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

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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 1992) and phenomenological approach to place-making (Cresswell 2002) through sensory communication (Leistle 2006; Pink 2009), 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’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue16 (1)
Pages (from-to)2649-2666
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Ritual, Middle Eastern Christians, migration, memory, Denmark

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