Deserving Welcome? Immigrants, Christian Faith Communities, and the Contentious Politics of Belonging in the US South

Caroline Nagel, Patricia Ehrkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article examines articulations of merit and deservingness in relation to immigrants in the US South. In a context of pronounced anti-immigrant sentiment, scholars have rightfully focused on state practices that marginalize immigrants. Yet xenophobia and exclusion are but one set of responses to immigrants. Societies also construct immigrants as meritorious figures: hard workers, entrepreneurs, and upholders of family values. The figure of the “good immigrant”, like that of the “bad immigrant”, is routinely produced and reproduced in social settings that are not obviously political, including churches. Christian faith communities in the US South, we show, offer the potential for a politics built around inclusive understandings of belonging. But Christian universalism is in constant tension with nationalist ways of thinking and acting. Whether they praise immigrants for their virtues or criticize them for their shortcomings, congregants and pastors tend to cast immigrants in the role of foreign Other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1040-1058
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the pastors and church volunteers who took the time to share their experiences with us. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (Award Number 1021907: Places of Worship and the Politics of Citizenship: Immigrants and Communities of Faith in the New South).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author. Antipode © 2016 Antipode Foundation Ltd.


  • Christianity
  • US South
  • churches
  • deservingness
  • immigration
  • merit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Deserving Welcome? Immigrants, Christian Faith Communities, and the Contentious Politics of Belonging in the US South'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this