Leslie Fesenmyer’s current research looks at multi-religious encounters and cohabitation in urban Kenya. In particular, she is interested in how people who follow different religions (have come to) coexist in Nairobi and how their pursuit of social mobility may generate mixing and borrowing across religious lines that are otherwise taken to be incommensurate.
She is currently conducting fieldwork in Nairobi, with a focus on the lived experiences of different generations of women and men.
This research is part of a larger collaborative and comparative project funded by the European Research Council (2019-2025) – Multi-religious Encounters in Urban Settings– with Ammara Maqsood (University College London) and Giulia Liberatore (University of Edinburgh). MEUS adopts a different theoretical and empirical starting point to urban cohabitation. While most research on religious pluralism has been conducted within the framework of secular-liberal democratic states, it explores multi-religious encounters in three sites not typically seen as possessing secular-liberal civil societies; in addition to Kenya, the sites include Pakistan and Italy. MEUS aims to make a significant intervention by demonstrating the possibilities and potential of multi-religious encounters to overcome the monistic tendencies evident in the anthropology of religion, and by challenging the normativity of secular-liberal ideals of tolerance that dominate current academic perspectives on plurality and theorising alternative modes of coexistence.