Immigration, places of worship and the politics of citizenship in the US South



This article considers the ways in which places of worship serve as sites of citizenship politics in immigrant-receiving liberal democracies. We approach citizenship in terms of the social practices and everyday spaces through which individuals and groups negotiate the terms of societal membership. Places of worship are both the objects of political debates about immigrant assimilability and citizenship, and sites of political agency in which immigrants (and non-immigrants) formulate and implement narratives of societal membership that mesh with their moral outlooks. Our arguments are based on research in the US South – a region where recent immigration has destabilised a deeply entrenched racial and religious order. We discuss Hindu temples and the notions of multicultural citizenship expressed by Indian immigrants before turning to two diversifying Christian churches to analyse the politics of citizenship between immigrants and non-immigrants. Overall, our analysis suggests that while religious beliefs and spaces exist in tension with secularism, places of worship and faith communities remain intertwined with political life, albeit in complex and contradictory ways.