Dr Leslie Fesenmyer

Leslie Fesenmyer

Research Associate

My research interests include transnational migration, relatedness, gender and generation, Pentecostalism, home and belonging, care, religious pluralism, and (urban) space and place. I have pursued these interests in the context of migration between Kenya and the United Kingdom and in East London. 

I teach and supervise postgraduate (MSc, MPhil, and DPhil) students in Social Anthropology and in Migration Studies, as well as teach undergraduates in Human Sciences and Archaeology and Anthropology.  Since 2011, I have held several positions at Oxford, including most recently an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship (2013-2016) at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) in the School of Anthropology.

I received my doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford.  Prior to returning to Oxford for my doctoral research, I spent ten years working on social justice issues in San Francisco and among New York City’s diverse immigrant communities.

Research projects

Through various research projects, I am pursuing two strands of interest:

1) Kinship, gender, generation, and social reproduction

Drawing on multi-sited transnational fieldwork in Kenya and London, I am completing a book titled Relative Distance: Kinship, Generation, and Reproduction between Kenya and the United Kingdom. The book adopts a generational, life-stage, and gendered lens to the study of transnational families living between Kenya and the United Kingdom, engaging with the anthropological themes of reciprocity and recognition, migration and imagination, and economics and emotions in kinship. Highlighting the affective process of negotiating relatedness transnationally, it shows that changes in kin relations cannot easily be attributed to the so-called inevitable nuclearization of families as a result of moving to a western country.  Instead, it demonstrates how kin navigate their respective circumstances, reconfiguring the meaning of relatedness as they do so, and at the same time how wider forces mediate the social reproduction of families.

I am also developing a new project on transnational caring between Africa and Europe against the backdrop of global ageing and neoliberal restructuring, as well as the entanglement of care regimes through migration.

2) Religion, mobility, and the urban

Taking as its empirical starting point migrant Kenyans’ conversion to Pentecostalism after migration to the United Kingdom, this three-year, ESRC-funded project – Kenyan Pentecostals between home, London, and the Kingdom of God – explores the coincidence of their new or renewed religiosity in a historical moment characterized by the ‘diversification of diversity’ and ongoing austerity. I am interested in both unraveling the linkages between migration and religion and considering how Pentecostalism offers a distinct politics of identity and mode of being in the world.  Another aspect of the research focuses on Kenyan-initiated Pentecostal churches, which, in registering as charities in Britain, have ostensibly claimed a role in British civil society at a time when the state is in retreat.

With funding from Oxford’s John Fell Fund, I am developing a new project – Multi-religious encounters in precarious urban settings – with Ammara Maqsood (Oxford) and Giulia Liberatore (Edinburgh).  While most research on religious pluralism has been conducted within the framework of secular-liberal democratic states, this collaborative and comparative project explores multi-religious encounters in three sites not typically seen as possessing secular-liberal civil societies: Kenya, Pakistan, and southern Italy. My research within the larger project focuses on Christian Kenya, a multi-ethnic, -racial, and -religious society, which has been implicated in the global ‘War of Terror’ and where social tensions are increasingly made sense of through religious idioms.

Selected publications

(Accepted) Bringing the Kingdom to the city: Mission and the place-making practices among Kenyan Pentecostals in London.  Special issue. City and Society.

(2017) Place and the (un-)making of religious peripheries: Weddings among Kenyan Pentecostals in London. In Religion and the Global City. David Garbin and Anna Strhan, Eds. London: Bloomsbury.

(2016) ‘Assistance but not support’: Pentecostalism and the reconfiguring of relatedness between Kenya and the United Kingdom. In Affective Circuits: African Migrations to Europe and the Pursuit of Social Regeneration. Jennifer Coles and Christian Groes-Green, Eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

(2016) Deferring the inevitable return ‘home’: Contingency and temporality and in the transnational home-making practices of older Kenyan women migrants in London.  In Transnational Migration and Home in Older Age, Katie Walsh and Lena Nare, Eds. London and New York: Routledge.

(2015) Ambitious cultural polyglots: Kenyan Pentecostals in London. In Diasporas Reimagined: Spaces, Practices, and Belonging. Nando Sigona, Alan Gamlen, Giulia Liberatore, and Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, Eds. Oxford: International Migration Institute.

(2014) Transnational families. In COMPAS Migration Anthology. Michael Keith and Bridget Anderson, Eds. Oxford: COMPAS.

(2014) Review of ‘Family upheaval: Generation, mobility and relatedness among Pakistani migrants in Denmark’ by M. Rytter. Nordic Journal of Migration Research 4(4): 223-224.

(2013) Review of ‘Intimate migrations: Gender, family and illegality among transnational Mexicans’, by D. Boehm. Social Anthropology 21(2): 252-253.

DPhil Supervision

Claudia Hartmann

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