Living in the Borderland: Young Migrant Converts in the Church of Sweden

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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From 2014 to 2016, 44,617 unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) arrived in Sweden and sought asylum. The Church of Sweden has received hundreds of these young people seeking to join the church and be baptised as Christians. Conversion to Christianity among asylum seekers in Europe is a well-documented phenomenon that is often dismissed as merely a strategy to boost asylum chances. This dissertation challenges such views, revealing the intricate reality behind these conversions.
Grounded in three years of ethnographic fieldwork, and drawing on participant observation and first-hand narrative accounts, this study follows a Bible study group in the Church of Sweden made up predominantly of URM-background Hazaras from Afghanistan. The study draws on Wenger's situated learning theory and Honneth's recognition framework to provide a conception of religious conversion that is highly contextual and emerges from social practice. Mapping the participants’ trajectories in terms of belonging, behaving, and believing, it proposes that belief should be understood as practical knowledge constituted through social participation, rather than according to a form of dogmatic cognitivism. This finding is at odds with the
Swedish migration agency's working definition of religion.
The dissertation furthermore addresses the nested precarities that characterise the lives of asylum seeking youth, and the invisibility that accompanies the bureaucratic processes in which they are caught up. This is juxtaposed with the visibility and recognition that the participants encounter in the community of the church.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • Gustafsson Lundberg, Johanna, Supervisor
  • Kraft, Kathryn, Assistant supervisor, External person
  • Engberg, Aron, Assistant supervisor
  • Andersson, Dan-Erik, Assistant supervisor
Award date2024 May 17
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-89874-35-0
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-89874-36-7
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2024-05-17
Time: 15.00
Place: SOL, hörsalen
External reviewer
Name: Dorottya Nagy
Title: professor
Affiliation: Protestant Theological University

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Free keywords

  • unaccompanied refugee minors
  • ethics
  • migration studies
  • religious conversion
  • recognition
  • precarity
  • communities of practice
  • practice theory
  • ritual
  • narrative
  • Church of Sweden
  • Scania
  • migrationsverket
  • political theology
  • productive waiting
  • lived religion


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