Choosing Heresy: How Muslim-background Unaccompanied Refugee Minors do identity and belonging in the Church of Sweden
Abstract: Between 2014-2016, Sweden received an influx of some 44, 617 unaccompanied refugee minors (UMs), under 18-year-olds who enter the country and seek asylum without a parent. Taking a short-term ethnographic approach, this study looks at identity (re)construction and fictive kinship among Afghan unaccompanied refugee minors who convert to Christianity in the Church of Sweden, challenging some of the pre-conceived outsider categorisations of this phenomenon. By taking an exploratory stance, I seek to understand conversion processes from the perspective of the UMs themselves, as they narrate their own identity processes and attribute meaning to them. I utilise Butler’s performativity and the concept of fictive kinship as lenses for understanding constructions of identity and belonging with particular focus on process and practice. The data reveals the curiosity-driven nature of UM conversions, the sense of belonging which plays an important role in UM identity formation, and the ways in which participants transition from community-coerced religious practices to individual, self-directed spiritual journeys.
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