Global Politics and Religion Research Group
2016 Graduate Fellows
As a Global Politics and Religion Summer Graduate Research Fellow, I spent 8 weeks conducting introductory interviews and participant observation with Catholic and Pentecostal-charismatic welfare organizations in the capital cities of Accra, Lomé, and Cotonou. I focused on Caritas Internationalis – the official Roman Catholic confederation of social service organizations present in each city – and three distinct Pentecostal-charismatic social outreach and development offices across the capitals, due to prior familiarity with them, as well as the aim of broadening my scope of the overall Pentecostal-charismatic field. Of the three main research questions guiding my proposed dissertation research, I focused on the first of these during my 8 weeks of summer research: investigate the different narratives of welfare, prosperity, and poverty alleviation that Catholic and Pentecostal-charismatic organizations employ, and how they draw on historical positioning and involvement in the region. This allowed me to incorporate material from introductory meetings and follow-up interviews, as well as digital and print materials available in church and organization offices, websites, radio, and billboards throughout the city. Three particular findings from the summer will shape the trajectory of my dissertation research which I will begin this fall: 1) the significance of the Caritas office in Cotonou for coastal francophone West African countries, and the newly opened (June 2016) Caritas office in Accra; 2) a separate archive focused on the relations between Ghana and Togo during the 1955-1965 decade; 3) the potential importance of religious radio stations in coastal West Africa for shaping and disseminating particular messages of social and economic welfare. The GPR summer research fellowship provided me the opportunity to begin sketching a geography of the distinctions between Christian welfare discourses across these coastal cities.