“Virtuous Citizenship”:Ethnicity and Encapsulation among Akan-Speaking Ghanaian Methodists in London

In: African Diaspora

Abstract

Akan-speaking Methodists in London make sense of their diasporic experience by claiming ‘virtuous’ citizenship. Regardless of their legal and formal status, they feel themselves to be citizens of Britain as Methodists, workers and law-abiding subjects. Active membership in the British Methodist church, conceived as an English transnational polity extending to Ghana, allows for this alternative construction, rooted in Methodist Christian ideology of universal and selfless love, and the Akan concept of tema ‐ empathy for the pain of others, expressed in moral and material obligations to humanity at large, and family or fellowship members. Encapsulation in ethnically exclusive fellowships has become, however, highly problematic for the British Methodist Church whose internal conversation mirrors wider debates in Britain on multiculturalism and immigrant citizenship. Ghanaians themselves are increasingly aware of this critique, but for them ethnic fellowships do not imply exclusion or exclusiveness: they are the loci where people’s agency is experienced, and where they gain recognition and distinction.

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