Experiencing God in a foreign land: Theoretical and empirical explorations on the psychological links between religion and place among dispersed people

Victor Counted

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    This study investigates the intersection of religion and place in psychological perspective. First, religion is conceptualised as an attachment experience involving how migrants and people of the diaspora seek and maintain attachment to God as a surrogate attachment, one who helps them navigate the uncertainties of place change. Second, people-place experience is discussed as an attachment experience, such that place becomes an object of exploration and attachment seeking, depending on the individual’s needs and curiosity. These two waves of adult attachment experiences are both explored historically (using biblical interpretation of place events in the bible) and empirically (using cross-sectional data from 175 African migrant populations in the Netherlands). Third, empirical results support the link between religious and place attachment, such that dispersed people of African background in Dutch society saw themselves turning to God as a surrogate attachment amidst negative place experiences (e.g. racial discrimination, feelings of insecurity about their future). There are significant variations in the study results based on demographic background factors such as region of residence, length of stay, and region of origin. What is consistent in the overall study is the role of seeking/maintaining attachment (to God) as a secure base from which to explore life opportunities in a foreign land. Turning away from such attachment security can be traumatic for migrants in the face of a rising wave of anti-migrant sentiments across western Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Zock, Hetty, Supervisor
    • Knibbe, Kim, Supervisor
    • Visser-Nieraeth, Anja, Co-supervisor
    Award date27-Jun-2019
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs9789403415147
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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