.” In Ritual and Identity: Performative Practices as Effective Transformations of Social Reality, edited by Klaus-Peter Köpping, Bernhard Leistle, and Michael Rudolph, 33–74. Berlin: LIT Verlag; Pink, Sarah. (2009). Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage], the article examines constructions of religious identity and belonging through ritual practices. The findings stem from fieldwork carried out in 2014–2015 and are part of a larger cross-disciplinary study of Egyptian, Iraqi and Assyrian Christians in Denmark. We argue that in various ways, the ritual forms a performative space for memory and belonging which, through bodily practices and engagement with the materialities of the church rooms, creates a memory that reconnects the practitioners with places elsewhere. More specifically, we argue that the Sunday ritual facilitates the connection with God and the eternal, a place and time with fellow believers, and a relocation to remember and re-enter a pre-migration past and ‘homeland’.
TidsskriftJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Udgave nummer16
Sider (fra-til)2649-2666
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 2018

Bibliografisk note

This article has been published as a part of Special Issue 1: Rituals of Migration; Special Issue 2: Contested Control at the Margins of the State

Important note from the Publisher regardin the attached Open Access document: “This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies on 13 Nov 2017, available online:”

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