Kenyan Pentecostals attempt to ‘live as Londoners do’ without compromising their devotion to God. Doing so necessitates coexisting with religious and non‐religious others, including Muslims who they view simultaneously as a ‘threat’ to historically Christian Britain and an ‘example’ to emulate. While the anthropologies of Christianity and Islam have developed as separate sub‐fields, pluralist settings like East London demand attention to inter‐religious coexistence. To understand these born‐again Christians’ subjectivities and lives, I draw on existential anthropology to explore how they navigate the circumstances in which they find themselves. I argue that Pentecostalism offers them the means to live as ‘good’ Christians, allowing them to seek material success and salvation in such a setting. More broadly, I suggest that an existential anthropological lens is well suited for studying pluralist contexts where relational encounters between diverse people and ideas are inevitable.
Born‐again Christians in convivial East London
Crossing religious and ethnographic boundaries – the case for comparative reflection
Leslie Fesenmyer, Giulia Liberatore, and Ammara Maqsood
This introduction to the special issue traces the development history of the sub‐disciplines of the anthropologies of Christianity and Islam to suggest that these ‘monistic’ tendencies have obscured exploration and theorisation of inter‐religious coexistence and encounters for people’s lives and the societies in which they live. These sub‐disciplinary boundaries have further led to an unintended ‘provincialisation’ of both geographical spaces and theoretical debates, and stalled the development of a theoretically robust anthropology of religion. This special issue argues for the value of comparative work on multi‐religious encounters within particular contexts, as well as of thinking comparatively on a global scale, as a way to generate new questions and considerations in how we study religion. The final section offers a short overview of the contributions to the special issue.