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Is the Multiracial Congregation an Answer to the Problem of Race? Comparative Perspectives from South Africa and the USA

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This paper uses a comparative perspective to analyze how multiracial congregations may contribute to racial reconciliation in South Africa. Drawing on the large-scale study of multiracial congregations in the USA by Emerson et al., it examines how they help transform antagonistic identities and make religious contributions to wider reconciliation processes. It compares the American research to an ethnographic study of a congregation in Cape Town, identifying cross-national patterns and South African distinctives, such as discourses about restitution, AIDS, inequality and women. The extent that multiracial congregations can contribute to reconciliation in South Africa is linked to the content of their worship and discourses, but especially to their ability to dismantle racially aligned power structures.

Affiliations: 1: Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, 683 Antrim Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT15 4EG, United Kingdom;, Email:


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