African Pentecostalism in India: Being Born Again in the Diaspora

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Meera Venkatachalam


Over the past four decades, since the 1960s, there has been a steady flow of Africans moving to India for short-term activities: education, medical treatment and trade. There is a visible African diaspora in many localities in India. This diaspora is a layered one, consisting of diverse groups of people with different degrees of attachment to India: Africans settled in India with kinship ties, mobile professionals and students, and itinerant traders. Its composition and strength are in a constant flux. This paper will explore how debates and rituals in primarily Pentecostal- Charismatic churches – which have emerged as the focal point of community interaction for contemporary Africans in India – become crucial in shaping, reconfiguring and showcasing the markers of an imagined Africanness. Complex Pan-African diasporic subjectivities are invented, performed, and transmitted (from older residents to new arrivals), in conversation with prejudices and expectations of the host culture. These subjectivities are informed by educational and economic aspirations; visions of moral, personal, and corporate African progress, embedded in memoryscapes of an (Afro) future, articulated through the meta-language of African Pentecostalism.

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