Immigration, Christian faith communities, and the practice of multiculturalism in the U.S. South

Caroline Nagel, Patricia Ehrkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent scholarship has declared multiculturalism to be in retreat, yet multiculturalist discourses and practices remain salient in many realms of social reproduction. This paper explores multiculturalism in predominantly white churches in the U.S. South, a region that has seen significant demographic transformations due to immigration. Church outreach to immigrants draws on theologies that reject racial prejudice and that call for the accommodation and celebration of cultural differences. Drawing on qualitative research with pastors and congregants, this article explores how multiculturalist practice is both re-working and reinforcing existing social relationships in Christian faith communities. Multiculturalist practices, we show, disrupt racialized hierarchies long embedded in white churches. But they simultaneously leave racialized distinctions and inequalities intact, in part by maintaining separation between immigrants and non-immigrants. This case illustrates the everyday politics of multiculturalism and the ways in which the boundaries of social membership take shape in ordinary, seemingly non-political spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-208
Number of pages19
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Christian outreach
  • Christianity
  • Multiculturalism
  • U.S. South
  • churches
  • immigration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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