Stefan van der Hoek

Otherness as identity-forming self- and external marking. Using the example of transnational neo-Pentecostal churches of the UKRG in Germany
van der Hoek van der Hoek Image: Privat

Personal information:

Stefan van der Hook

Fürstengraben 6, 07743 Jena

Room 302

Telephone: +49 3641 9-42774

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Research interests related to Diaspora:

  • Negotiation of group membership and construction of identities within religious minorities and diasporas
  • Transnational migration and organizational structures
  • Global knowledge transfer


Provisional working title of the doctoral project: Otherness as identity-forming self- and external marking. Using the example of transnational neo-Pentecostal churches of the UKRG in Germany



This research project asks how the identities of diasporas in modern societies of migration are constructed and enter into a process of negotiation with the host society. In doing so, this project examines the forms of representation of identities in the form of knowledge and information circulations in digital media.

Contemporary flows and trajectories of global migration are taken as a starting point in this research in order to approach the group of new Christian migrants in Germany. Forms of neo-Pentecostalism, which is shown and described to be affinitive to modernity in several respects and catalyst of social change (Maxwell 2021), offers a multi-layered and illustrative material of investigation on how diasporas construct their distinctiveness under the circumstances of a new constellation of majorities or minorities. The research material used is the personal conversion narratives (testimonials) that members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a transnational metachurch from Brazil communicate about themselves on the Internet. The results of the analysis show that immigrant individuals use religion as a marker of identity, for example, 'to make a break' (Meyer 1997) with a previous identity or to set themselves apart from the society surrounding them, thus creating their own means of identification, being open to similar accounts of their experiences, and contributing to a sense of community through this. The narratives show how diasporas can figure themselves beyond structures of shared language, ethnicity, culture, or origin in modern societies along new and more complex patterns of identification.

On the other hand, information circulates in the form of online news articles that express an entirely different narrative about the object of study, presenting a perspective of the host society and its produced knowledge about the UKRG. Religion is used as a delimiter in this context, showing how diasporas are perceived from the outside.

While one group uses religion as an identity-creating entity to delineate itself from society at large, the media public also uses the category of religion to delineate the group. This discrepancy between the self-presentation and the external representation and simultaneity of 'otherness' is the epistemological interest of the thesis and provides insight into how diaspora communities are constituted in modern societies.

Keywords: Migration, Pentecostalism, Diaspora, Knowledge Transfer

Project duration: 11/2020 – 10/2023

Funding: Friedrich Schiller University


  • van der Hoek, Stefan (2022) Lusophony Pentecostal Churches in Berlin: Religious Identities Between Integration and Transatlantic Boundaries. International Journal of Latin American Religion, 6, 477–499, Springer.
  • van der Hoek, Stefan (2022) Helgen, Erika: Religious Conflict in Brazil. Protestants, Catholics, and the Rise of Religious Pluralism in the Early Twentieth Century. International Journal of Latin American Religion, 6, 511–515, Springer.
  • van der Hoek, Stefan (2022): Immigrant pentecostalism in the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis: reactions and responses from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Berlin. Zeitschrift für Religion, Gesellschaft und Politik, Springer