Transnational religion

African catholic missionary networks. An anthropological study of “inversed” mission between West Africa and Europe.

Quelle: Plaquette du 75e anniversaire des Sœurs de l’Immaculée Conception.

This research project analyses networks and activities of African catholic sisters in Europe and Africa. Two African congregations in Burkina Faso evangelize in France and in Italy are studied. The research project asks in which social constellations this “inversed” mission takes place. The analysis of the specific transnational religion which emerges in an African European space permits to recognize the process of social globalization within the activities of African missionaries. This is a facet of globalization where the African society is not the “receptor”.

In our global society religious communities contributes considerably to the constitution of a transnational society. Religious transnationalism is frequently linked to Pentecostal churches, charismatic Catholics or “fundamental” Muslims. But also well known transnational institutions like the Catholic Church play a decisive role. We exemplify this with the study of two African catholic congregations in Burkina Faso, the Sisters of Annunciation of Bobo (SAB) and the Sisters of Immaculate Conception (SIC). Basis of the study is a collection of biographies of sisters which are involved in catholic networks. They allow studying the complex process of network formation in an individual level. The research project focuses on the question of authority and power. In a transnational space religious communities have authority and power enough to propose alternatives to governmental activities. In some countries domains like school education, health care and the struggle against Aids are under the responsibility of religious organisations. But not only the institutions, also the individuals can amplify their room for manoeuvre by evangelizing the ancient missionaries. Religious networks avoid partly the national frontiers, their members, ideas and the religious material culture which they disperse, can move freely in the international area.


Langewiesche, Katrin, 2008: Entre choix et obligation: La gestion du corps des religieuses. Etudes de cas au Burkina Faso. In: Journal des Anthropologues n°112-113 : 111-134.

Langewiesche, Katrin, 2009: African Catholic Missionary Networks between Africa and Europe. In: Frieder Ludwig (ed.), The African Christian Presence in the West. African World Press, Trenton.