(Re-)production and imagination of urban social by Pentecostal immigrants in South Africa: a narrative ethnography

Tinashe Chimbidzikai


Intersecting the parallel issues of transnational migration, urbanity and African Pentecostalism, this project explores overlooked aspects of ways that intimate social relations are (re)produced, shaped, and contested in a transnational migratory context. Scholarship on global/ized African cities disproportionately depicts the public aspects of urban reality, neglecting myriad intimate dynamics that are just as relevant for analyzing African urbanity. Empirically inspired by Barbara Heer (2019)’s argument that approaching African urbanity primarily in the public sphere ignores the contradictions, ambivalences, interconnections and invisibilities characterizing African urbanity, the project explores the “entanglements between locality and mobility, between strangeness and intimacy, and between public and private”. The study addresses this scholarly bias straddling binaries of urban social space, unmasking the fluidities of imaginary boundaries between the public, on the one hand, and private and intimate spaces on the other, obfuscating the already complex relationship between these two domains. Theoretically, the study draws on various microlevel sociological approaches to everyday life, urban sociality, and lived religion. Utilizing qualitative ethnography in a superdiverse neighbourhood in north-western Johannesburg, the project explores how notions of morality, gossip, trust, and belonging intersect with intimate social relations among Zimbabwean Pentecostal immigrants in South Africa. These notions offer an extraordinarily rich prism into the sociocultural dynamics that inform Pentecostal immigrants’ everyday lives.

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