Construction and Tensions Resolution: A Comparative Study of Religious Conversion to Protestantism among Chinese and Indian Immigrants in the United States
Ecklund, Elaine Howard
Master of Arts
Despite the recent scholarly focus on immigration and religion, little is known about the shift of immigrants’ religious beliefs. Among the small set of studies that analyze immigrants’ religious conversion experience, most adopt a functional approach to understand the religious conversion process of Chinese immigrants. However, few scholars have analyzed the religious conversion process of Indian immigrants in the United States, let alone compared it with that of Chinese immigrants. Focusing on Chinese and Indian immigrants, this study adopts a comparative perspective to understand the relative influence from immigrants’ countries of origin and their immigrant status on the religious conversion process. Relying on twenty-nine semi-structured interviews, descriptively, this project examines Chinese and Indian immigrants’ interpretations of their religious conversion experience as well as their strategies for constructing identities. Using a cultural approach, sociologically, this paper analyzes how Chinese and Indian immigrant religious converts form new cultural norms during the conversion process. The findings reveal that Chinese and Indian immigrants have different approaches to interpret religious conversion process and construct religious identities. However, they utilize similar strategies to negotiate between their religious and ethnic identities. Drawing on these results, this article includes another ethnic group into the scholarly discussion to provide a more robust theory regarding immigrants’ religious conversion. This paper also has implications for the meaning of being an immigrant Christian in the United States.
Religious Conversion; Immigration; Chinese; Indian