On the Way Home: Christian Migrants and the Liturgical Self
AuthorSwann, Natalie Marie
AffiliationSchool of Social and Political Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Natalie Marie Swann
This thesis tells the stories of Christian migrants who all go to church in the same suburb in the north of Melbourne. It explores the ways in which their faith journey and migration story are intertwined and seeks to show how the stories they tell echo the themes Christians rehearse when they remember, re-enact, and re-tell key biblical narratives. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and the work of theologian James K. A. Smith, I frame this remembering, re-enacting, and re-telling as ‘liturgical practice’. This liturgical practice is not limited to the formal wording of the church service but includes the habits of everyday church life and the faithful practices of Christians in their everyday lives. Smith’s articulation of liturgical practice owes much to Bourdieu’s conception of habitus, and I seek to draw the two concepts into conversation as I reflect on the migration stories my participants told me. The liturgical frame adds two facets to habitus; first, it is explicitly tied to a sacred text, and second, it is used to decode what people love and value rather than decoding power relations. I hope that this reading of the lives of migrant Christians contributes to re-shaping the way we talk about and ascribe value to the lived experience and emotional expressions of migrants in Australia. This thesis shows how the stories Christian migrants tell about their journeys reflect the stories they know from faithful practice: for example, that they learn how to wait through stories of waiting for Jesus’ birth and second coming, that they learn about the significance of the body through the story of the incarnation, or that they learn about valuing suffering through the stories of wilderness experiences. Using this native framework to interpret the everyday practices of church life and the life stories of migrants helps identify the differences and draw attention to the continuities between three very different congregations. It shows how Australia is not the final end point or resolution of these journeys, but that waiting, suffering, and joy continue. Every Christian, but perhaps most especially the Christian migrant, is always on the way home.
KeywordsAnthropology; Christianity; Religion; Migration; Australia; Melbourne; Liturgy; Church; Theology
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