Religion and Migration in Post-Colonial Contexts Discussed
The School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) recently hosted a conference at the Diakonia Centre in Durban on Religion and Migration in Postcolonial Contexts.
Conference organiser Dr Federico Settler explained the event aimed to explore the lives of migrants in Southern Africa and the ways in which religious beliefs, affiliations and practices shaped migration, and also how migratory processes shaped the understanding of what constituted religion, religious work and practice.
‘The Conference was premised on the idea that when people move, they take their religion and cultural identities with them. In this, migrants make use of and form religious communities as networks of support, trust and knowledge and to accumulate material knowledge of regulations, languages, expectations, desirable jobs and settlement,’ he said.
DVC and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, saw the conference as a platform to engage sociologically and psychologically with the challenges facing postcolonial societies.
‘We cannot solve societal challenges but through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary engagement with social and natural scientists, we can at least step up to these challenges especially at tertiary level for transformation, decolonisation of the curriculum and inspire more academics to break down disciplinary boundaries,’ she said.
The keynote address was given by Honorary Professor at SRPC, Professor Trygve Wyller of the University of Oslo, who spoke on Religion and the Political, discussing whether religiously based citizenship activities could in any way contribute to a non-orientalist notion and practice of citizenship.
‘Traditionally, there are millions of Christian social practice activities in the world, all aimed at the improvement of the life standard for one or more kinds of groups. Often these activities are motivated by classical Christian discourse, such as compassion, charity and love,’ he said.
He concluded by saying: ‘Maybe the best contribution from the churches is to reduce their significance as churches. Then the people of the non-place (migrants) can become subjects in their own place.’
The Conference, sponsored by the National Research Foundation, marked the start of the second year of Settler’s NRF Thuthuka-funded project dedicated to the critical study of the relationship between religion and migration.
The Conference attracted delegates from Germany, Botswana, Turkey and Norway, and marked the beginning of future collaboration with UKZN.